By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 17 June 2013:
Asked about the involvement of the Islamist Ansar Al-Sharia militias in the recent Benghazi violence, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said that he had no such evidence.
Speaking at last night’s live press conference held in Benghazi, Zeidan refused to blame anyone for the violence in Benghazi that has led to scores of deaths and injuries.
In the wake of the outbreak of violence in Benghazi, Libyans have been seeking answers from their political rulers. However, the weak Libyan authorities have struggled to come up with any answers, which are leading to frustration and much rumour and speculation.
On Libyan radio and TV chat shows, everyone from outside interference by Qatar, Syria and Al-Qaeda to local militias, Federalists, Qaddafi-ites, moderate Islamists and Salafists, is being blamed.
In reality, no one seems to know, and the authorities’ inability to come up with facts is adding to the mist of confusion, mistrust and conspiracy theories.
Equally, the different and contradicting information being leaked is not helping. The Prime Minister says that he does not know the facts yet, yet there is apparently a report that blames somebody – a report that the Prime Minister denies exists.
Asked by the media to comment about an intelligence report that apparently blamed the Ansar Al-Sharia militias, Zeidan strenuously denied the existence of such a report.
“I was with the head of Intelligence, Salem Al-Hassy and he did not name anyone”, Zeidan insisted. “We can only apportion blame after there has been a full investigation”, he added.
Asked to comment about the link of the recent violence and reports that a convoy of Islamist extremists had arrived in Benghazi from the alleged Islamist hotbed town of Derna, Zeidan again refused to confirm or deny such allegations.
Zeidan’s new Interior Minister Mohamed Sheikh also kept to the same script as his boss. He refused to reveal to the media the initial results of their investigations into who was responsible for the violence.
However, Mohamed Hijazi, a spokesperson for the Unified Security Room set up in Benghazi to help coordinate activities of the various state’s security forces, said that the attacks on government recognized barracks were “organized and professional”.
Answering media questions as to whether these attacks were spontaneous and by civilians or semi-professional militias, Hijazi intimated that the attacks on a number of locations were pre-planned and coordinated by the perpetrators. Hijazi also noted as a sign of the attackers’ professionalism the fact that they did not leave any of their dead behind.
On the other hand, Mohamed Sherief, Commander of the Joint Security Room said that they knew some of those who had carried out the operations and that some of them had been arrested and that “under investigation” they “revealed some information”, without elaborating further.