By Ahmed Elumami and Maha Ellawati.
Benghazi, 18 October 2013:
The commander of the Libya Shield No. 1 Battalion, Wissam Ben Hamid, spent almost two hours taking part in a TV phone-in this evening, denying that he was in any way connected with the murder earlier in the day of the Chief of Libya’s Military Police, Colonel Ahmed Mustafa Al-Barghathi. He also vowed to target the people who had burnt down his family home in Benghazi this afternoon.
Appearing in a Tripoli studio for the Alaseema channel’s “Seventh Question” show, Ben Hamid was clearly angry at highly critical comments from some of the callers, one of whom vowed to kill him if he returned to Benghazi.
Ezzedine Al-Okwak, commander of the brigade which controls Benina airport phoned to claim that he knew that Ben Ahmed had threatened Barghathi before and that he was the prime suspect for the killing. Therefore, said Okwak, if Ben Hamid returned to Benghazi through the airport, he would be killed.
Another caller was introduced by the presenter as Colonel Hamid Al-Hassi. However, the person on the other end of the line then revealed himself as Azny Barasi and proceeded to describe Ben Hamid as a “tyrant” and a “second Qaddafi”. Ben Hamid’s response was to laugh.
There were also phone calls from members of the Barghathi tribe who accused Ben Hamid of being responsible not just for today’s killing, but for the gunning down last June of 32 protestors outside the Kuwafiyah base of the Libya Shield No. 1 Battalion.
Not all the callers, however, were critical. Benghazi Congressman Saleh Gaouda, who is also a member of the National Security Committee, thanked Ben Hamid for all his work and said that he was not involved in any crime and he did not threaten the national security of Libya.
In the last part of the programme Ben Hamid was calm and relaxed. He had been introduced as a “general coordinator of the Libya Shield”. He denied that the force had any links with assassinations and explosions in Libya and Benghazi in particular. He said he thought that he had been attacked personally because some federalists believed that he was against federalism. He said that he did not have any link to any agenda.
At one point, he said that the Petroleum Facilities Guard commander in the east, Ibrahim Jadhran, who is leading the blockade of all the eastern oil export terminals except Brega, had sought to have him killed. Describing Jadhran as “an oil stealer”, Ben Hamid maintained that the PFG leader had sent people on several occasions to murder him. He said that behind Jadhran was a “smart businessman with a lot of money”. He named the individual, who, he said, was outside Libya. The businessman’s brother had sought to set up a meeting between the two of them in Qatar, explained Ben Hamid, but he had not gone because it might make it look as if he were a member of Ansar Al-Sharia.
“There are no grounds for my arrest,” he said, “ I have not received any notification from the government that recognised my involvement in any crime”.
At one point, when the presenter asked him about the Prime Minister’s abduction, Ben Hamid said that he did not wish to go into any details. He did claim, however, that Ali Zeidan had passed a list of 100 names to the Americans and that his name had been one of them.