Benghazi, March 16: A number of people were wounded in clashes in Benghazi on Friday between supporters and opponents of federalism. . . .[restrict]There were reports from Benghazi Medical Center that one man hand been killed in the fighting which involved guns as well as knives. However, others denied it saying the fatality was the result of a car accident.
The chairman of the Supreme Security Committee of Benghazi, Fawzi Wanis, has been quoted by AFP as saying that no one had died, but that two people had suffered gunshot wounds and three others had been knifed.
The fighting started when hundreds of people staged a demonstration supporting a three-state federal Libya in line with the 1951 constitution. They had gone to Freedom Square following Friday prayers to hear Ahmed Zubair Senussi make a speech on the issue.
Ahmed Zubair was elected head of the Cyrenaica Transitional Council which was launched at a conference on federalism in Benghazi on March 6.
According to Wanis, “matters were brought under control and the clashes between the two sides are over”.
Calling for calm, the Mukhtar Al-Jadal of the NTC, said that the violence did not represent the position of the council.
The creation of the Cyrenaica body, which many see as a first step towards the break-up of Libya, has caused fury across the country. There have been mass protests in Tripoli and Benghazi as well as in other towns against it and the idea of a federal Libya.
The NTC and the government have taken a determined stand against it on the basis the NTC is the only legal authority in Libya. At one point NTC leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil threatened to use force against the Cyrenaica council and its officers, but it was then explained that he meant using the force of law and the courts.
The move by the federalists, however, is seen to have had a silver lining for the NTC. It is said to have rallied support for it and government and helped it in last week’s conference in Misrata to force the various brigades to agree to hand over ports, aiports, border posts and checkpoints and return to their home towns.
It is now being claimed that last Friday’s fire at the Egyptian Market in Benghazi which killed one person was started as a protest against federalism. The cost of the fire is put at over LD 50 million.