By Ashraf Abdul Wahab
Tripoli, 22 September 2013:
Seven members of a gang alleged to have opened fire on police when they were . . .[restrict]apparently caught in the midst of a robbery, were killed in the shoot out this evening.
A unit of the Joint Security Team came across the suspects when a grey Kia was being robbed at gunpoint on a country lane off Tripoli’s Airport Road. The police reported that when challenged, the gang began a firefight in which seven of the suspects were shot dead. They had been travelling in a grey 2006 model Mitsubishi Lancer, without plates and a black 2008 model Chevrolet Optra.
The unnamed officer in charge of the Joint Security team reportedly explained: “The incident turned bloody when some of the armed assailants tried to provide support to each other. We had no choice but to defend ourselves. We did not intend to kill them. They left us no choice because they started shooting at us, plus we would not allow them to get away and we could not abandon the citizen who had been robbed and who was full of fear.”
Nevertheless, this latest deadly outcome of an operation by the Joint Security Team, will add to concerns that it is using excessive violence. Since it began work during Ramadan, it is understood that the JST has been involved in 157 encounters with criminals, during which 63 suspects have died.
It is not clear how many men were in the armed gang. However, police sources have said that five of the dead men had been in prison before the Revolution, while the other two had criminal convictions in Tunisia.
It is understood that much of the confrontation was recorded on a camera mounted in one of the JST vehicles. A CID team arrived on the scene with members of the public prosecutor’s office and took over case. Surviving suspects were removed for interrogation.
It is reported that the public prosecutor’s office has said that no tolerance will be shown towards JST officers, if it is established that they used excessive force in the incident. [/restrict]