By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Tripoli, 28 January 2014:
Eighteen local Warshefana residents who were among the more than . . .[restrict]80 arrested by the security forces in clashes in the district during the past nine days have been freed today and handed over to their families. A source with the Joint Forces’ Rapid Response Unit which has been conducting the operations in the area told the Libya Herald that there was no evidence that any of the 18 had been involved either in criminal activities or in the fighting.
Of the others arrested, the source said, some had been caught carrying guns and others were accused of criminal activities, including theft. They were still being interrogated. In particular, they were being questioned as to the whereabouts of other wanted suspects and the location of arms caches.
When security forces launched their dragnet in the area on 19 January, they said they were looking for 177 suspects wanted by the Public Prosecutor. However, the operation rapidly developed into a wider clash between Warshefana locals and the security forces.
Responding to the fighting, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) today called on all parties involved to “exert every effort to reach a prompt end to violence and restore security and stability in the area”.
UNSMIL said it was greatly concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the Warshefana and neighbouring areas. It urged all concerned to work with the ministerial committee set up by the government’s announcement oto investigate and resolve the crisis.
Although two members of the Rapid Response Unit, one of them from Nalut, were killed by sniper fire the day before yesterday, the situation is the district today is relatively quiet with just occasional shots being fired. The situation is, however, seen as highly precarious.
Reports that non-Warshefana residents are now being forced out of the area have not been confirmed. [/restrict]