By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 29 April 2014:
Congress was attacked late this afternoon after gunmen said to be . . .[restrict]supporters of one of the candidates who failed to be elected prime minister started shooting at it. There are conflicting reports that they are supporters of Omar Al-Hassi.
The group, said to be from Benghazi and led by Mohamed Al-Araibi, known as Bouka arrived in Tripoli yesterday morning from Misrata where they had been staying for several days.
Ironically they are thought to have travelled to the capital in response to calls to defend it and Congress from gunmen.
Several Congress members said they believed the attackers were opposed to Ahmed Maetig becoming prime minister and wanted Al-Hassi to be elected instead.
Earlier this afternoon, Maetig, from Misrata, came top in a seven-candidate contest in Congress for the job, with 67 votes. Hassi, an academic seen as the Islamists’ choice and also supported by large numbers of revolutionaries, came second with 34 votes.
Members were arguing the legitimacy of electing a new prime minister with less than 120 votes when the gunmen arrived.
“We were discussing the second round [of voting to appoint the prime minister] when the guards told us we should leave”, said Ibrahim Sahad, a National Front Congressman from Benghazi. “There was shooting and they entered into the building. We left by the back door. We had no contact with the gunmen.”
Congressman Abdullah Al-Gmati from Gemenis, south of Benghazi, also stressed that there was no contact with the group. “They started firing into the air outside the building. The guards came and told us to evacuate it.”
Tripoli Justice and Construction Party Congresswomen Fawzia Karawan came out to find five bullet holes in her car.
Congressman Abdullah El-Kabier, a member of the Homeland Union, also left when the shooting began. “We could hear gunfire outside,” he said, adding that the gunmen were shooting at the building and that windows were broken. They were from Benghazi, he said, and they were supporting Al-Hassi and wanted to stop the vote because they did not want Maetig to be elected prime minister. But he could not confirm that Bouka Al-Arabi was among those who attacked.
“This is a big problem for democracy in Libya,” Kabier said. “But we will still vote for a new prime minister next week.” The situation seemed to have calmed although at the time of speaking he thought that there might still be Congress members inside the building.
Benghazi Congressman Alaeddin Al-Mgariaf thinks that group did not intend to start shooting. “We don’t know how it started. There was shooting outside between GNC security and the gunmen. Security said heavy weapons were used. You can’t use guns to choose candidates. But I don’t think that the intention was to do that.”
With most of the Congress members gone by the back door, the gunmen themselves then left.
A number of Congress members want an emergency session tomorrowm according to Mgarief. “Some of us have given notice to the executive office for a session tomorrow to finish what we started.” The group was a mixture from different blocs, he said. “The demand is not politically motivated. It is to continue with the democratic process.
“This [attacks on Congress] has happened a hundred times now,” he said, “but we have a job to finish – to elect a new prime minister.
“We were getting very close to doing that today,” he said.
This evening, speaking on radio, Bouka denied storming Congress. What had happened outside the building was a unintentional clash between his supporters and Congress guards. He had not gone to Congress to influence the decision on the prime minster, he claimed, but to discuss the crisis in the oil fields. As for Hassi and Maetig, they both would make good prime ministers, he said.