By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 9 May 2014:
The government has announced three days of national mourning as of . . .[restrict]today for the members of the judicial police who were killed yesterday in a shootout when they went to retrieve a stolen vehicle from the Wershefana area.
The number of dead was initially put at three by Justice Minister Salah Marghani when he went on television late yesterday afternoon to explain what had happened. The number later rose to five when two other policemen died from their injuries. Five others were wounded in the shoot-out and three more who were captured by the thieves and their colleagues are still being held.
The Judicial Police had gone to the Wershefana area after their stolen vehicle, which had a tracker device, had been traced by GPS.
According to one of the Judicial Police who tried to retrieve the vehicle, Masoud Musa Al-Gamati, they tried to negotiate with the gang when they arrived but they were shot at.
The Justice Minister has suggested that those who stole the vehicle were not simply common thieves but armed militants. “As they [the Judicial Police] moved into the area,” he said, “they were besieged by militants who opened fire on them”.
In January, an attempt by security forces to arrest 177 Warshefana people wanted by the public prosecutor on charges of kidnapping, carjacking and other crimes, resulted in at least 11 of them being killed, including Mohamed Kara, brother former SSC commander Abdul Raouf Kara, when the Warshefana rallied and fought back.
It led to wider fighting in which dozens died and which took on a firmly political hue, with the Warshefana seen as Qaddafi loyalists and everyone else around them as suuporters of the revolution. It was not until the very end of March that a sort of calm was finally restored with an exchange of prisoners between the Warshefana and Suq Al-Juma. [/restrict]