By Libya Herald reporter.
Tripoli, 7 March 2016:
The death of the . . .[restrict]son of one of directors in the Tripoli office of the Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments) while fighting with Islamist militants in Benghazi has focussed attention on the father and extremism within the ministry.
Awais Ghwaila, who had Canadian as well as Libyan nationality and is said to have been a student at Ottawa university, died the day before yesterday after being wounded two days earlier fighting with the Omar Mukhtar Brigade in Garyounis against the Libyan National Army. He had been treated in a field hospital but succumbed to his wounds before he could be transferred to Misrata and then to Tripoli.
The Omar Mukhtar brigade, led by Islamist Ziyad Belam, is part of the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council over which Ansar Al-Sharia has financial and military control.
Public prayers were said for Awais Ghwaila in Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square today.
Aguila’s father is Abdulbaset Ghwaila, a friend of Tripoli’s Grand Mufti, Sadek Al-Ghariani. A TV phone-in presenter on Ghariani’s Tanasah TV station, Ghwaila is also a top official in the Tripoli office of the Awqaf ministry, in charge of the administration of mosques in the capital, including the appointment of imams.
A known hardliner, his son’s death in Benghazi has reignited concern about extremist influence in the ministry.
In November, the head of the Tripoli office, Mohamed Atkitek, was arrested by Rada forces, suspected of helping send young men to fight with the Islamic State (IS) in Sirte. At the time, Ghariani used his influence to secure Atkitek’s freedom, accusing Rada of being “bandits”.
It is now alleged that Ghwaila Snr., who also has Canadian nationality and was formerly an imam in Ottawa, has similarly been helping recruit fighters to join the militants in Benghazi. Libyan ambassador to Canada Fathi Baja has said that he “pushed” his son into going and fighting in Benghazi and accused him of encouraging other young Libyans to become jihadis in Libya and abroad.
Meanwhile, there are today claims that a senior IS official in Sirte, nicknamed Abu Jara Al-Sirawi, attended the prayers in Martyrs’ Square. It has led to questions being asked about how he managed to get to the capital and why the authorities did not stop him. [/restrict]