By George Grant.
Tripoli, 26 August 2012:
The Interior Ministry has sought to explain its failure to prevent the destruction of Tripoli’s Al-Sha’ab shrine . . .[restrict]yesterday, saying that it did not want to risk violence by intervening.
The shrine, one of the most important Sufi mosques in Tripoli and resting place of the holy man Sidi Al-Sha’ab, was attacked by Salafists yesterday morning.
A digger then moved in to finish the demolition, overseen by personnel from the Interior Ministry’s Supreme Security Committee.
Little more than a day earlier, one of Libya’s most important Sufi shrines, that of the Sidi Abdul-Salam Al-Asmar Al-Fituri in Zliten, was badly damaged following clashes that left at least three people dead.
National Congress Speaker Mohammed Magarief announced yesterday that the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the Interior Minister, along with the army Chief of Staff, were to be questioned about their handling of the incidents.
“The Ministry of Interior’s Undersecretary, Omar Khadrawi, explained that they could not solve this problem by resorting to force”, Suleiman Zubi, a National Congress member from Benghazi, told the Libya Herald.
“He denied that the Interior Ministry had authorised the demolition of the shrine in Tripoli, but said the SSC were deployed to prevent any fighting between those carrying out the demolition and anyone who wanted to stop them”.
Today, a group of no more than 30 unarmed protesters succeeded in preventing further demolition by simply moving onto the site and preventing the digger from continuing.
Yesterday, Reuters reported that the Interior Ministry had authorised the operation following allegations that people had been worshipping at the tomb buried beneath the shrine and practicing “black magic”.
Nobody at the Interior Ministry was available for comment.
The apparent failure of the responsible officials to prevent the destruction has drawn widespread criticism across Libya, with many younger people expressing their anger on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Yesterday, a senior government minister who asked to remain anonymous told the Libya Herald that there had been calls from inside the Congress to sack both the Interior Minister and the Defence Minister.
“That decision was put on hold because the government only has at most two more weeks before its term expires”, the minister said. [/restrict]