By Ahmed Elumami, Ashraf Abdul Wahab and Umar Khan.
Tripoli, 2 July 2013:
The Ministry of the Interior complex on Tripoli’s Airport Road . . .[restrict]was surrounded by a group of several hundred heavily-armed men early this evening. It is reported that when the gunmen arrived, firing heavily into the air, guards in the complex withdrew.
There were no staff in the building at the time. The two main entrances were believed to have been blockaded with sand and the Airport Road was closed.
A source at the ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Libya Herald that the identity of the gunmen was unclear, as were their demands. It had been variously reported that they were calling for interior minister Mohamed Al-Sheikh to be removed, because he was not strong enough to lead the ministry; that they should be paid overdue salaries and that Tripoli should be cleared of all armed groups.
The source said that a team from the ministry was being sent to negotiate with the gunmen. However it appears that it may not have arrived before, about four hours later, the armed men withdrew.
There was speculation that because of the strength of their weaponry and vehicles, the attackers may have come from Zintan or from a brigade that identifies itself with the town. It was also reported that the attackers said that they intended to target a separate ministry every night.
In the last 48 hours there has been a series of meetings between different brigades in an effort to keep a lid on the tensions that blew up in the fighting a week ago in Abu Selim and Salah Idden districts of Tripoli. Indeed a normally reliable source told this paper that a meeting of militia leaders was called this evening in Souk Al-Juma, after the investment of the Interior Ministry complex became known. At this gathering, it was agreed that commanders should launch an appeal for restraint by all militias, urging them not to react to the events at the Interior Ministry.