By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab and Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 22 September 2013:
A prominent local Sufi cleric, Sheikh Mustafa Rajab Al-Mahjoubi, was murdered on Friday . . .[restrict]morning in Derna. He shot by unknown assailants just as he was leaving his home early in the morning, reportedly to buy bread.
There is shock in the town at the killing. “He was a lovely man, a decent man”, one Derna resident told the Libya Herald. “He was very popular. No one disliked him – except for some fanatics.”
Responsibility for the murder has been claimed by a supposedly Islamist group calling itself “Vanguards Of The Caliphate”. However, some locals refuse to believe that Islamists were responsible. “I don’t’ believe it,” said one, indicating he thought there others were involved.
There has been an ongoing struggle between Sufis and Salafists over the past two years throughout Libya with Salfist supporters destroying dozens of Sufi shrines and mausoleums.
Derna itself has earned the reputation of being a centre of Salafist militancy, notably involving Ansar Al-Sharia, although this is said by many in the town to be an exaggeration. However, it was one of the earlier towns to see its main Sufi shrine destroyed. In June last year, a bomb exploded at the Sahaba Mosque destroying the tomb of Zuhayr Ibn Qais Al-Balawi, a seventh-century Arab commander who helped bring Islam to the area.
Derna comes second only to Bengahzi in the number of political killings there over the past year. These are said to be connected to power struggles in the town between Islamists and state officials. In July, a retired colonel, Abdullateef Emdawi Al-Dali Almzeni, was murdered in the town, just a week after the Commander of the Search and Rescue division of the Libyan Air Force, Colonel Fathi El-Emami was assassinated there.
In June, a prominent local judge, Judge Najib Mohamed Huwaidi was also assassinated. Buildings too have been attacked.
Friday’s killing, though, is the first of a religious leader. [/restrict]