By Seraj Essul.
Tripoli, 2 December 2013:
Four protestors were injured, one of them seriously, when gunmen opened up on the head of . . .[restrict]a procession in Derna early this evening.
The large demonstration, ran into several hundreds but according to one participant, numbered over a thousand. It was reportedly heading along Al-Jaish street toward the Al-Khuds school, also known Azouz School, when a Toyota car blocked the road ahead of it. Three gunmen were said to have got out an opened up with Kalashnikovs on the front of the crowd.
One man was shot in the stomach and three other people received leg wounds. The seriously-wounded man, named locally as Salah Nweassri, was rushed to Hareesh Hospital where after an operation, he was said to be in a stable condition.
This was the second consecutive day of demonstrations in Derna, which has also seen the Omar Mukhtar University closed by a student strike. The protestors are demanding an end to the presence of armed militias in the city and the proper enforcement of security by the police and army.
Today’s march had begun at the Sahaba mosque where demonstrators had gathered before Asr (afternoon) prayers. The gunmen are said to have attacked the vanguard of the procession at around 6.30 pm. After firing several bursts, they returned to their vehicle and fled. There are unconfirmed reports that earlier today some people had blocked roads with burning tyres. It is understood that a further protest is planned for this evening.
In an interview on Libya Ahrar TV tonight Mahoud Al-Barasi, the Ansar Al-Sharia commander in Derna said that the people who had gone out on the demonstration today were Aslam (members of the old regime), liberals, secularists, Muslim Brotherhood and people who believe in democracy.
Barasi said that the general public were with Ansar Al-Sharia and Ansar Al-Sharia was not against the general public.
Explaining the shooting, he said that there had been a problem with one of the shops on the route. He said a group of protestors did not want someone to open their shop. Barasi did not explain how this led to the shooting. He said that five people had been hit and one was seriously injured. However, he maintained that they had all be shot with “Turkish bullets” believed to be a reference to 9mm pistols. He denied that Ansar Al-Sharia had used Kalashnikovs.
“The general public are Muslim people, so we don’t confront them” said Barasi, “We do not consider them unbelievers. We are not against the army and police. We just want them to follow the Quran”.
He added that “If the people want us to leave, we will leave, as we did in Benghazi”.
When the TV interviewer asked Barasi why people were demonstrating against Ansar Al-Sharia, the militia leader repeated his accusation that they were not the general public.
When pressed Barasi to explain the assassinations and bombings in the town, the line went dead.
A statement was posted this evening on Derna Council’s Facebook page, strongly condemning the firing “ on the protestors, who are our brothers and sons, who went out on a peaceful protest to denounce the murders and bombings in Derna. So we support their demands for the provision of security in the city. We are very sorry for the casualties among the protestors”.
The council urged demonstrators to remain peaceful and not to resort to violence. It also warned against the spreading of rumours but asked people to check out everything they heard before passing on wrong information.