By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Janzour, Tripoli, 22 January 2014:
A nervous calm has returned to west Janzour and the Wershefana area following an agreement . . .[restrict]yesterday evening between the government and the Wershefana Shura Council under which security forces were pulled out of the district in return for a promise by the Council that suspected criminals wanted by the Prosecutor General would be handed over within a week.
After the 13-point agreement was approved, the troops, estimated at over 2,000, started pulling back late last night towards Tripoli in mass convoys. They included forces under the command of Haitham Tajouri and of Abdul Raouf Kara as well as from Tajoura, Suq Al-Juma and Misrata, and members of the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade.
Shops and businesses in the area, however, remained closed today with wary residents waiting to see if the fighting was finally over.
Many of the forces that pulled back are reported to be being held in readiness near Janzour in case the agreement collapses.
According to a security source, at least 18 people died in the clashes which started on Sunday when security forces were dispatched to the area to find and arrest 177 alleged criminals. The figure could be higher because it did not include those who had been taken to the hospital at Zahra.
The source also said that 45 people had been arrested but it is not clear if they were among those originally sought or had been caught taking part in the fighting.
As well as the pullout, the 13-point deal included treatment for the Warshefana wounded, outside Libya if deemed necessary; compensation for those killed and for damaged property; the provision of adequate numbers of properly trained police in the area, support from the army to back up the police; the government to try and put an end to anti-Warshefana bias in the media; and further meetings between the Warshefana Shura Council, local council members and members of the General Council of Elders to ensure permanent calm in the area.
It was also agreed that the Prime Minister would visit the Warshefana area and launch and dialogue to bring an end to tensions between the Warshefana and other Libyans.
There have been regular allegations that the Warshefana area is a stronghold of miltias-turned-mafias responsible for significant numbers of kidnappings, car-jackings and other crimes in and around Tripoli. It is also alleged that the many among the Warshefana remain Qaddafi supporters.
At a meeting at the General National Congress with Congress President Nuri Abu Sahmain on Monday, Warshefana representatives, including the two Warshefana NFA Congress members for Esbea, Abdul Fattah Hablous and Asia Wajdi Al-Marghani, and the spokesman for the Warshefana Shura Council, Abu-Ajila Seif-Annasr, had demanded not only the withdrawal of the security forces but also the release of all those who had been caught and a statement from the GNC condemning the military action as terrorism.
The Warshefana delegates also claimed that the forces had “targeted” civilians “under the pretext” that they were there to arrest criminals and that the Warshefana district was being deliberately singled out for attack when there were plenty of other places in the country with security problems.
They compared the security forces to the Italian colonial army.
Insisting that the people of Warshefana were loyal to the institutions of post-revolution Libya and were not a threat to the country’s security, the delegation said that attempts to demonise the Warshefana could only lead to greater instability and divisions.