By Noora Ibrahim and Motaz Ahmed.
Benghazi, 2 May 2014:
As differing reports come in from government, medical and security sources on this morning’s armed clashes between security forces and Ansar Al-Sharia, the death-toll in Benghazi is at least nine, possibly more, with as many as twenty wounded.
In a statement issued following an emergency cabinet meeting this morning, the government said that nine members of Saiqa Special Forces had been killed in the attack on Benghazi Security Directorate by Ansar Al-Sharia. It did not give a definitive count of the injured.
It condemned the incident in the strongest terms saying that “armed brigades belonging to the so-called Ansar Al-Sharia and other terrorist groups” had attacked “the legitimate forces of the Libyan state”.
It is the first time the government has referred to Ansar Al-Sharia in these terms.
The statement went on to describe, two more times, the attacks as terrorist in nature saying the government would not tolerate the existence of such organisations in the country. It said the group that had carried out the attack was ideologically motivated and that the state’s legitimacy would be upheld with force.
The government has said a number of members of Ansar Al-Sharia were killed or captured in the clashes but did not say how many. Figures for Ansar’s dead and wounded have been noticeably absent from all reports today.
A Saiqa Special Forces official told the Libya Herald that nine members of the security forces and one civilian had been killed, with 20 injured. Of the latter he said five were in intensive care.
However, another member of Saiqa has suggested that the number of those killed could be higher. He told this newspaper that eight members of the Special Forces Brigade had disappeared. They are feared to have been taken by Ansar Al-Sharia and there are unconfirmed reports of bodies being found dumped on a beach in the holiday resort of Masif Nerouz in south west Benghazi.
Meanwhile, confusion about numbers has been furthered by a spokesman for Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC) saying that his hospital had received the bodies of seven members of the security forces. Some had been burnt, he said, adding that all had died from bullet wounds either to the head or chest. He also disclosed that 19 injured members of the police and Saiqa had been taken to the hospital and that three were in intensive care.
Earlier today it was reported that four members of Saiqa had had their throats slit and brigade sources have since said that the bodies had also been burnt. It is not known if Saiqa was mistaken or if the four were not among those taken to the BMC.
Responding to the slaughter, the government has sent the Justice Minister Salah Maghrani at the head of a committee of inquiry to investigate what happened and take action.
Meanwhile, violence continued in Benghazi later today with the attempted murder of another Saiqa Special Forces member. A bomb blew up beneath his car as he left Friday prayers at a mosque in Sidi Younis district. [/restrict]