By Libya Herald staff.
Tunis, 22 January 2015:
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has issued a statement condemning yesterday’s attack on the Central Bank branch in Benghazi. It has called for an independent inquiry into the incident, demanding that all sides in Libya cooperate with it.
The incident, the statement said, demonstrated the importance of urgently continuing the dialogue process. It urged the parties “to remain engaged in the process aimed at restoring peace and stability to Libya, putting the high national interest above all other considerations”.
UNSMIL’s statement follows the decision yesterday evening by the continuing General National Congress that it would not participate in the dialogue, whether in Libya or elsewhere, because of the attack. However, that decision is being widely seen as an excuse for not joining the talks.
There is a strong constituency from hardliners within the rump legislature as well as from Libya Dawn to reject dialogue. Last Sunday, in a move interpreted as a similar bid to avoid joining the process, Congress announced that it would participate only if meetings were held in Libya. However, UNSMIL and those delegates who went to Geneva last week quickly responded saying that the talks could indeed occur in Libya.
UNSMIL’s condemnation of the bank attack, unusual in that there are conflicting accounts of what happened, is seen as a further move to get Congress on board the dialogue.
According to supporters of the Hassi “government”, the bank was attacked and looted by members of General Khalifa Hafter’s Operation Dignity. In a statement, the Tripoli-based Central Bank of Libya (CBL) which cooperates with the Hassi administration, said called it a crime carried out by armed gangs.
The Beida-based government of Abdullah Al-Thinni and the Libya National Army (LNA), however, said that the bank had been taken over by Ansar Al-Sharia, that it had been liberated and that cash inside the building was now in safe hands. The CBL in Benghazi is also reported by the pro-Thinni Beida offices of the Libyan news agency LANA saying that the branch was now protected by the LNA.
Social media claims that the branch was holding as much as $100 billion are an evident and massive exaggeration. The CBL does not keep that amount of money in the country, let alone Benghazi. Most of it assets are placed abroad. [/restrict]