TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) – Libya’s parliament moved into a five-star Tripoli hotel Monday, a day after rioters armed with knives and guns stormed the legislature building, torching furniture, killing a guard and wounding six lawmakers in the latest episode of turmoil in the country.
Tensions have been mounting between the country’s biggest political blocs, each backed by militias, adding to the potential explosiveness of political disputes. Protesters demanded that parliament be disbanded immediately after its mandate ran out in January.
In Sunday’s violence, dozens of protesters swept into the parliament chamber while it was in session, shooting guns, throwing bottles at lawmakers and setting fire to furniture. They took the seat of the parliament’s president _ the head of a main Islamist bloc _ tied it to a lamppost outside and set it on fire.
One guard was killed while trying to protect workers trapped inside, security official Essam al-Naass said. Two lawmakers were shot in their legs, one was injured with broken glass and others were beaten up while trying to leave the premises.
Lawmaker Hussein al-Ansari told The Associated Press that the parliament will now hold its sessions in the five-star Waddan hotel in the capital’s downtown.
Nearly three years after the spark of the Libyan revolution that ended the 42-year-rule of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, militias wield the real power in Libya. They have lined up behind the main political factions locked in a power struggle _ with supporters of Western-backed Prime Minister Ali Zidan on one side and, on the other, Islamist factions in parliament trying to remove him.
Parliament’s term expired on Feb. 7, but lawmakers voted to extend it with plans to hold new elections in the spring. Since then, hundreds of protesters have held daily demonstrations demanding the legislative body be dissolved.
Parliament’s president, Islamist-leaning Nouri Abu Sahmein, denounced Sunday’s attack in a televised statement, saying it targeted “the headquarters of legitimacy.” He warned against using young men after equipping them with weapons to carry “actions against legitimacy” without naming certain party or group.
He also demanded Tripoli militias to protect vital institutions and foreign embassies.
Some lawmakers said that the assault was triggered by an earlier attack on an anti-parliament sit-in a day earlier where unidentified assailants kidnapped two of the protesters for one day after setting fire to a tent, witnesses said.
Lawmaker Souad Sultan, from the non-Islamist grouping the National Forces Alliance, said the kidnapping “triggered the violent reaction, which might have been exploited by a certain party.” She said she came under attack by the protesters who surrounded her car and stomped it with their feet and fists while trying to block the road in front of her.”
A well-known movement called “No To Extension” which has staged protests against parliament for the past weeks distanced itself from the attack, with member Hisham al-Wandi telling Al-Nabaa TV network that they held the parliament responsible for lacking “a clear plan on transfer of power” after its mandate expired.
Tripoli resident and prominent lawyer Abdullah Banoun said that amid all the violence, Libyan citizens who don’t carry arms need real protection.
“The parliament should not shut its ears to the demands of the people,” he said, adding, “Now all cards are mixed in a way it is very hard to pin down who is doing what. And in the middle if of it all, we civilians, the unarmed ones, need real protection because our lives are endangered.”
The attack on the parliament comes at a time killings and attacks mainly targeting foreigners, Christian migrants, pro-government militias and the nascent military have escalated in the eastern part of the country, especially in Benghazi, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising.
The latest assassination came Monday, when masked gunmen killed a pro-government militiaman after storming a cafe shop in Benghazi and opening fire him.
On Sunday, gunmen shot French engineer Patrice Real, who worked for a company contracted by a medical center, as he drove in the city center of Benghazi. Gunmen killed a Coptic Christian Egyptian in vegetable market on the same day.
Official news agency LANA said the engineer’s company withdrew all its employees from Benghazi. It has been working there on medical centers since 2009, LANA said. It was not clear if the projects had been stopped.
Last month, seven Coptic Christian Egyptians were killed after masked men kidnapped them from their houses, tied their hands behind their back and shot them in the head and the chest.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths