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Libya: Is Derna Becoming An Islamist Emirate?


By Aya Elbrqawi and Essam Mohamed

April 9, 2014

A group calling itself the “Shura Council of Islamist Youth in Derna” says it plans to impose Sharia law in the eastern Libyan town.

The jihadist group paraded through the coastal city on Friday (April 4th), AFP reported. Photos on the group’s Facebook page show dozens of pickup trucks with heavily armed men in uniforms, their faces obscured by masks.

With the absence of state institutions, the region is fertile ground for extremist organisations looking to grow and thrive.

The Shura council declared their hostility to about anyone who, in their view, antagonises God and the Prophet.

Nahla Bashir, a housewife, noted that the General National Congress already acknowledged Sharia was the basis of legislation. “So what do these people want? I think they want to rule people with their own ideas,” she said.

“We do not want brigades or a youth council for Derna,” commented Abdullah, a 36-year-old from the city. “We want police and army and not masked youth riding SUVs with medium weapons.”

Abdel-Hamid Salam, a 43-year-old merchant, said that if a group not belonging to the state was running a city it meant that the state was absent, leading it to fall prey to entities that could harm the country.

“We saw how these groups involved Libya in the operation of In Amenas in Algeria and even went beyond that to participate in the war in Mali with terrorist groups,” Salam pointed out.

Just days after the declaration of Sharia law in Derna, a senior al-Qaeda leader in the town was found dead.

The body of Ali Abdallah Bin Taher (aka al-Far) was found on Monday (April 7th) on his farm. The al-Qaeda leader was allegedly involved in a number of assassinations in Derna.

Al-Far, the right-hand man of prominent al-Qaeda leader Sufian Ben Qumu, was best known for closing polling stations in Derna and preventing people from voting on election day on February 21st, 2014.

For its part, the new Derna intelligence agency claimed responsibility for killing al-Far and vowed “to cleanse Derna of obscurantist extremists”.

A medical source confirmed that al-Far’s bullet-riddled body was found at the western entrance of town and was taken to al-Harish Hospital. “He was probably killed outside Derna,” the source said.

“Many Ansar al-Sharia leaders assembled at Derna hospital,” said Adel Massoud, 48, a hospital worker. “The atmosphere was very tense, and there were high voices demanding retribution and revenge after their colleague from Derna was killed.”

Youssef al-Mansouri, a 36-year-old teacher, said, “It’s heaven’s justice. Derna today is celebrating the end of a troublesome nightmare that has haunted it for a period of time. The tears of orphans and widows didn’t go in vain.”

“He was intimidating this town with his crime and weapons, which didn’t show any mercy to either weak or strong people. He was killed after killing and wronging many people and after destroying multiple places,” al-Mansouri added. “He’s gone after receiving the punishment he deserves.”

High school student Omaima Miftah, 17, shared the sentiment: “Thank God we’ve got rid of him in Derna. I hope the rest of ‘rats’ will have a similar fate.”

“I wish God will not show him any mercy because he’s unjust and killed a lonely woman at her home. Can this be called manliness? He’s reaped what he had sown,” 26-year-old housewife Amina Abdulrahman told Magharebia.

“He and his other extremist colleagues who are hiding behind religion, although Islam has nothing to do with them, massacre people and blow up places,” Abdulrahman added. “Is this how they want God’s Sharia to rule?”