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31 May 2023

MPs shot as protesters storm Libya's parliament


Two members of Libya's interim parliament were shot and wounded by protesters who stormed the General National Congress in downtown Tripoli on Sunday, officials and witnesses said.

The GNC, elected after the 2011 armed uprising that toppled autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi, has stirred popular anger by extending its mandate from early February until the end of December.

Under pressure from demonstrators, the Congress, Libya's highest political authority, has announced that early elections will be held but without setting a date.

And on Sunday dozens of them entered the General National Congress, with some of them rampaging through the building, witnesses said.

The protesters demanded the dissolution of the GNC and railed against the "kidnapping" overnight of demonstrators from a sit-in outside the parliament building.

They later attacked and "abused" the deputies, GNC spokesman Omar Hmidan said on Al Nabaa television, adding the officials' cars had been destroyed.

One member of the GNC told AFP that the protesters, mostly young people armed with knives and sticks, entered the premises chanting "Resign, resign".

Media outlets said congressman Abdelrahman al-Swihli had been hit by a bullet while trying to flee the scene, but this could not be confirmed.

"Two (GNC) members were hit by bullets when they tried to leave the venue in their cars," Nuri Abu Sahmein, the speaker, told Al-Nabaa, blaming "armed protesters" for the shooting.

Earlier protesters said gunmen had broken up the sit-in on Saturday night before detaining some of them, without being able to give a figure.

"Armed men came firing in the air and they set fire to a tent set up by demonstrators" in front of the GNC, said protester Milad al-Arbi.

On Sunday, residents blocked roads in the area to demand the release of those held, an AFP photographer said.

According to demonstrators, the gunmen belonged to the Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries, a former rebel group which operates under the GNC's command.

It prompted the justice ministry to issue a brief statement denouncing the abduction "of youths who were expressing their views".

Three years after the uprising, the government and GNC have come under increasing criticism from Libyans who accuse them of corruption and failing to provide them with a better life.

Criminals roam the streets, and rival tribes shoot it out to settle long-standing disputes.

Officials and even a US ambassador have been killed in a wave of lawlessness that has grown since Kadhafi was captured and killed in October 2011.

And on Sunday gunmen shot dead a French engineer in Benghazi, cradle of the uprising, who worked for a company doing extensive work at a medical centre in the eastern city.

Disgruntled citizens have managed to blockade and shut down Libya's oil terminals, threatening to bankrupt a government that relies almost exclusively on oil revenues to operate.