Raid spursLibya’sparliamentto move

March 3

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 the parliament be disbanded immediately after its mandate ran out in early February.

In Sunday’s violence, dozens of protesters swept into the parliament chamber during a session, firing 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 wounded by broken glass, and others were beaten up while trying to leave the premises.

Lawmaker Hussein al-Ansari said the parliament will now hold its sessions in the Al 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 Gaddafi, 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 Zeidan on one side and, on the other, Islamist factions in parliament trying to remove him.

The parliament’s term expired Feb. 7, but lawmakers voted to extend it with plans to hold elections in the spring. Since then, hundreds of protesters have held daily demonstrations demanding that the body be dissolved.

The parliament’s president, the Islamist-leaning Nouri Abu Sahmein, denounced Sunday’s attack in a televised statement, saying it targeted “the headquarters of legitimacy.” He warned against using armed young men to carry out “actions against legitimacy,” without naming any party or group.

He also demanded that Tripoli militias protect vital institutions and foreign embassies.

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 of it all, we civilians, the unarmed ones, need real protection because our lives are endangered.”

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