Tripoli: A group of more than 200 heavily armed gunmen attacked a mosque in the Libyan capital and ransacked the tombs of two imams, witnesses said on Monday.
“They arrived shortly after 10:00 pm (2000 GMT, Sunday night), between 200 and 300 of them, in pickups fitted with heavy machineguns. They took off at about 1:00 am,” said Mahmud Rahman, a resident of Tripoli’s northeastern Al-Masri district.
“They forced open the mosque’s door and then started to dig up the tombs of imams Abdel Rahman el-Masri and Salem Abu Seif, and made off with their relics,” said Rahman.
An Agency journalist, visiting the mosque and its adjoining Koranic school, said Muslim holy books had been burnt.
“They had beards and were in military uniform. They must have been Islamic extremists wanting to make trouble. They want power, they want to control Libya,” said a teacher at the school, on condition of anonymity.
“They were very well organised. Men sealed off the perimeter of the mosque and were communicating with walkie-talkies,” he said.
Last week, a Muslim cemetery in the western district of Gargaresh and another near Tripoli airport were also ransacked, apparently with pneumatic drills and other heavy tools, according to witnesses.
Libya, which practises a moderate form of Islam and whose leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in August in an anti-regime revolt, awaits the formation of a new government at a time of ethnic, regional and religious tensions.