Libya: after attack on Italian consul, security to be upped

Salafist extremists behind attack, Rome will not leave Cyrenaica

14 January, 11:11

Libyan army soldiers keep watch outside the headquarter of one of the militias ousted earlier in Benghazi (archive photo) Libyan army soldiers keep watch outside the headquarter of one of the militias ousted earlier in Benghazi (archive photo)

(ANSAmed) - ROME - Security measures were upped for Italian consul to Benghazi Guido De Sanctis after gunmen opened fire on his armoured car Saturday in an attack which could have been deadly, well informed sources in Libya said. The diplomat was given an armoured vehicle following the September 11 attack against the US consulate in Benghazi in which US ambassador Chris Sevens and another three American officials died.

According to the same sources, Italy is considering whether to postpone the arrival of the new consul who will replace De Sanctis, who had been scheduled to leave next week for his new post in Doha. After the attack however, the same sources said, it is hard for Italy - the only European country with a diplomatic post in Benghazi except for Malta which has a small office - to abandon Cyrenaica, a region with 80% of Libya's economic resources. The consulate has an important role not only as far as cultural relations and visas are concerned, but also in assisting Italian companies which are already in the area or planning to invest there.

After this last, failed attack, authorities in Tripoli are working to boost security in the country and are aiming to create a special force to protect foreign diplomats in the country. The diplomatic security unit would be comprised of police forces and troops trained abroad and operate under the supervision of the defence ministry.

Security measures around the Italian consulate were already high and all foreign diplomats have now to warn authorities in Tripoli if they mean to travel more than 80km from their base.

But Libyan authorities still consider these measures insufficient.

The attack by unidentified gunmen who opened fire with Kalashnikov guns against De Sanctis' vehicle has been compared to an attack last June against the convoy of British Ambassador Dominic Asquith which was reportedly better organized. The British diplomat was unharmed.

According to the same sources who quoted local press reports, many in Libya believe that the attack against De Sanctis should be attributed to the success of the mission in Italy of provisional Libyan leader El-Mgarief, who was received last Thursday at the Italian foreign ministry together with a delegation of Tripoli's government and 70 Italian companies.

The militants behind the attack are allegedly concerned that efforts by the new government to boost economic and diplomatic relations with the international community could signal the success of the revolution. Many believe they are members of extremist Salafite movements close to al Qaida active in Cyrenaica. The area has been a stronghold of the revolution but is now at the centre of terror activities against members of countries which supported the revolution to oust Gaffadi, which led to the deadly attack in which Ambassador Stevens died.

(ANSAmed).

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