Libya: gunman fires at Catholic priest, 'meant to kill him'

Mons. Martinelli, worried by Salafite movement in country

04 March, 12:22

(ANSAmed) - ROME, MARCH 4 - A gunman on Sunday walked into Tripoli's Catholic cathedral and fired at a priest, Father Magdi, missing his target. 'He wanted to kill him, he opened fire from 2-3 metres with an Ak47', said the Apostolic Vicar in Libya, Monsignor Giovanni Martinelli, explaining that authorities are investigating.

'It is the first time something like this happened, we are extremely worried', said Monsignor Martinelli. The man, whose identity is unknown, walked into the church of Saint Francis in the Libyan capital and fired twice at the priest, missing him.

'We informed the authorities and are trying to understand the motivations behind this surprising gesture', said Martinelli.

'There is a Salafite movement in the country which is trying to confuse ideas: they do not admit a confrontation, they fire, invade and kill. It is not an Islam which looks for dialogue. It is something new for Libya which cannot leave us indifferent', he said.

Threats against westerners and non-Muslims have doubled in Libya since the beginning of the year but this is the first such case in Tripolitania. In Cyrenaica, and in particular in Benghazi, intimidations have continued after an assault on September 11 last year against the US diplomatic compound left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Authorities have blamed the Ansar al Sharia militia for the attack.

In January, gunmen opened fire on the car of Italian Consul Guido De Sanctis who was miraculously unharmed while in February Coptic Christians were targeted by Islamic brigades. In the past days some 11 people with an Egyptian passport were arrested on 'proselytism' charges while on February 28 an armed commando stormed a Coptic church, attacking a priest and his aide.

On Sunday, Ansar al Sharia militants surrounded the European school in Benghazi accusing teachers of publicizing pornography after they gave students books on sexual education. No incidents were reported during the demonstration though the school's teaching staff was shaken by the episode. (ANSAmed)

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