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Libya relocates parliament after rioters storm building Tripoli vows to stay on democratic path

 TRIPOLI, Libya, March 3, (AP): 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 parliament be disbanded immediately after its mandate ran out in January. In Sunday’s violence, dozens of protesters swept into the parliament chamber while it was in session, shooting 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 injured with broken glass and others were beaten up while trying to leave the premises. Lawmaker Hussein al-Ansari told The Associated Press that the parliament will now hold its sessions in the five-star 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 Gadhafi, 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 Zidan on one side and, on the other, Islamist factions in parliament trying to remove him. Parliament’s term expired on Feb 7, but lawmakers voted to extend it with plans to hold new elections in the spring. Since then, hundreds of protesters have held daily demonstrations demanding the legislative body be dissolved.
 
Parliament’s president, Islamist-leaning Nouri Abu Sahmein, denounced Sunday’s attack in a televised statement, saying it targeted “the headquarters of legitimacy.” He warned against using young men after equipping them with weapons to carry “actions against legitimacy” without naming certain party or group.
Meanwhile, Libyan authorities vowed Monday to pursue a democratic transition in the face of mounting lawlessness after two MPs were shot when protesters stormed the country’s transitional parliament.
 
“I assure you we are committed to the path of the Feb 17 revolution and to pursue the democratic process,” GNC president Nuri Abu Sahmein said in a televised address, referring to the uprising that ended Muammer Gaddafi’s four-decade rule. Abu Sahmein said the lawmakers’ wounds were not life-threatening but condemned what he termed a “flagrant aggression on the seat of legitimate sovereignty.” He urged former rebel fighters who ousted Gaddafi to protect the capital and state institutions. On Monday, ex-rebels equipped with pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns were posted around the GNC building, where at least five burnt-out cars testified to the previous day’s violence. Abu Sahmein said the GNC was examining a roadmap for the handover of power “as quickly as possible” to an elected body.
 
The GNC, elected after the 2011 uprising, has stirred popular anger by extending its mandate from early February until the end of December. Under pressure from demonstrators, the GNC, Libya’s highest political authority, has announced early elections will be held but has not yet set a date. The head of an elected panel tasked with preparing elections, Nuri al-Abbar, submitted his resignation to the GNC on Sunday, saying Libya had to “end political tensions and restore order” before holding polls. He added that it would take another four or five months of preparations before elections could go ahead. Libya’s political class is deeply divided, and GNC members are still demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, although they have failed to oust him in a vote of confidence. Dozens of armed demonstrators on Sunday demanded the GNC be dissolved and railed against the “kidnapping” the previous night of participants in a sit-in protest outside the parliament building.

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