Two Libya Dawn fighters identify positions of their rivals near Bir al-Ghanam, Libya, on March 21, 2015. Clashes continued between Libya Dawn fighters and pro-government forces on Saturday near Bir al-Ghanam, some 90 kilometers southwest of the capital Tripoli. (Xinhua/Hamza Turkia)
Two Libya Dawn fighters identify positions of their rivals near Bir al-Ghanam, Libya, on March 21, 2015. Clashes continued between Libya Dawn fighters and pro-government forces on Saturday near Bir al-Ghanam, some 90 kilometers southwest of the capital Tripoli. (Xinhua/Hamza Turkia)

Questions were raised about the fate of the upcoming elections, after the deadly Islamic State (IS) suicide attack on the headquarters of the Libyan Higher Commission of Elections in the capital Tripoli.

The terrorist attack is an attempt to frustrate and intimidate Libyans to keep them from participating in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, said Ismail Shareef, a member of the eastern-based parliament.

“If the elections are held in Libya, the country’s institutions would unite, especially security and military. Terrorist remnants would be threatened,” Shareef told Xinhua.
“Therefore, terrorists are trying to prevent the establishment of new democratic process that would end them. The evidence for that is their attack on the commission’s database in particular,” Shareef said.

Shareef said that the terrorist attack showed “the fragility of the security situation in Libya.”

“We need security based on intelligence. Unfortunately, the current security service is unprofessional, and most members of the body need training on such attacks, especially rapid plans to address previous mistakes,” Shareef said.

An IS suicide attack killed 15 people and injured 21 others on Wednesday, when suicide bombers attacked the headquarters of the Higher Commission of Elections in central Tripoli.
The death toll includes nine employees of the commission, four security men, and two of the terrorists, according to a medical official.

IS claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, when the organization’s media arm, A’maq, tweeted a statement saying the attack had been carried out based on orders of the organization’s spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir.

Khalid Turjuman, head of the National Action Group (NGO), said that such attacks were “predictable,” stressing that there should be awareness of movements of “individual wolves.”

“The gravity of individual wolves’ movements is that they can strike any place or city suddenly, and perhaps specific areas. There should be awareness of that, especially as we approach Ramadan when mosques and markets are crowded with people. Therefore, terrorists may carry out attacks similar to the commission’s attack,” Turjuman said.

It is not for the interest of IS and its sister groups to hold elections that threaten their existence, Turjuman said, adding that bomb materials cannot be found in Libya, based on confirmed information from senior security officials.

The commission was almost completely burned down by the suicide bombing, showing strength and sensitivity of the materials used in the bombers’ explosive belts, Turjuman said.
“I have no doubt that what behind the tools used in the attack is foreign intelligence of certain countries trying to thwart any solution project in Libya as the elections approach,” he added.

Shareef also said the materials of the attackers definitely came from abroad.

“The country’s borders are not secured, where immigrants and prohibited materials enter, let alone small bags containing explosive materials. I think it is something the organization would not find difficult,” Shareef said.

The attack took place as the UN-backed government, in cooperation with the UN Support Mission in Libya, prepares to hold presidential and parliamentary elections before the end of this year, as proposed by the head of the mission Ghassan Salame in September 2017.

After ending the voter registration in late March, the election commission announced on April 10 that 2.43 million Libyans registered for the upcoming elections, accounting for 53.26 percent of all eligible voters in the country.

Abdalhakim Belkhair, deputy head of the commission, told Xinhua that the commission “will not give in to such attacks, even if they are painful. The commission will rise again, because we will not allow the sacrifices of the martyrs who fell for Libya to be lost.”

“Having a full backup database (of voter registers) will enable us to resume working in a short period of time. Thus we will complete our preparatory programs for any future elections. The terrorists tried to break our spirit, but we are stronger and tougher in our mission,” Belkhair said.

Libya suffers insecurity and chaos since the fall of former leader Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. The country is plagued with political division and unrest.

by Mahmoud Darwesh, Nawas Darraji

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