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Head of Islamist militia survives attack in eastern Libya
Gunmen fired at a convoy of cars carrying the head of an Islamist militia in the eastern Libyan city of Derna, injuring one person, residents said on Monday.
Sufian al Qumu, head of the Ansar al-Sharia brigade in Derna, known as an Islamist stronghold, escaped unhurt with only slight injuries in the attack which happened in the area of Lathroun, about 30 km (18 miles) from Derna late on Sunday.
He is believed to have been a former Guantanamo detainee and to have been in charge of Ansar al-Sharia in Derna since the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
"There were two cars. They were passing Lathroun when they came under attack. The driver of the second car, who was on his own, was injured in the shooting," a resident in Derna familiar with the details told Reuters by telephone.
"Qumu was not shot, he was only lightly injured."
Since 2011 Islamist groups have become part of the patchwork of militias which filled a vacuum left by the ousted regime. However, their numbers, arms and alliances are hard to gauge as the government struggles to impose its authority on a country awash with weapons.
Derna, a coastal city overlooking the Mediterranean, is known across the region as a major recruitment center for fighters who joined the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Ansar al-Sharia in the eastern city of Benghazi, whose day-to-day relations with the militia in Derna are unclear, has been linked to the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission there in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
Witnesses say the group's members were at the scene of the September 11 assault though Ansar al-Sharia has denied involvement.
The group was soon after kicked out of Benghazi amid popular protest but has since returned, openly manning checkpoints and building support promising much-needed security.
In Derna, Ansar al-Sharia said in September it was vacating its compounds in the city after mass demonstrations in support of the government. However, residents said its members were still believed to meet on a regular basis.
[Source: Reuters, Tripoli, 15Apr13]
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