Libya jihadists flex muscles: Rise of new Islamic emirate in Derna
BENGHAZI - A jihadist group in Libya says it plans to take over security in the restive eastern town of Derna and impose sharia Islamic law, in a posting on Facebook.
Witnesses said the group "Majlis Shura of Islamist Youth in Derna" staged a show of force on Friday, parading through the town armed to the teeth.
Photographs on the group's Facebook page show dozens of masked men in military uniform in pickup trucks, armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, machineguns and anti-aircraft cannon.
They also brandish black and white jihadist banners.
"We announce the formation of a legal committee to settle differences between people and arrange reconciliations on the basis of sharia," the group said in a statement.
It said it would ensure security in Derna, and rejected "the laws of miscreants" and "institutions which violate the laws of God".
"We also declare our hostility towards the enemies of God and his prophet -- Jews, Christians and Taghouts."
"Taghouts" is a derogatory term used by jihadists to describe state institutions, in particular the intelligence services.
State institutions hold no sway in Derna, where radical Islamists have laid down the law since dictator Moamer Gathafi was toppled and killed in 2001.
Judges and the security forces are frequently targeted in Derna, which has been abandoned to its fate by the interim authorities who have so far failed to form a proper police service and professional armed forces.
On March 20, the government acknowledged for the first time that "terrorist groups" were behind dozens of attacks on the security services and Westerners.
Announcing that it was mobilising security forces, the government urged "the international community and in particular the United Nations to provide the necessary support to eradicate terrorism in Libyan cities".
In a statement, it singled out Derna, the country's second city Benghazi, also in the east, and Sirte, Gathafi's hometown where he was killed.
No concrete security measures are reported to have been taken since the March 20 statement.