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A bomb exploded at the Sahaba Mosque in Derna this morning destroying the tomb of Zuhayr Ibn Qais Al-Balawi, a seventh century Arab commander who helped bring Islam to the region. It is not known if there were any casualties.
Salafists have been blamed by angry locals for the bombing which happened about 7 a.m. The bomb destroyed the building over Balawi’s grave but the actual grave is reported not to have been damaged.
Derna is said to have become a centre of Salafist activity since the revolution although it is thought that there is only a very small minority of people there who support it. The Salafists had refused to pray in the mosque because of the tomb.
Salafists have destroyed a number of Sufi shrines in Libya since the revolution. In March, they tried to destroy one of the most important shrines in the country, that of Sidi Abdul-Salam Al-Asmar Al-Fituri in Zliten. A gun fight between them and enraged militiamen from the town and nearby Misrata determined to protect the shrine was averted only after negotiations between the Salafists and local elders.
The issue of whether Sufi shrines should be demolished or not was referred by NTC leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil to the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ghariani for a decision. Ghariani is believed to personally favour demolishing the shrines. However, he himself went to Derna in May and preached at the mosque favoured by the Salafists, the Masjid Al-Noor. In an attempt at restore unity in Derna he also prayed at the Sahaba Mosque to demonstrate to Salfists that there was nothing heretical in doing so.
Zuhayr Ibn Qais Al-Balawi who was active in North Africa between 683 and 689, is revered locally as a leader of the Companions of the Prophet in North Africa.