Libya's Italian-era gazelle statue disappears in Tripoli

image copyrightWikimedia Commons/Корниенко Виктор

An iconic Italian-era statue of a naked woman caressing a gazelle has mysteriously disappeared from a famous roundabout in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The historic bronze statue sat proudly in a fountain until Tuesday morning, but no trace of it is now left.

It is not known who pulled it down, but many blame Islamist militias.

They have been accused of targeting Ottoman-era mosques and tombs, which they regard as idolatrous, since 2012.

The BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says the statue overlooked the Mediterranean sea, and had been around since Italian colonial rule.

image captionMost residents have condemned the removal of the statue

The historical landmark was known to locals as the "Gazelle roundabout", she says.

An official statement from the office of Tripoli's municipal authorities said they condemned the disappearance.

"We call on our Libyan brothers to protect Libya's heritage and antiquities. We have contacted the authorities and they have opened an investigation into the matter and we promise the residents of Tripoli that we will get the criminals," it said.

Hit in stomach

Reaction on social media to its disappearance was swift and residents largely condemned the move, our correspondent adds.

The statue was hit by a missile in late August which left a gaping hole in the stomach of the nude figurine.

In February 2012, local officials in Tripoli said they had information of a threat against the naked statue by Islamist militias.

image copyrightAFP
image captionMuslim hardliners have been blamed for the destruction of tombs of clerics from a rival sect

Libya's internationally recognised government and parliament relocated from Tripoli to the far-eastern city of Tobruk after a coalition of armed groups, including militant Islamists, took control of large parts of the capital in August.

Several historical Sufi mosques, as well as relics and shrines, have been systematically destroyed or vandalised in Libya since 2012, our correspondent says.

Last month, the Ottoman-era Karamanli mosque in Tripoli's old city was vandalised.

Libya has been unstable since the overthrow of long-serving ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The country is divided between two rival governments, with disparate ethnic groups, militias and political factions fighting for power in the oil-rich country.

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