ISSN 2330-717X

Libyan Citizens Storm Ansar Al-Sharia Base In Benghazi

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Libyan citizens on Saturday (September 22nd) ousted a jihadist militia from its headquarters in Benghazi.

Chanting “Libya, Libya” and “No more al-Qaeda”, hundreds of protesters stormed the compound of the hard-line Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia and then torched the site.

Armed militants fired in the air as they retreated from their headquarters in the face of the overwhelmingly superior numbers of the protesters.

Libya
Libya

“This brigade was a big problem for us and for everybody. It was a centre of extremists,” demonstrator Tawfik Mohamed, 32, told AFP.

The seizure of the Ansar al-Sharia base came after some 30,000 peaceful demonstrators took to the streets after Friday prayers for a “Save Benghazi” protest.

Rally participants paid tribute to US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the other Americans killed in the assault on the US consulate in Benghazi. Ansar al-Sharia has been accused of involvement in the September 11th attack.

“Libya lost a friend,” read one banner carried by protestors. “We want justice for Stevens,” said another.

The demonstration eclipsed a smaller rally attended by just a few hundred people, called by Ansar al-Sharia to protest an Islamophobic film aired on YouTube.

Ahmad Elobedy, a teacher at a Benghazi school, said the largest of the citizens’ rallies delivered a “message” to all militias that are not under the control of state security institutions.

“What Benghazi did was a natural reaction, because the revolution is over and we must now build the state”, Elobedy told Magharebia. “The public wants an army, a police force. We want security and safety”.

Khalel Gewedr, a Benghazi resident, said the protests were long overdue.

“The embassy incident was the trigger for the ‘Save Libya’ rally on Friday”, he said. “This is expected from Benghazi residents”.

Another resident, Abdelwahab Orfa, said that putting an end to militias in Benghazi was the first step in building the state.

“Institutions are the basis of the state and the most important of these institutions are the army and police. Militias obstruct this,” Orfa said.
[AFP/Abdullah Doma] A Benghazi man flashes the victory sign after civilian protesters drove Ansar al-Sharia militants out of their compound on September 21st.

[AFP/Abdullah Doma] A Benghazi man flashes the victory sign after civilian protesters drove Ansar al-Sharia militants out of their compound on September 21st.

The scene of Benghazi residents taking to the streets brought back memories of the day when pro-Khadafi forces fell, said Entissar Brawen.

“Young men, women, the elderly, in cars and on foot – we all marched with one voice on Friday at the ‘Save Benghazi’ event, in order to save Libya. Benghazi, the headquarters of the revolution, said its word today and has more to say,” she said.

The protesters also stormed other paramilitary bases belonging to groups with varying degrees of loyalty to the central government.

A separate pre-dawn clash Saturday between protestors and the Islamist paramilitary group Raf Allah al-Sahati left four people dead.

Around 70 people were wounded during the overnight violence, medics at Benghazi’s three main hospitals said.

Libyan authorities warned against “chaos” and called on demonstrators to make a distinction between “illegitimate” brigades and those who are under state control.

General National Congress (GNC) President Mohamed Magarief urged the civilian protestors to withdraw from the bases of militias loyal to the central government, specifically the Raf Allah al-Sahati and February 17 Brigades, and Libya Shield.

“We value what the protestors did in terms of calling for militias to join the army and police,” Magarief added.

“We thank the protestors for their accomplishment and call on them to use reason and withdraw immediately to their homes,” he said, asking militias under state control to exercise restraint.

The former Ansar al-Sharia stronghold in Benghazi is now in the hands of the regular armed forces.

Asmaa Elourfi in Benghazi contributed to this report for Magharebia

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SETimes

SETimes

The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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