Cheering protesters in Benghazi have stormed a base occupied by a militant Islamist group accused of complicity in the killing of the US ambassador to Libya, saying they were ‘reclaiming it for the nation’.
The direct action against Ansar al-Sharia, a group whose members were seen at the consulate building where the ambassador, Chris Stevens, died last week, followed a “Rally to Save Benghazi” by activists angry that the government and security forces had failed to take on militant groups.
There had been a similar but smaller protest in the capital, Tripoli, earlier. The crowd in Benghazi numbered 30,000, leading to fears of violence as the heavily-armed Ansar al-Sharia, or “Supporters of Sharia”, staged a counter-protest.
However, the Islamists were overwhelmingly outnumbered, and the protesters moved first to evict Ansar from a hospital for which they had been providing security.
Later in the evening, chanting “Libya, Libya” they moved on the main base further from the city centre, taking it over without resistance and setting fire to cars found inside. Police and members of the official army parked outside did nothing to intervene.
Militia and military leaders have been meeting members of the interim government and the newly-elected prime minister, Mustafa Abushagur, in Tripoli this week to discuss how to deal with Ansar al-Sharia, or at least the members said to have been involved in the consulate attack.
American officials believe some members may have been in contact with al-Qaeda, and Hillary Clinton called the incident a “terrorist attack” for the first time on Friday.
The capture of the base was celebrated elsewhere in the city by parades of cars touring the streets, honking their horns.
Source: The Telegraph by Richard Spencer