Libyan pro-democracy protesters decided to take the situation into their own hands on Friday as they marched in Benghazi, overtaking the headquarters of radical Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia, which has been tied to the attack on the US Consulate in the country that took the lives of four Americans.
Thousands of protesters took to the street earlier on Friday, declaring loudly that they represent the real sentiments of the Libyan people, not those who were behind the deadly attack 10 days ago, reports CNN. One man stated:
“I am sorry America. This is the real Libya.”
In the evening, an offshoot involving several hundred people headed toward the quarters of Ansar al-Sharia. Militia members fled as protesters torched a vehicle and took over the group’s building without firing a single shot.
Some of those involved claim they freed more than 20 captives. They also added that they fully intend on assuming control over other buildings where Ansar al-Sharia is based.
Army General Naji al-Shuaibi stated that citizens he labeled “revolutionaries of the February 17 uprising” asked later on that the militia groups headquarters be handed over to Libya’s army. Al-Shuaibi stated:
“Indeed, we rushed here and we will now take it over. There are also other places that we intend to take over (which belong to armed groups) if the revolutionaries and the people allow us to do so.”
The crowd of protesters also carried banners and signs demanding that militias disband, chanting, “No, no, to militias.” The march in Benghazi on Friday is the largest seen since Gadhafi’s fall in August 2011.
While those protesters brought to attention the militia problem Libya has suffered from since Gadhafi’s fall, other signs mourned the killing of US Ambassador Stevens, reports The Wall Street Journal. Those signs read “The ambassador was Libya’s friend” and “Libya lost a friend.”
Tribal leaders are the strongest social force in the country and have come forward to demand that the militias disband. Tribal leaders in Benghazi and Darna even announced this week that members of their tribes who are also militiamen will not have protection from the tribes when faced with anti-militia protests, meaning the tribe will not avenge them if they die.
Tribal figures, activists, local officials, and lawmakers have gathered at Darna’s main hotel, The Jewel of Darna, to talk about a plan for disbanding the militias. A bearded young man standing on a podium during one of those meetings stated:
“The militias don’t recognize the state. The state is pampering them but this isn’t working anymore. You must act right now.”
What do you think of Libyan protesters storming the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia, the group that has been linked with the slaying of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on September 11?