Two Libyan Islamist Militias Disbanding In Derna Over Pro-Democracy Supporters

Two of the main Islamist militias in Derna, Libya, have withdrawn from their five military bases and announced that they are disbanding, according to resident reports on Saturday.

The announcements come just one day after a group of pro-democracy protesters in Benghazi took over the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia, the militant group linked with the attack on the US Consulate on September 11, reports The Jerusalem Post. Siraj Shennib, a 29-year-old linguistics professor who has been part of protests against the militia, stated:

“Abu Slim had three camps and Ansar al-Sharia had two. So it’s five. Empty. All empty.”

Reuters notes that Shennib added that commanders from both groups addressed the crowd in person to announce they were disbanding. The announcements were motivated by the events in Benghazi on Friday. Ansar al-Sharia has now withdrawn from all its bases in Benghazi, as of Friday night.

While Friday’s demonstrations were peaceful, they turned violent early Saturday when the crowd turned against a group that had sworn support for the Libyan government. Libya’s LANA news agency was present for both announcements, which took place Saturday afternoon.

Abu Slim commander Mohammed Bilal stated that the group will be disbanding in Derna and giving control of its compound to the authorities. Ansar al-Sharia’s Derna commander Hafed al-Birani also stated to local radio that the militia had disbanded, and already handed its compound over to its original owners.

The Libyan Islamist militia groups’ announcements is a huge victory in the country, which has been plagued by militias and extremists since the death of their dictator in August 2011.