Libyan authorities have given armed militias two days to disband and vacate their military bases and compounds in a move that capitalizes on the wave of protester power that drove the Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia from Benghazi over the weekend.
Two Jihadist militias in Derna also disbanded on Sunday, withdrawing from the Islamist stronghold city and announcing they were disbanding to avoid the scenes in Benghazi where protesters sent armed militiamen fleeing, reports The Guardian.
One of the disbanding militias, Ansar al-Sharia, has been blamed for the attack on the US Consulate on September 11, which left four Americans dead, including US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.
Muhammad Magariaf, the president of Libya’s parliament, met with Benghazi politicians and security officials to discuss how to fill a security vacuum that emerged after the weekend of violence that cost the lives of at least 11 people. Adel Othman al-Barasi, a spokesman for the defence ministry stated:
“The army chief Yussef al-Mangoush and Muhammad Magariaf have ordered all illegitimate militias should be removed from compounds and hand over their weapons to the national army. A committee made up by the military police has been formed to take over the compounds and the weapons and hand these over to the army.”
USA Today notes that the Libyan army raided several militia outpost that were operating outside government control in the country’s capital of Tripoli. Militias that are under government authority are still allowed to operate, but those who are not must disband in the next two days.
The government also warned that, if the militias do not disband and lay down their arms, the government will take the compounds by force. Abdel-Salam Sikayer, a resident of Tripoli, appeared to applaud the move, adding that he believes the government is able to make the push to disband militias now, because the country’s first free election in decades has allowed the public to trust elected officials. Sikayer stated:
“There was no trust before the election of the National Congress that is backed by the legitimacy of the people and which chose the country’s leader. There is a feeling that the national army will really be built.”
Despite the order, and the public’s backing, Libya’s government will need the help of the most powerful militias on their side to help disband the rest. Some militias in the country have taken steps in the past few weeks to consolidate and work as contracted government security forces, who are paid monthly salaries.