Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Libya militia linked to U.S. attack returns to Benghazi

A pislamist militia linked to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and kicked out of the city by locals is back openly manning checkpoints and building up support promising much-needed security. Heavily bearded youths from ansar al-sharia control the western entrance into Libya's second biggest metropolis, patrol a hospital and check cars and trucks passing through another checkpoint in the south
Witnesses say the group's members were at the scene of the September 11 attack that killed the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans - though ansar al-sharia denied any involvement. Days after the assault, outraged residents drove the group out of its bases in the city in a "Rescue Benghazi" protest
The group's highly visible return, five months on, underlines the complex security situation on the ground two years after the start of the revolt that ousted Muammar Gaydaffi

Libyan followers of ansar al-sharia brigades and other pislamic militias, hold a demonstration against a film and a cartoon denigrating the false prophet Mahound in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012

Many in the West see pislamist militants as the biggest threat to the security of the oil-producing country and the region - and accuse them of carrying out a string of attacks on police and foreigners in the city in recent months
But the groups are also held up as heroes of the Libyan uprising by some locals who say they are doing a better job of the protecting them than the government in distant Tripoli. As celebrations began marking the revolt's anniversary, at least one person waved ansar al-sharia's white flag at a rally
"These men are also people who fought on the front lines, care about their city and provide services. We can't shun them," said Benghazi University professor Iman Bugaighis. "We had to ask them to come back and protect our hospital and streets"

The ansar al-sharia logo
News report here.