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ICurrent Affairs/LIBYA

‚ able happened. The Libyan militias which were instrumental in overthrowing the former dictatorship of former President Muammar Gadaffi have become forces unto themselves controlling large swathes of Libya, engaging in illegal activities such as weapons smuggling, and enforcing the “law” according to their own whims and dictates. The Libyan government has struggled to extend its authority over the country while the official security forces have failed to establish the rule of law and order in the streets. The security vacuum has le dozens of competing militias engaging in shoot outs with army and police, with the latter oen afraid to take the militias on and on many occasions withdrawing from potential confrontations.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan (who was kidnapped last October by one of the hybrid militia/security units) stated the obvious when he said Libya was not a state in the real sense of the word.

One of the northern African country’s main problems has been its attempt to integrate the various militias into the security forces. But the government has been halfhearted about it with some parliamentarians commanding loyalty from the militias and many militia members on the government’s payroll.

Some of the militias have found it more profitable, and easier to assert their authority, by remaining outside of the official security forces and engaging in money laundering and gun smuggling. Others have been torn by loyalties to their former militias aer having joined the country’s security forces when clashes between the two entities have erupted.

But the clash of religious ideology appears to be one of the biggest threats to Libya with the Islamists gaining strength even though many Libyans reject their religious extremism.

Ansar Al Sharia, the group responsible for the murder last year of former US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, was behind one of the biggest clashes in Benghazi during late November.

A spokesman from the group warned during an interview on TV that those who did not comply with Sharia Law would be fought and killed. Mahmoud Al Barassi said that anybody who criticised Ansar Al Sharia was an enemy and that his organisation would fight democracy and secularism and added that members of the Libyan government and the armed forces were “apostates”.

His comments followed clashes in Benghazi between Ansar Al Sharia and Benghazi’s Saiqa Brigade Special Forces which le at least nine dead and up to more injured. The clashes continued for several days claiming more lives and an increasing number of wounded. Ansar Al Sharia militants based in the city of Derna tried to reach Benghazi to join in the fighting but were blocked from leaving the city by other members of Libya’s security forces.

Showing just how lawless Benghazi has become, a parliamentary meeting in the city to discuss the deteriorating security situation, was stormed by Islamist supporters and several parliamentarians man-

By Mel Frykberg

Libyan Militias instigate mayhem

20 The Middle East January

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