Libya: paramilitaries behind Benghazi battles?

At least three soldiers were killed as Libyan Special Forces clashed with armed men in Benghazi June 15—a week after fighting killed more than 30 in the eastern port city. The Special Forces’ Facebook page said an “outlaw” band attacked their headquarters. The attackers were apparently hundreds strong, in civilian clothes but some wearing veils over their faces. Two days earlier, a bomb exploded outside the building of Libya al-Hurra TV in the city, causing some damage but no casualties. Suspicion in the attacks has fallen on members of the Libyan Shields, a militia that serves as an auxiliary to the “official” armed forces. Spokesman for the army chief of staff Ali al-Sheikhi described the Libyas Shields as “a reserve force under the Libyan army,” speaking to Libya’s Lana news agency.

Last week’s violence erupted June 8, when Benghazi residents staged a protest outside the Libyan Shields headquarters in the city, accusing them of unaccountabilty, and militiamen fired on the demonstrators. Civilians and “official” army forces then stormed the Shields’ headquarters, destroying equipment and putting it to the torch. At least 32 were killed; the city had just finished burying the dead when the new violence broke out.

June 14 saw a an armed ambush on a Libyan Shields convoy at Kira, in the interior desert, leaving a commander dead along with three attackers. Libyan Shields leader Ali al-Abed told the Associated Press that he believed the Zawia Martyrs’ Brigade was responsible for the ambush. Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ghariani, condemned the ambush, lamenting that not a day goes by without an armed attack somewhere in the country. (AP, AFP, McClatchy, Tripoli PostLibya Herald, June 15; Reuters, June 13; BBC News, June 8)

  1. More paramilitary violence in Libya
    The Libyan government announced that it has taken back control of its interior ministry from an armed group that had besieged the building for a week. The militia known as the Supreme Security Committee (SSC) seized the building July 2, ordered staff to leave and erected sand barricades around it. (Al Jazeera, July 10)

  2. More paramilitary violence in Libya
    In further evidence of the basically ficitonal nature of the Libyan state, confused reports are emerging of street clashes between rival militias in Tripoli, with several injured and one unconfirmed death. They are apparently using heavy anti-aircaft weapons against each other, but there but the sketchiest details as to who they actually are. CNN tells us one militia is baed in Tripoli and the other from Misrata. BBC News tells us that one militia “is said to be loosely linked to the interior ministry.”

  3. Paramilitary massacre in Libya
    At least 37 people were killed and nearly 300 injured Nov. 15 in Tripoli, the bloodiest day in the Libyan capital since the fall of Qaddafi in 2011. Fighting broke out after protesters marched on the Tripoli headquarters of militias from the coastal city of Misrata. Protesters and eyewitnesses said militiamen opened fire on the hundreds who marched on Gharghour, a southern district of the capital where Misrata militia are based, in an effort to evict the armed groups. (CNN, Libya Herald)

  4. Libya: general strike against militia violence
    Residents of the Libyan capital Tripoli continued a general strike for a thid day on Nov.19, in protest against lawless militias The strike began after a call for civil disobedience by Tripoli’s local council, following over 40 deaths in clashes between militias and protesters in the suburb of Gharghour. Many public and private sector institutions have closed doors, including schools, local markets and shops, while the main squares and streets appeared completely empty. (NPR, Nov. 19; Asharq Al-Awsat, Nov. 18)