Conflict & Justice

Libya protests: At least 11 dead as protesters storm militia's compound


Libyan security guards hold flowers and slogans left by people protesting against last week's attack, in which ambassador Chris Stevens died, at the main entrance of the US consulate in Benghazi. Around 30,000 Libyans joined a rally in Benghazi on September 21, 2012, protesting the powerful militias that have run rampant in the country.



Libyan protests over the Embassy attacks that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi last week escalated Friday night, as demonstrators stormed the headquarters of one of the militias suspected to have been involved in the Embassy attack.

At least 11 people were dead and 70 more were injured during Friday night's takeover of the Ansar al-Sharia militia's headquarters, according to Agence France-Presse. Protesters—in what is believed to have been a co-coordinated sweep of militia bases by government soldiers, police, and activists—also evicted the group from several of its bases in Benghazi, Al Jazeera English reported

"I am sorry, America," one of the protesters said, CNN reported. "This is the real Libya."

More from GlobalPost: 30,000 Libyans protest against militias

Demonstrators took down the militia's flags and set a vehicle on fire at the militia headquarters, which were formerly the base of Muammar Gaddafi's security forces when they were attempting to tamp down the popular uprising against Gaddafi. 

The demonstrators also reportedly freed prisoners who were being kept inside the base. 

Ansar al-Sharia's fighters first tried to confront the protesters, opening fire and injuring two people, Adusalam al-Tarhouni, a government worker who arrived with the first group of demonstrators, told the Associated Press. However, they fled the scene shortly after the protests began. 

"This place is like the Bastille," said protester Hassan Ahmed to Reuters. "This is where Gaddafi controlled Libya from, and then Ansar al-Sharia took it over. This is a turning point for the people of Benghazi." 

The swelling group of protesters then moved to the headquarters of Rafallah Sehati, an official brigade of the Libyan defense ministry that helped with security for the parliamentary elections, but National Assembly chief Mohamed al-Megaryef called off the protesters, Al Jazeera reported. 

The clashes ended after nearly seven hours of violence, following a TV broadcast from al-Megaryef, who told the protesters to stop attacking militias that are "under state legitimacy, and go home," AFP reported. Three big militias -- Rafallah Sahati, Feb. 17 and Libya Shield -- are considered to be pro-government, according to AFP. Libyan authorities took control of Ansar al-Sharia's headquarters and the militia bases on Saturday.