Libyan army blockades Ansar al-Sharia militia, suspected of killing US ambassador


Members of a Libyan rapid unit brigade in charge of clearing unlawfully occupied buildings from militias patrol during an operation in Tripoli on September 23, 2012. A Libyan crackdown on lawless militias spread to the capital after armed groups that have not been integrated into state institutions were ordered to disband and evacuate their bases.



The Libyan army has blockaded the Islamist Ansar al-Sharia militia in a remote region in eastern Libya, but army commanders say they lack the resources to capture the militiamen.

Ansar al-Sharia is suspected of being involved in the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens at the US consulate in Benghazi last month, and was ejected from Benghazi and Derna by protesters in late September, according to the Guardian.

"They have 150 to 200 men and 17 vehicles, Toyotas and four-by-fours," said the army task force commander, Colonel Hamid Hassi. "These people are very dangerous."

The Guardian reported that the militiamen had returned to the area from where they launched a resistance against Muamar Gaddafi 20 years ago. "Gaddafi tried to fight these guys here, he had 30,000 soldiers, in 1992, and he could not catch them," said Hassi. "We need help from the United Nations or the Europeans."

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Coordinating with Libya over the investigation into the consulate attack has further been complicated by Libya's prime minister-elect failing a vote of confidence, which effectively removed him from office.

The Washington Post said the vote by Libya's legislature could mean the government may remain without permanent, democratically-elected leadership for many weeks.

Meanwhile, shelling by pro-government forces in Bani Walid, the former stronghold of Gaddafi supporters, killed three people, including a child, Reuters reported.

The town, which was one of the last to fall after Gaddafi's ouster, came back into focus after the death two weeks ago of Omran Shaban, the rebel fighter credited with finding Gaddafi hiding in a drain.

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