In an attempt to regain control of the country and boost security, on Sunday Libyan interim president Mohammed Magariaf ordered the dissolution of all militia that are not government–sanctioned.
The militia that are not sanctioned will have to leave in 48 hour’s time, Magariaf said, according to the Benghazi-based New Quryna newspaper.
“All battalions and camps that do not fall under the state’s jurisdiction” must be dealt with if they do not disband, said Magariaf. A new joint security operation between the Libyan army and various security forces will be formed, he added.
Magariaf’s decision comes more than a week after U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens was killed by gunmen who were said to have belonged to an Islamist militia in Benghazi.
Over the weekend, hundreds of protesters stormed the bases of the militia, forcing them to flee, and they attacked a pro-government militia soon after, leaving at least 11 people dead.
The killing of Stevens and the militia’s ability to operate in Libya with relative impunity have triggered protests and public anger, highlighting the lack of security in the country that was, until last year, dominated for 42 years by strongman Moammar Gadhafi and his regime’s institutions.
Many Libyan militias helped fight a civil war last year that brought Gadhafi’s downfall.
“We’re also banning the use of violence and carrying of weapons in public places. It’s also illegal to set up checkpoints,” Magariaf said late on Saturday during a press conference, according to Al Jazeera television. “We’ve instructed the appropriate government agencies to ensure that these directives are implemented.”
Following his announcement, two groups in the eastern city of Derna said that they would lay down their weapons.
The army disbanded a military that was headquartered in a military complex near the Tripoli International Airport, Libyan army commander Yussef al-Mangoush said, according to Al Jazeera. Members of the militia were arrested and their weapons were confiscated.
“We will carry out these kind of operations for the next two or three weeks until we dislodge all armed groups not under the authority of the State,” one army officer was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.
The decision to take down various militias throughout the country could be viewed as a major development because in the past, the government was unwilling to rein them in, Amnesty International said last week. Some of these militias have used torture and detained suspects without due process or regard for the law.
Recently, an Egyptian national who lived in Libya told the London-based rights group that he was tortured by a militia while in detention. He was arrested after three men came to his house in the middle of the night after an argument with his employer, and he was later beaten with cables, pipes, and wires, and he was suspended from a metal bar.
Amnesty and other human rights groups have repeatedly accused the militias of using torture and forcing detainees, some of whom were migrant workers from other parts of Africa, to live in deplorable conditions.
The recent protests against Islamist militias signify that the majority Libyans “are not in favor of extremism,” Omar Turbi, a California-based analyst, told Al Jazeera. At the same time, locals have blamed the militias for creating instability in a country trying to rebuild itself.
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