Tens Of Thousands Of Libyans Stage Anti-Militia Protest In Benghazi

Though many Americans have become worried about the trajectory of Libyan politics after the killing of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in what was purportedly an anti-American riot, Libyans today turned out in massive numbers to call for the disbanding of the militias that may have been responsible for the ambassador’s death. According to the AP, 30,000 Libyans marched in the Benghazi demonstration, the same city where Ambassador Stevens was killed:

The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, in which at least one militia is suspected of participating, has sparked a backlash among many Libyans against the multiple armed factions that have run rampant for months in cities around the country. The militias have become more powerful than the regular security forces, and successive governments since last year’s fall of Moammar Gadhafi have been unable to rein them in. ..

Friday’s march targeted in particular Ansar al-Shariah, a militia of Islamic extremists who officials and witnesses say participated in the consulate attack. The group is also accused of attacking Muslims who don’t follow its harsh interpretation of Islam.

“No, no, to militias,” the giant crowd chanted as it marched along a lake in the center of Benghazi, filling a broad boulevard. They carried banners and signs demanding that militias disband and that the government build up police to take their place in keeping security. “Benghazi is in a trap,” signs read. “Where is the army, where is the police?”

Al-Jazeera also reported that rally organizer Muhammed Abujanah said the protestors were demonstrating against extremism, as it was “part of the [militia] problem.” Libyans soundly rejected Islamist parties at the ballot box and Libyan public opinion is strongly pro-American after a U.S.-led intervention toppled dictator Moammer Qaddafi last year.