BEIRUT

Middle East

Libyan militia ‘secures’ U.S. compound

A member of the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) Islamist militia stands at the gym of a villa at the US diplomatic compound in the Libyan capital Tripoli, on August 31, 2014, after members of the group moved into the complex of several villas in southern Tripoli to prevent it from being looted, according to the faction. AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD TURKIA

TRIPOLI: The Islamist-allied militia group in control of Libya’s capital has “secured” a U.S. Embassy residential compound, more than a month after American personnel evacuated from the country over ongoing fighting, one of its commanders said Sunday.

The Islamist militia’s move will likely reinvigorate debate in the U.S. over its role in Libya, more than three years after the U.S. supported rebels who toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It also comes near the two-year anniversary of the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya’s second-largest city Benghazi.

An Associated Press journalist walked through the U.S. Embassy compound Sunday after the Dawn of Libya, an umbrella group for Islamist militias, invited onlookers inside. Some windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared that most of the equipment there remained untouched. The journalist saw treadmills, food, televisions and computers still inside.

A commander for the Dawn of Libya group, Moussa Abu-Zaqia, told the AP that his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week, a day after it seized control of the capital and its international airport, having fought for weeks with a rival militia. Abu-Zaqia said the rival militia had been in the compound before his troops took it over.

The Dawn of Libya militia is not associated with the extremist militia Ansar al-Shariah, which Washington blames for the deadly assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed Stevens and the three other Americans.

A video posted online Sunday showed unarmed men playing in a pool at the compound and jumping into it from a second-story balcony. Voices heard in the video identified it as the U.S. Embassy compound.

In a message on Twitter, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones said the video appeared to have been shot in at the embassy’s residential annex, though she said she couldn’t “say definitively” since she wasn’t there.

“To my knowledge & per recent photos the US Embassy Tripoli chancery & compound is now being safeguarded and has not been ransacked,” she wrote on Twitter. She did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate. State Department officials in Washington also declined to immediately comment.

On July 26, U.S. diplomats evacuated the compound and the capital to neighboring Tunisia under a U.S. military escort as fighting between rival militias intensified and thousands fled. The State Department said embassy operations would be suspended until the security situation improved.

Typically, local forces provide security for diplomatic posts, but Libya’s government has largely relied on militias for law enforcement since Gadhafi’s ouster, as its military and police forces remain weak. It remains unclear who the U.S. left in control of guarding its facilities after its personnel evacuated.

Libya’s militias, many of which originate from rebel forces that fought Gadhafi, have become powerful players in post-war Libya. Successive governments have put militias on their payroll in return for maintaining order, but rivalries over control and resources have led to fierce fighting among them and posed a constant challenge to the central government and a hoped-for transition to democracy.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 01, 2014, on page 9.

Recommended

Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (http://bit.ly/vDisqus)

comments powered by Disqus
Summary

The Islamist-allied militia group in control of Libya's capital has "secured" a U.S. Embassy residential compound, more than a month after American personnel evacuated from the country over ongoing fighting, one of its commanders said Sunday.

A commander for the Dawn of Libya group, Moussa Abu-Zaqia, told the AP that his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week, a day after it seized control of the capital and its international airport, having fought for weeks with a rival militia.

Libya's militias, many of which originate from rebel forces that fought Gadhafi, have become powerful players in post-war Libya.


Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here