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30,000 Libyans protest against militias

Around 30,000 Libyans protested against powerful militias in Benghazi, in the wake of the attack that killed the US ambassador.

Libya anti militia rally benghazi september 21 2012Enlarge
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. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Around 30,000 Libyans participated in an unprecedented protest against militias in Benghazi on Friday, according to the Associated Press.

The rally comes after last week's attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi left the US ambassador and three other Americans dead. At least one militia is suspected of taking part in the attack, which has caused Libyans to speak out against the armed factions in their country.

Bloomberg noted that the country's stability is threatened by the powerful militias, which the previous government under the National Transitional Council was unable to disarm. The recently elected General National Congress has not had an easier time with them.

Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur apologized yesterday for the attack, saying, "We are very sorry for the deaths of four American nationals on our soil." He said, "Chris Stevens was a great man and cared for our country," according to Bloomberg.

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Al Jazeera reported that Benghazi was also playing host to a rival rally on Friday by an Islamist militia. The ultraconservative Salafist group Ansar Al-Sharia called for protests against the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims," which sparked protests across the Middle East and beyond last week.

The group, which denied any role in the Sept. 11 attack which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, called on supporters to rally at Al-Kish Square. One supporter said, "Our demonstration is in support of the messenger of Allah and to condemn the abuse of Islam and Muslims carried out by any given country, chief among them France and the US."

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera's correspondent said the anti-militia protesters called upon the government to disband the militias. "We went there to see their slogans and basically what they're saying is that they refused the insult of the Prophet but they also refuse terrorism in their city," said the correspondent.

The AP reported that protesters carried banners demanding that the government build up police forces to replace the militias in keeping security. Some signs mourned the killing of Stevens, saying, "The ambassador was Libya's friend" and "Libya lost a friend."

The crowd unfurled a giant Libyan flag and chanted, "With our lives and souls, we redeem you, Benghazi."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120921/30000-libyans-protest-against-militias