Islamist militia now guards US Embassy in Libya
Updated: 2014-09-01 10:39
|A view of the gym at an annex of the US embassy in Tripoli during a media tour organised by Operation Dawn, a group of Islamist-leaning forces mainly from Misrata, August 31, 2014, after the group took over the annex.[Photo/Agencies]|
Another Dawn of Libya commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak by his leaders, told the AP that the US Embassy, about a kilometer (half a mile) away, also was under guard by his militiamen.
"We've secured the location and the assets of the embassy," he said. "We've informed our command ... immediately after entering the place following the exit of the rival militia. The place is secure and under protection."
The commander did not elaborate and the AP journalist could not reach the embassy. The Dawn of Libya militia is not associated with the extremist militia Ansar al-Shariah, which Washington blames for the deadly assault on the US 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. In a message on Twitter, US 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.
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. In the past several weeks, the security vacuum in Tripoli deepened as militia violence worsened and the diplomatic security provided by Libya's Interior Ministry in the area apparently fled as well.
It remains unclear who the US left in control of guarding its facilities after its personnel evacuated under military escort on July 26. The State Department has said embassy operations would be suspended until the security situation in Libya improved.
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.
The militia violence began after Islamist candidates lost parliament in June elections and a renegade general began a military campaign against Islamist-allied militias in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city. Now, Libya has two competing governments and two parliaments, deepening divisions and escalating the political struggle that's torn the country apart.