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21:31, 28 May 2017 Sunday
Update: 12:49, 22 September 2012 Saturday

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One killed, 20 wounded in Benghazi standoff
One killed, 20 wounded in Benghazi standoff

Around 30,000 Libyans marched through the eastern city of Benghazi in a protest to demand the disbanding of powerful militias, at least one person was killed and 20 wounded

World Bulletin/News Desk

A Libyan militia was swept out of the eastern city of Benghazi in a popular protest against the armed groups that ran into the early hours of Saturday morning, Reuters witnesses said.

At least one person was killed and 20 wounded, a hospital source said, as militias tried to fight the demonstrators from a heavily fortified base. Gunfire could be heard in the area before the fighters were forced out.

Looters carried weapons out of the vacated base compound.

The militia has been linked to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last week in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans died. It denies involvement.

The action against the group appeared to be part of a coordinated sweep of militia headquarters buildings by police, government troops and activists following a mass public demonstration against militia units on Friday.

Chanting "Libya, Libya," hundreds of demonstrators entered, pulling down militia flags and torching a vehicle inside headquarters in Benghazi - once the base of forces of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, which tried to put down the first protests that sparked last year's uprising.

Protesters said the militiamen opened fire as they arrived and several people were wounded.

After the crowd entered that compound, Libyan army trucks sped away from the base carrying government troops cheering in victory and crying out, "God is greatest."

Vigilantes armed with machetes and clubs blocked the highway leading away from the compound, stopping cars to prevent looters from driving off with heavy weapons.

The demonstrators also took over a compound belonging to the Abu Slim brigade and another Ansar al-Sharia compound.

Friday's "Rescue Benghazi day" demonstration called for the government to disband armed groups that have refused to give up their weapons since the NATO-backed revolution last year.

"It's obvious that this protest is against the militias. All of them should join the army or security forces as individuals, not as groups," student Ahmed Sanallah said. "Without that there will be no prosperity and no success for the new Libya."

Benghazi, 1,000 km (600 miles) from Tripoli across largely empty desert, is controlled by various armed groups.



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Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution
Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution

The Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and deemed a terrorist organisation by the UN and United States, announced its "dissolution" in a communique published online on Saturday. Washington accuses the group of being behind the September 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in which ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Ansar al-Sharia is one of the jihadist groups that sprung up in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, in the chaos following the death of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. They overran the city in 2014. East Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar earlier this month launched an offensive to oust jihadist fighters from their two remaining strongholds in Benghazi. In its communique Ansar al-Sharia said it had been "weakened" by the fighting. The group lost its leader, Mohammed Azahawi, in clashes with Haftar's forces in Benghazi at the end of 2014. Most of its members then defected to the so-called Islamic State group. Ansar al-Sharia later joined the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, a local alliance of Islamist militias. At its zenith, Ansar al-Sharia was present in Benghazi and Derna in eastern Syria, with offshoots in Sirte and Sabratha, western Libya. The organisation took over barracks and other sites abandoned by the ousted Kadhafi forces and transformed them into training grounds for hundreds of jihadists seeking to head to Iraq or Syria.