World Bulletin / News Desk
The two main Islamist militias in Derna, a city in eastern Libya known as an Islamist stronghold, withdrew from their five bases on Saturday and announced they were disbanding, residents said, a day after a militia was driven out of Benghazi.
The Abu Slim and Ansar al-Sharia militias' announcements were apparently motivated by events in Benghazi, where Ansar al-Sharia, a group linked with last week's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate, withdrew from all its bases in the city late on Friday amid mass demonstrations in support of the government.
Those demonstrations in Libya's second city, also in the east, erupted into violence when the crowd turned against another group that had sworn support for the government.
Libyan LANA news agency quoted commanders from both militias as saying they were disbanding and vacating their compounds.
Abu al-Shalali, 27, an Abu Slim fighter who trained as an electrical engineer, said there was a non-violent confrontation at one camp between protesters and fighters who did not initially want to leave but ultimately decided they could not use force against the crowd.
"We can't kill our brothers and our cousins," he said, adding that camp housed a jail with 50 prisoners, all of whom were freed. He said they were common criminals and that their release would probably cause a crime spree.
Derna, a coastal city overlooking the Mediterranean, is known across the region as a major recruitment centre for fighters who joined the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Ansar al-Sharia was driven out of Benghazi in a surge of anger against the armed groups that control large parts of Libya more than a year after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.
A spokesman for Ansar al-Sharia, which has been linked to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed, said it had evacuated its Benghazi bases "to preserve security in the city".
In a dramatic sign of Libya's fragility, after sweeping through Ansar's bases the crowd went on to attack a pro-government militia, triggering an armed response in which at least 11 people were killed and more than 60 wounded.
The invasion of Ansar al-Sharia's compounds, which met little resistance, appeared to be part of a sweep of militia bases by police, troops and activists following a large demonstration against militia units in Benghazi on Friday.
Demonstrators in Benghazi pulled down militia flags and set a vehicle on fire inside what was once the base of Gaddafi's security forces.
Speaking in Benghazi, the head of Libya's national congress Mohammed Magarief said state security forces had agreed to form a "security operation room" which would work to secure Benghazi by dissolving militias not under the control of the government.
Calling for weapons not to be carried in public, he said it would also prohibit checkpoints and patrols made by illegitimate groups and allow the army to take control of compounds belonging to pro-government militias.
European Commission says Ankara has made 'a lot of efforts' for the EU visa liberalisation
Three Boko Haram militants were killed and nine captured in operations in NE Borno State
Russia's Lavrov to meet UN Syria envoy in Moscow Tuesday
Investors to attend two-day conference in Sarajevo from Wednesday
The evacuation has passed off largely without incident, authorities say
Sudan’s Constitutional Court on Sunday has ordered to allow Al-Tayyar newspaper to resume publishing following more than four-month suspension by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
Thousands of supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have held a sit-in inside Baghdad’s Green Zone after storming parliament on Saturday
'Now, with the new phenomenon of [ISIL], this is going to challenge us for years to come,' John Brennan says
Palestinian flag has been banned from Eurovision Song Contest Stockholm 2016
'Two car bombs went off in town. The first one was at around midday near a bus station in the city centre,' according to police
Supporters of firebrand Shia cleric demand government of ‘technocrats’ untainted by corruption, sectarianism
Order comes day after supporters of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone and temporarily occupied parliament building
Military claims its forces pre-empted planned attack on army base in Borno State
US presidential candidates were butt of Obama's jokes at White House Correspondents' Dinner
Leader of Crimean Tatars slams Russian 'aggression', urges expansion of Western sanctions
Rapid restoration of order is in interest of Iraqi people, foreign policy chief says