Protesters have stormed a militia base in Benghazi, where the Libyan uprising began. They have attacked barracks housing the ‘Libya Shield Brigade’, a grouping of pro-government militias. A fierce gunfight left dozens killed and injured.
I don't think the official ministries and institutions of the government are functioning ... there are parallel institutions .... These forces are revolutionary in nature and are not official ... they may wear uniforms but effectively there is no sincere commando or control ... they are ill-disciplined, in terms of money there are many disputes ... and for that reason security is weak at best.
It has been nearly two years now since rebel fighters brought down Libya’s long-time leader, Muammar Gaddafi, but the authorities have yet failed to form a credible and professional army, or even a police force.
Instead, they are relying on powerful militias to maintain security, but there is a growing frustration – and resentment.
Protesters want militias to give up their weapons, and submit to the full authority of Libya’s security forces, but a spokesman for the armed group says the brigade falls under the umbrella of the defence ministry.
The latest unrest highlights a trend of increasing violence across Libya.
In September, an attack on the US consulate killed four people, including the US ambassador to Libya; a few days later, Benghazi’s airport was closed when fighters attacked US surveillance drones.
Then in April this year, a car bomb exploded outside the French embassy in Tripoli, and a weeks later, armed groups occupied the justice ministry in the city, demanding a law to ban Gaddafi era officials from holding positions of power.
Libya has been described as an incubator of turmoil, awash with weapons and fighters, ready for battle at home or abroad.
A UN report last month revealed arms are finding their way into Egypt, and on to the Gaza Strip, they are being smuggled into Africa – into Mali and Somalia, and some are also being used in the fight against Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
So can the Libyan government enforce its authority? And can the militias be brought under control?
To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Ghidibyaa Fakhry, is joined by guests: Osama Kubbar, a political activist and vice president of the Freedom Fighters Coalition; Omar Ashour, a senior lecturer in Middle East politics at Exeter University; and Anas El Gomati, the founder and general director of the Sadeq Institute, a Libya-based think-tank.
“What we are standing for now, the revolution is still there, there is no really so-called institutions well established down here in Libya, so what’s really controlling or providing the peace and the security … is basically the Shield of Libya … these are the freedom fighters who really fought to liberate the country, and in a sense many of them don’t want really to join the official army, and they are really doing their job until the official army … [is] capable of defending the country.”
– Osama Kubbar, vice president of the Freedom Fighters Coalition