Clinton Praises Libya For its Move to Rein in Militias
Rogue militias were blamed for the killings of four Americans in Benghazi
CNN Wire Staff
September 24, 2012NEW YORK (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the Libyan people Monday for their efforts to rid the country of the rogue militias blamed for the killings in Benghazi this month of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.
"The people of the Arab world did not set out to trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob," she said here in a speech to the Clinton Global Initiative. "There is no dignity in that. The people of Benghazi sent this message loudly and clearly on Friday, when they forcefully rejected the extremists in their midst and reclaimed the honor and dignity of a courageous city.
"They mourned the loss of Ambassador Chris Stevens, a friend and champion of a free Libya, and his fallen comrades. They are not alone. People and leaders from across the region and the world and beyond have spoken in recent days against violence."
On Friday, hundreds marched in the eastern city of Benghazi and took over the headquarters of Islamist militia Ansar al Sharia. Protesters on Friday demanded an end to all security activities of armed groups operating outside the official command of the army or police.
Militias and other unauthorized armed groups have been criticized since members of a radical Islamist group were accused of involvement in the September 11 attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Clinton's comments came as a 48-hour deadline approached for unauthorized militias to withdraw from military compounds, public buildings and property belonging to members of the former regime. Libya's military issued the deadline late Saturday.
But the government had already begun its effort to impose control: Libyan army troops raided a former military base in Tripoli on Sunday, kicking out a rogue infantry brigade and detaining its members.
The brigade had not been following orders from Libya's military command, the Libyan army's National Mobile Force said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.
Mohamed al-Magariaf, president of Libya's General National Congress, has said rogue militias would be disbanded.
On Saturday, state news and a source said two Islamist militias had agreed to close their bases in the eastern Libyan city of Derna.
The state-run LANA news agency said the militias, identified as Bou Salim Martyrs and Ansar al Sharia, would also disband.
The eight people detained in connection with the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi include members of Ansar al Sharia, Libya's prime minister said last week, though he added that not all the attackers came from one specific group.
Initial reports indicated that ahead of the consular attack, Ansar al Sharia had organized a protest to decry an inflammatory video that mocks the Prophet Mohammed and to protest the United States, where the film was privately produced.
Stevens was one of four Americans slain in the assault.
The attack underscores the power vacuum across Libya since the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi's regime last year, one analyst told CNN.
Fighting groups that battled Gadhafi have stepped in to maintain law and order after the fall of the regime, said Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The fledgling government is in a bind, he said, as officials try to demobilize militias and fold these groups into government security forces.
Militia members across Libya remain loyal to their groups and distrust the new government's authority, in part because of the "taint" of a link to the Gadhafi regime, Wehrey said.
In a February report, Amnesty International said militias in Libya were committing human rights abuses with impunity, threatening to destabilize the country and hindering its efforts to rebuild.
CNN's Arwa Damon, Salma Abdelaziz and Tom Watkins contributed to this report.