Home inContext Libyan Militia Kills Protesters

Libyan Militia Kills Protesters

Hannah Schaeffer

Armed gunmen from the western town of Zintan freed Libya’s Deputy Intelligence Chief Mustafa Nuh on Monday less than 24 hours after they captured him near Tripoli’s airport. Nuh’s abduction followed a recent uprising in Tripoli last Friday against militias. The Misrata militia opened fire on protesters after they demanded the militia leave the capital. In the ensuing gunfight between residents and Mistrata members, more than 40 people died and were 400 injured.

After Friday’s violence, Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zidan, who had himself been kidnapped and released by militiamen last month, ordered all militia groups to leave Tripoli within three days and deployed troops to the capital. Previous attempts by the army to disarm the militias have ended in failure. Residents of Tripoli’s Gharghour neighborhood also took to the streets on Tuesday, repeating their call to disarm the Misrata militia.

Mourners carry the coffin, draped in the Libyan flag, of one of the victims of a shootout the previous day at an anti-militia protest, Martyr’s square, Tripoli, Nov. 16, 2013. (Photo: AFP)

Libya’s deepening lawlessness has prompted demonstrations from the public. Last week’s demonstrations in Tripoli mark the strongest public outcry yet against the unrestrained militias that originally assisted in the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. After the revolution the government depended on allied armed groups to maintain order because there was no strong army loyal to the new government. The militias now operate largely independent from the government and, as a result, Tripoli struggles to maintain central authority across the country.

Western countries have taken a limited interest in supporting the Libyan government and military. Admiral William McRaven, Head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, announced at a defense forum on Saturday that the U.S. military intends to train 5,000 to 7,000 conventional troops and a smaller counter-terrorism unit to assist civilian leaders in Tripoli.