25 Sep 2012

Libya removes Benghazi militia leaders

10:45 pm on 25 September 2012

The military command has removed the leaders of two of the most powerful militias in the Libyan city of Benghazi, as it tries to reassert control over armed groups or disband them.

The moves come days after mass demonstrations against the armed groups in Benghazi, which followed the killing of the American ambassador in the city earlier this month.

The February 17 Brigade's Fawzi Bukatif and Rafallah al-Sahati's Ismail al-Salabi were replaced by colonels, reports the BBC.

On Sunday, interim leader Mohammed Magarief issued a 48-hour deadline for militias to vacate state property.

Last week residents demonstrated against armed groups in Benghazi following this month's killing of the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans during an attack on the US consulate on 11 September.

The attacks coincided with protests over an anti-Islam video produced in the US.

Islamist militants have denied being behind the attack, but the killing of the respected envoy sparked widespread fury among Benghazi residents, the BBC reports.

The Islamist Ansar al-Sharia group was driven out of its headquarters in Benghazi over the weekend in unrest which left at least 11 people dead.

Meanwhile, two militant groups based in the Islamist stronghold of Derna - a port city to the east of Benghazi - disbanded on Sunday.