Ansar Al-Sharia to be disbanded “by force if necessary” as first arrests made in connection with US consulate killings
Tripoli, 14 September:
Ansar Al-Sharia, the militant group believed to be behind Tuesday’s fatal attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, is to be disbanded, by force if necessary, a reliable source close to Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur has told the Libya Herald.
“We are negotiating to dismantle it,” the source said. “We don’t want bloodshed but if they do not agree we will have to use force.”
This morning, the group’s Benghazi headquarters are closed and there is no visible sign of activity.
The army had previously put out its own statement saying the group was to be disbanded, but this was subsequently removed. The announcement had been posted on the army’s Facebook page, and it is suspected the move was deemed premature given no official word has been given from the government on the matter.
Yesterday, officials said that four men had been arrested in Benghazi in connection with the murders, all of them reportedly members of Ansar Al-Sharia.
Abushagur also told CNN on Thursday evening that a suspect had been arrested and that others were being sought. “Three or four are currently being pursued,” he said.
A source close to Abushagur has since confirmed to the Libya Herald that “some people” are now under arrest.
In response to the claims that it was involved in the killings – and possibly trying to deflect moves to eliminate it – Ansar Al-Sharia put out a statement yesterday saying there was a “smear campaign” against it organised by the authorities.
It accused them of trying to present it as foreign and not Libyan. This was not true it said. All Ansar Al-Sharia wanted to do, it claimed, was see Sharia law applied in Libya.
There is also confusion as to how many Libyans may have died in the attack on the US mission. Reports speak of as many as ten.
So far, there has been no official statement confirming whether any Libyans were killed or not. [/restrict]