Libya: Ansar Al-Sharia on collision course with ‘Save Benghazi’ rally

The Libya Herald reports: The Ansar Al-Sharia brigade has declared its intention to organise a mass protest in Benghazi’s Shajara Square this Friday, putting it on a collision course with a previously announced march to commemorate the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens, which is to be held at the same location.

The Islamist militia, which has been accused of complicity in last week’s fatal assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi, appears to have chosen the location deliberately, with both marches set to be held around 5pm following Friday prayers.

Organisers of the “Save Benghazi” rally, one of several slated to be held around the country on Friday, say they fear that almost inevitable confrontations could turn violent and have condemned the move.

“Ansar Al-Sharia have done this deliberately”, said Bilal Bettamir, one of the organisers of the rally to commemorate the fallen ambassador.

“We have been planning our march for the past week, and they made their decision yesterday. They knew all about it”.

Bettamir says that in addition to highlighting their opposition to the consulate attacks, the “Save Benghazi” rally will be calling for the disbanding of militias, both in law and in practice, and the development of a regular army and police. They will also be demonstrating for freedom of expression, he says, and for religious moderation.

“Ansar Al-Sharia have said that their rally is to be in the name of the Prophet”, Bettamir said. “But we are all Muslims and they should not be trying to hijack the Prophet like this. It is a huge issue”. [Continue reading…]

Meanwhile, the Herald also reports: Police in Benghazi are defying the Government in Tripoli by refusing to serve under Colonel Salah Doghman, the man appointed to take over security in the city following last week’s fatal attack on the US Consulate.

Doghman is due to replace Wanis Al-Sharif, the deputy minister with responsibility for eastern Libya, and Hussein Ahmedia, Benghazi’s chief of police, both of whom were sacked last week over their handling of the crisis.

“These are very dangerous circumstances,” Doghman told the Reuters news agency.

“When you go to police headquarters, you will find there are no police. The people in charge are not at their desks. They have refused to let me take up my job.”

Doghman said he had been directly instructed by Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelal to take over responsibility for the two posts, and that the de facto mutiny by the Benghazi police threatened to undermine the authority of the government.

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