Libyans seeking to take their country back from the militias
The New York Times is painting this as a response to the death of the American ambassador. And the demonstrations may be partially inspired by that heinous crime.
But mostly, this is ordinary Libyans who have tired of the continued violence and harrassment from the militias and are seeking to take their country back from armed gangs.
In a show of mass frustration at the armed groups, protesters seized control of several militia headquarters on Friday night and handed them over to Libya's national army in what appeared to be a coordinated sweep. They also stormed the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia, a hard-line Islamist militia that has been linked to the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.
As members of Ansar al-Sharia fled their headquarters, protesters set at least one vehicle on fire, and Reuters reported that one person was killed. There were unconfirmed reports that several had been wounded by the departing gunmen.
At the seized headquarters of another militia, protesters burned and pillaged a large number of weapons, and hundreds of looters could be seen walking away with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The killing of the ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, a well-liked figure in Benghazi because he had worked closely with the rebels who toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi last year, appeared to be the catalyst for the protests on Friday, though hardly its only cause.
The fact that looters were seen walking away with RPG's and automatic weapons does not bode well for the future either. Replacing one group of armed goons with another won't solve anything.
The Islamists may be on the run in Benghazi, but they are gathering strength in other regions of the country. The Libyan government is still too weak to deal with them and unless they act soon, al-Qaeda and its affiliates will be strong enough to carve out privileged enclaves where they can carry out attacks across the region.