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Libya pledges dissolution of 'unlawful' militia groups

The Libyan government announced late on Saturday that it wanted militia groups in the country to put down their arms. The move follows major demonstrations against such groups, which retain considerable power in Libya.

Demonstrators cheer after storming the headquarters of the Islamist Ansar al-Sharia militia group in Benghazi September 21, 2012. Libyan Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia was swept from its final major military base in Benghazi in the early hours of Saturday after a mass popular uprising in support of the government, Reuters witnesses said. The word on the Libyan flag reads: Libya. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih (LIBYA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST)

Proteste gegen Islamisten Milizen in Benghazi

The head of Libya's national assembly, Mohammed al-Megaryef, said in an address broadcast by Al-Jazeera late on Saturday that the authorities wanted to disband all illegal militia groups in the north African country.

"We also forbid the use of violence and the carrying of weapons in public. The establishment of checkpoints is also illegal," al-Megaryef said, adding that state authorities would be charged with implementing these new rules.

This Monday, April 11, 2011 file photo shows U.S. envoy Chris Stevens (AP)

US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens was killed in Benghazi

Several militia groups and brigades, many of whom were rebel fighters in last year's civil war that ousted Moammar Gadhafi, remain operational in Libya; some have been integrated into either the interior or defense ministries.

On Friday, thousands of people demonstrated against the presence of such groups, especially in the eastern city of Benghazi. Benghazi was one of the key strongholds for the rebels in last year's conflict. It was also the site, on September 11, of an attack on the American consulate which claimed the lives of four State Department employees, including the US ambassador.
The Libyan government has accused the Islamist militia Ansar al-Shariah of being behind the attack, a charge it denies.

In a similar state move against Libyan militia groups, the official LANA news agency reported on Friday that the army had issued an ultimatum ordering private militia to vacate any state-owned property they occupy.

According to the LANA report, the military ordered "all individuals and armed groups occupying military barracks, public buildings or property belonging to members of the former regime or [Moammar Gadhafi's children] to evacuate these sites within 48 hours."

Many erstwhile rebels seized such sites in last year's conflict, and have yet to vacate them.

msh/slk  (AFP, dpa, Reuters)