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Libyans hand over weapons in disarmament drive

In a drive to control rampant arms proliferation, the Libyan government has called on citizens to handover their weapons to authorities. The campaign comes after anti-militia protests in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Hundreds of Libyans in the capital Tripoli and the city of Benghazi handed over their firearms on Saturday, as the government seeks to stabilize the security situation in a country awash with weapons from Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's old stockpiles.

A joint collaboration between the army and a private television channel, the weapons collection drive comes a week after the Libyan National Congress ordered militias disbanded.

"By responding to this initiative and handing over the weapons in their possession, citizens help stabilize the country and build the legal state institutions," said Major General Yussef al-Manqush, chief of the Libyan army staff.

Tripoli campaigner Ziad Hadia told the AFP news agency that "more than 100 people had turned in light, medium and heavy weapons as well as ammunition ranging from bullets to tank shells." In Benghazi, the army said that some 200 weapons had been collected.

Lawlessness in Libya

The drive comes after former US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed with three other American officials at the consulate in Benghazi on September 11 by armed Islamists.

People in Benghazi subsequently rose up and overran the headquarters of Ansar al-Shariah and other militia groups. The Libyan government has accused Ansar al-Shariah of being behind the consulate attack. Ansar al-Shariah has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

Libya's weak central government has struggled to establish law and order since the collapse of the Gadhafi regime in 2011. Many local militias and brigades that formed to oust the now deceased dictator have refused to disarm or integrate into the security forces, and maintain a large degree of autonomy.

slk/ch (AFP, dpa, Reuters)