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Brigadergeneral for Libyas offisielle styrke i Benghazi sier at den militante islamstgruppen Ansar al-Sharia, som sto bak angrepet på det amerikanske konsulatet, er i oppløsning etter at sivile libyere stormet basene deres i helgen. Folkemengden, som besto av rundt 30.000 mennesker, gikk til angrep på islamistmilitsen under pro-amerikanske bannere – et høyst uvanlig syn i arabiske land.

– Dens individuelle medlemmer eksisterer kanskje fremdeles, men den er ferdig som en styrke, hvis Allah vil, sier general Hamed Belkhair til The Telegraph.

Minst fire mennesker ble drept da den militante gruppen ble drevet ut av sine baser i byen.

The deaths and promises of retribution by militia leaders presage more trouble to come. But for the moment the headquarters of the freelance groups that have held sway in Benghazi since the revolution that toppled Col Muammar Gaddafi are claimed to be in the hands of police and army units loyal to the newly elected prime minister, Mustafa Abushagur.

The protests in Benghazi on Friday evening, estimated at 30,000-strong, featured pro-American slogans and banners, unusual for demonstrations in Arab countries. Though many protesters said they were attending «for Benghazi, not for America», some held up placards commemorating Mr Stevens, who lived in Benghazi last year while co-ordinating American support for the revolution.

«We demand justice for Stevens,» said one, and «Libya lost a friend» another.

The march was given the title «Rally to Save Benghazi». Its aim and that of another, smaller demonstration in Tripoli was to demand the government, which Mr Abushagur is still forming, take control of security in the country and disband the militias or co-opt them into the army under a unified structure.

Forutgående frykt for voldelige sammenstøt mellom demonstrantene og Ansar al-Sharias motdemonstrasjon viste seg grunnløs ettersom islamistene var i solid undertall. Gruppen har benektet at de sto bak drapet på USAs ambassadør Christopher Stevens, men hevder at han forberedte en amerikanske intervensjon i Libya og refererte også til det antiislamske filmklippet som sirkulerer på YouTube.

Men etter demonstrasjonen marsjerte noen av demonstrantene, angivelig med støtte fra politiet og militæret, mot Ansar al-Sharias baser:

They cleared them from in front of the Al-Jala Hospital, which they had been guarding, so that by late evening the anti-aircraft guns mounted on pick-up trucks that had been the basis of hospital security had disappeared.

Deretter stormet demonstrantene Ansar al-Islams hovedbase, og satt fyr på bilene deres. Gruppen, hvis navn betyr «Sharia-tilhengere», skjøt i luften, men bød ikke på noen større motstand.

«Libya, Libya,» the protesters shouted, saying they wanted to put an end to al-Qaeda and demanding that militia members sign up to the army as individuals, not allow their leaders to maintain their separate identity.

Etter å ha gjort seg ferdige med Ansar al-Sharia, dro demonstrantene ut av byen og angrep en base som skal tilhøre Rafallah al-Sehati bataljonen, en salafist-gruppe som er løselig alliert med regjeringen og særlig med 17 Februar-brigaden, en mindre militant gruppe hvis ledere er svært mektige i det nye Libya. Gruppen besvarte angrepet, og skjøt inn i den ubevæpnede folkemengden. Soldater skal ha grepet inn, men minst tre ble drept før islamistgruppen ble drevet ut av basen.

The action of the protesters will relieve some of the pressure on the Obama administration to take swift action in reponse to the death of Mr Stevens.

Officials in Washington have now largely dropped the version of events initially put out, that his killing and that of three other American staff was the result of a protest against the film that got out of hand. Libyan eye-witnesses said there were no protests before the consulate building was attacked on three sides by scores of men waving black Islamic flags and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic rifles.

Militia and military leaders have been meeting members of the interim government and the newly elected prime minister, Mustafa Abushagur, in Tripoli this week to discuss how to deal with Ansar al-Sharia, or at least the members said to have been involved in the consulate attack.

American officials believe some may have been in contact with Al-Qaeda, and Hillary Clinton called the incident a «terrorist attack» for the first time on Friday.

The capture of the base was celebrated elsewhere in the city by parades of cars touring the streets, honking their horns.

Libya: Benghazi crowds drive out Islamist militants blamed for killing US ambassador

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