Libya evicts militias

TRIPOLI - A newly formed unit of the Libyan Army has carried out nonviolent raids on rogue militia positions in and around Tripoli as part of a government ultimatum issued over the weekend.

Armed groups must either align themselves with the country's military or disperse, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

The "National Mobile Force" is evicting militias after handing them a deadline to withdraw from military compounds, public buildings and property belonging to members of the former regime, according to prime minister spokesman Mohammed Al-Akkari.

The operation is running smoothly with no militias offering resistance so far, he said.

Two hardline Islamist armed groups have conceded to disperse, including Ansar al Sharia. Some members of the group have been detained for an attsck on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on September 11, when U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Militias and other unauthorized armed groups have been a growing concern in post-revolution Libya.

Militia members across Libya remain loyal to their groups and distrust the new government's authority, in part because of the "taint" of a link to the Gadhafi regime, said Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In a February report, Amnesty International said militias in Libya were committing human rights abuses with impunity, threatening to destabilize the country and hindering its efforts to rebuild.

However, the issue didn't gain much attention until this month's deadly attack at the U.S. Consulate.

The protests stemmed from an inflammatory anti-Islam video produced in the United States. The demonstrations may have served as a cover for heavily armed militants to launch their attack on the complex, authorities said.

Tripoli's government is also holding talks with two militia groups - the Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade and the February 17 Brigade - on the possibility of joining the regular army, Al-Akkari said. The state-run LANA news agency reported Monday that a deal had been struck for two Libyan Army colonels to take the helm of the brigades, something Al-Akkari denies.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the Libyan people for their efforts to rid the country of the armed bands blamed for the killings.

"The people of the Arab world did not set out to trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob," she said in New York in a speech to the Clinton Global Initiative. "There is no dignity in that. The people of Benghazi sent this message loudly and clearly on Friday, when they forcefully rejected the extremists in their midst and reclaimed the honor and dignity of a courageous city.

"They mourned the loss of Ambassador Chris Stevens, a friend and champion of a free Libya, and his fallen comrades. They are not alone. People and leaders from across the region and the world and beyond have spoken in recent days against violence."

In her speech, she referred to Friday's rally in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi where hundreds of protesters took over the headquarters of Ansar al Sharia.

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