Libya: paramilitaries behind Benghazi battles?
At least three soldiers were killed as Libyan Special Forces clashed with armed men in Benghazi June 15—a week after fighting killed more than 30 in the eastern port city. The Special Forces' Facebook page said an "outlaw" band attacked their headquarters. The attackers were apparently hundreds strong, in civilian clothes but some wearing veils over their faces. Two days earlier, a bomb exploded outside the building of Libya al-Hurra TV in the city, causing some damage but no casualties. Suspicion in the attacks has fallen on members of the Libyan Shields, a militia that serves as an auxiliary to the "official" armed forces. Spokesman for the army chief of staff Ali al-Sheikhi described the Libyas Shields as "a reserve force under the Libyan army," speaking to Libya's Lana news agency.
Last week's violence erupted June 8, when Benghazi residents staged a protest outside the Libyan Shields headquarters in the city, accusing them of unaccountabilty, and militiamen fired on the demonstrators. Civilians and "official" army forces then stormed the Shields' headquarters, destroying equipment and putting it to the torch. At least 32 were killed; the city had just finished burying the dead when the new violence broke out.
June 14 saw a an armed ambush on a Libyan Shields convoy at Kira, in the interior desert, leaving a commander dead along with three attackers. Libyan Shields leader Ali al-Abed told the Associated Press that he believed the Zawia Martyrs' Brigade was responsible for the ambush. Libya's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ghariani, condemned the ambush, lamenting that not a day goes by without an armed attack somewhere in the country. (AP, AFP, McClatchy, Tripoli Post, Libya Herald, June 15; Reuters, June 13; BBC News, June 8)