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Libyan troops raid rogue brigade's base

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Story highlights

  • Militias have "been a huge problem" in Libya, U.S. congressman says
  • Libya's army issues ultimatum to militias in the capital and surrounding area
  • The move comes after protesters overtake an Islamist group's HQ in Benghazi
  • On Saturday two militias agreed to close bases in the city Derna

Libyan army troops raided a former military base in Tripoli Sunday, kicking out a rogue infantry brigade and detaining its members.

The raid came shortly after the army issued an ultimatum giving unauthorized militias 48 hours to withdraw from military compounds, public buildings and property belonging to members of the former regime in the country's capital and surrounding areas. A statement from the army vowed to "use force to carry out these orders," the state-run LANA news agency said.

The brigade targeted by troops Sunday had not been following orders from Libya's military command, the Libyan army's National Mobile Force said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

After protests, two Islamist militias agree to close bases in Libya

Militias and other unauthorized armed groups have come under increased scrutiny since individuals from a radical Islamist group were accused of involvement in the attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi earlier this month that left four Americans dead.

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Mohamed al-Magariaf, president of Libya's General National Congress, has said rogue militias would be disbanded.

    On Friday, hundreds marched in the eastern city of Benghazi and took over the headquarters of Islamist militia Ansar al Sharia. Protesters Friday demanded an end to all security activities of armed groups operating outside the official command of the army or police.

    On Saturday, state news and a source said two Islamist militias had agreed to close their bases in the eastern Libyan city of Derna. A third base will be shut on Sunday, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    The state-run LANA news agency said the militias, which it identified as Bou Salim Martyrs and Ansar al Sharia, will also disband.

    Members of Ansar al Sharia are among the eight people detained in connection with the September 11 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya's prime minister said last week, though he added that not all the attackers came from one specific group.

    Initial reports indicated that, ahead of the consular attack, Ansar al Sharia had organized a protest to decry an inflammatory film that mocks the Prophet Mohammed and also protest the United States, where the film was privately produced.

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    U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was one of four Americans slain in the assault.

    "You see what's playing out now with people trying to get their militias under control, which, that's been a huge problem," Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "I think this is more than that. This clearly was a specific attack (on the consulate)."

    The deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate underscores the power vacuum across Libya since the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi's regime last year, one analyst told CNN.

    Fighting groups that battled Gadhafi have stepped in to maintain law and order after the fall of the regime, said Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    The fledgling government is in a bind, he said, as officials try to demobilize militias and bring these groups into the government security forces.

    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, Wehrey said.

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

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      Attacks on U.S. missions

    • A testy exchange erupted between Sen. John McCain and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey during the latter's testimony about September's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
    • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took on Republican congressional critics of her department's handling of the deadly September terrorist attack in Libya.
    • Children in Benghazi hold up placards reading "No to terrorism" (R) and "yes for stability and security" on January 15.

      Bilal Bettamer wants to save Benghazi from those he calls "extremely dangerous people." But his campaign against the criminal and extremist groups that plague the city has put his life at risk.
    • Protesters near the US Embassy in Cairo.

      Was the attack on the Libyan U.S. Consulate the result of a mob gone awry, a planned terror attack or a combination of the two?
    • Image #: 19358881    Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, smiles at his home in Tripoli June 28, 2012. Stevens and three embassy staff were killed late on September 11, 2012, as they rushed away from a consulate building in Benghazi, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad. Stevens was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw. Picture taken June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST OBITUARY)       REUTERS /ESAM OMRAN AL-FETORI /LANDOV

      Three days before the deadly attack in Benghazi, a local security official says he warned U.S. diplomats about deteriorating security.
    • For the latest news on developments in the Middle East and North Africa in Arabic.