By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: September 23, 2012
CAIRO — Libya’s interim government on Sunday ordered the breakup of all militias that do not fall under its authority, and demanded that those militias pull out of military compounds and public property within 48 hours.
The order came in response to an upwelling of public anger at the militias after an armed group assaulted a United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi earlier this month, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Exasperated by the interim government’s failure to curb the militia brigades, thousands of civilians swarmed into the headquarters of several of them in Benghazi on Friday and forced their fighters to scatter — in effect, an angry mob demanding law and order.
Mohamed al-Magarief, the president of Libya’s national Congress and the interim head of state, apparently sought to both appease public anger and capitalize on it with the order to withdraw and disband. Previous interim leaders have issued similar calls before without success, in part because the Libyan government still depends on many of the self-organized militias to act as its military, police and national guard.
Hundreds of such armed groups were formed during and after the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, typically armed with Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and truck-mounted artillery captured or looted from the colonel’s armories. Since his overthrow the groups have been both the main guardians of the social order in Libya and the chief menace to it ...