Chaos Continues in Libya Where Militias Rule

Karen Greenberg in VOAnews.com, October 17, 2013

Media Source

Two years after the death of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, chaos reigns in Libya where a barely functioning central government is unable to control the thousands of militias that roam the country. 

In the aftermath of Libya's revolution, an estimated 200,000 militiamen are spread across the country's towns and cities, controlling large parts of the country.

The militias form a parallel state, and the central government has virtually no power over them.

“You have communal clashes, you have militias fighting over control of airports or smuggling routes, you have militias shutting down oil production facilities, you have kidnappings," said William Lawrence, an analyst who just returned from Libya.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is among those recently abducted. His brief detention underscores Libya’s post-Gadhafi turmoil. 

More mayhem is expected now that the prime minister has alleged he was the victim of an attempted coup.

“All these actions were ordered by some leaders inside our government.  It is an attempted coup to topple the legal government," Zeidan said.

Protesters are accusing the prime minister of having tacitly approved the U.S. capture on Libyan soil  of an alleged al-Qaida operative. And anti-American feeling is rising.

American commandos snatched Abu Anas al-Libi off a street in Tripoli earlier this month.

U.S. officials say he was one of the most wanted terrorists.  

Al-Libi was indicted more than a decade ago for allegedly planning the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"The United States of America will never stop in its effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror and those members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations literally can run but they can't hide," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Al-Libi pleaded not guilty in a New York court and possibly may possess significant information about al-Qaida.

“And so I think he’s considered a very valuable source and resource for the United States right now," said Karen Greenberg, who directs the Center on National Security at Fordham University.

Al-Libi’s capture infuriated Islamists in Libya, who are calling for the government to step down.

Despite the lawlessness, some analysts point to Libya’s well educated population and an overall desire for stability and rule of law.

“Libya, although it has had challenges, although it has had bumps, has incredible challenges when you talk about militias and security, has moved incrementally forward," said Manal Omar, who directs the North Africa program at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Still, analysts predict it could take a decade before Libya can become a stable democracy.