Al-Qaeda-allied Libyan Islamic Fighting Group Retakes Benghazi
February 21, 2013 • 10:44AM

Five months after the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, the al-Qaeda-Libya Islamic Fighting Group militias responsible for the murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans have clearly worked out a deal with the Libyan government to resume control of Benghazi. Both the Globe and Mail and the Washington Post report that Ansar al-Sharia, the group which claimed responsibility for the attack on 9/11, is now back in Benghazi, now controls the western entrance to the city, and has resumed its patrols at the two main hospitals, which it was responsible for guarding before 9/11. They have also moved back into their base.

The reemergence of Ansar Al-Sharia was reportedly part of an agreement with other Islamist militia groups concluded in January, apparently in coordination with the Interior Ministry and the Defense Ministry.

The Globe and Mail article on Feb. 15, "Notorious Islamist militia linked to U.S. ambassadors death back in Benghazi," cites Ismail Salabi, a senior leader of Libya Shield. Ismail al-Sallabi was one of the founders of the Feb. 17th Brigade along with Abelhakim Belhadj, the emir of the LIFG. Ismail Al-Sallabi and Mohammed Al-Garabi were sacked as heads of the Rafallah al-Sahati brigade by the Libyan central government on Sept. 24, 2012. Both were also accused of having been responsible for the assassination of Colonel Drissi, the chief of police of Benghazi, on Nov. 20, 2012. On Jan. 2 the chief police investigator, Capt. Abdelsalam al-Mahdawi, was kidnapped just as he was about to announce the suspects in this murder. It was later reported that he, himself, was murdered.

The Washington Post reported on Feb. 16 in an article entitled, "Islamist militia edging back into Benghazi," that the Rafallah al-Sahati brigade has also experienced a resurgence. According to the Washington Post:

The group recently resumed command of checkpoints on the city's perimeter, but it has changed its name to 'Libyan Shield 3 because it now falls under the command of the Defense Ministry.

In December 2012, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan appointed members of the militias to be deputy ministers of both the Defense and Interior Ministries. The former military commander of the LIFG, Khalid al-Sharif, was appointed Deputy Minister of Defense. He is also the commander of the National Guard. The Defense Minister of Libya is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The status of former Deputy Interior Minister for eastern Libya, Wanis al-Sharif, another LIFG member, is unknown. He was sacked on Sept. 17, but as of mid-November, he had rejected the appointment of his replacement, Colonel Saleh Daghman, and had refused to step down. The police of Benghazi had also rejected Daghman's appointment to replace police chief Faraj Drissi after his assassination. Instead, Mustafa Mohammed Raqiq was appointed.

Thus, the basic picture that emerges is that the al-Qaeda- allied Libyan Islamic Fighting Group has now retaken Benghazi as part of a deal with the central Libyan government, which entailed their takeover of the Interior and Defense Ministries.