Heavily bearded youths from Ansar al-Sharia control the western entrance into Libya’s second biggest metropolis, patrol a hospital and check cars and trucks passing through another checkpoint in the south…

Days after the assault, outraged residents drove the group out of its bases in the city in a “Rescue Benghazi” protest.

The group’s highly visible return, five months on, underlines the complex security situation on the ground two years after the start of the revolt that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

Many in the West see Islamist militants as the biggest threat to the security of the oil-producing country and the region – and accuse them of carrying out a string of attacks on police and foreigners in the city in recent months…

“These men are also people who fought on the front lines, care about their city and provide services. We can’t shun them,” said Benghazi University professor Iman Bugaighis. “We had to ask them to come back and protect our hospital and streets.”