Since 2012, the capital, Tripoli, has principally been controlled by an Islamist-dominated General National Congress and an array of Islamist militias. In the east, Ansar al-Sharia (AS), the group made infamous for its involvement in the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi in September 2012, and designated by the USA as a terror organisation, has grown in military power and political influence. Since early 2013, the city of Benghazi has been plagued by political violence. Assassinations are happening almost daily, and bombings and kidnappings have been a regular feature. Islamist militias, including AS, have been blamed for the violence. The dynamics of Islamism in the eastern region of Libya are a cause for huge concern. We must respond.
The ongoing low-level insurgency in Benghazi is driven by two factors. The first is the radical Islamist ideology of certain groups that refuse to recognise the modern state and its institutions. For example, according to the leader of AS’s Benghazi branch, Mohammed al-Zahawi, his group will not disarm and demobilise until its version of sharia is imposed. The realisation of such an Islamic state constitutes the group’s main aim. In other words, it is the nature of their Jihad.