Many of the local militia leaders who helped topple Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are abandoning a pledge to give up their weapons and now say they intend to preserve their autonomy and influence political decisions as “guardians of the revolution.”…

“Nobody wants to give up arms now, and many tribes and cities are accumulating arms ‘just in case,’ ” said Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for the council’s executive board.

Noting reports of sporadic clashes between militias as well as vigilante revenge killings, many civilian leaders, along with some fighters, say the militias’ shift from merely dragging their feet about surrendering weapons to actively asserting a continuing political role poses a stark challenge to the council’s fragile authority.

“This could lead to a mess, to conflict between the councils,” said Ramadan Zarmoh, 63, a leader of the Misurata military council, who argued that the city’s militia should dissolve itself almost immediately after a new defense ministry is formed. “If we want to have democracy, we can’t have this.”