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Militia Claims Capture of US Embassy   08/31 11:55

   The Islamist-allied militia group in control of Libya's capital has 
"secured" a U.S. Embassy residential compound there, more than a month after 
American personnel evacuated from the country over ongoing fighting, one of its 
commanders said Sunday.

   TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- The Islamist-allied militia group in control of 
Libya's capital has "secured" a U.S. Embassy residential compound there, more 
than a month after American personnel evacuated from the country over ongoing 
fighting, one of its commanders said Sunday.

   The Islamist militia's move likely will reinvigorate debate in the U.S. over 
its role in Libya, more than three years after supporting rebels who toppled 
dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It also comes near the two-year anniversary of the 
slaying of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya's 
second-largest city of Benghazi.

   An Associated Press journalist walked through the U.S. Embassy compound 
Sunday after the Dawn of Libya, an umbrella group for Islamist militias, 
invited onlookers inside. Some windows at the compound had been broken, but it 
appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched. The journalist saw 
treadmills, food, televisions and computers still inside.

   A commander for the Dawn of Libya group, Moussa Abu-Zaqia, told the AP that 
his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week, a 
day after it has seized control of the capital and its international airport 
after weeks of fighting with a rival militia. Abu-Zaqia said the rival militia 
was in the compound before his troops took it over.

   The Dawn of Libya militia is not associated with the extremist militia Ansar 
al-Shariah, which Washington blames for the deadly assault on the U.S. 
Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed Stevens and the three 
other Americans.

   On July 26, U.S. diplomats evacuated the compound and the capital to 
neighboring Tunisia under a U.S. military escort as fighting between rival 
militias intensified. The State Department said embassy operations would be 
suspended until the security situation improved. The fighting prompted 
diplomats and thousands of Tripoli residents to flee. Dozens were killed.

   A video posted online surfaced Sunday showing men playing in a pool at the 
compound and jumping into it from the roof. Voice heard in the video identified 
it as the U.S. Embassy compound.

   In a message on Twitter, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones said the 
video appeared to have been shot in at the embassy's residential annex, though 
she said she couldn't "say definitively" since she wasn't there.

   "To my knowledge & per recent photos the US Embassy Tripoli chancery & 
compound is now being safeguarded and has not been ransacked," she wrote on 
Twitter. She did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate. State 
Department officials in Washington also declined to immediately comment.

   Tripoli is witnessing one of its worst spasms of violence since Gadhafi's 
ouster in 2011. The militias, many of which originate from rebel forces that 
fought Gadhafi, became powerful players in post-war Libya, filling a void left 
by weak police and a shattered army. Successive governments have put militias 
on their payroll in return for maintaining order, but rivalries over control 
and resources have led to fierce fighting among them and posed a constant 
challenge to the central government and a hoped-for transition to democracy.

   Following weeks of fighting that brought the capital to a standstill, the 
Dawn of Libya militia said last week it managed to seize control of Tripoli's 
airport and drive a rival militia from the mountain town of Zintan out of the 
capital. It is now deployed around the capital and has sought to restore 
normalcy in the city. The group called on foreign diplomats to return now that 
the fighting has subsided.


(KA)


 
 
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