Libyan citizens protest militia groups

Following the recent consulate attack, citizens sent a message to the armed men who refuse to give up their guns: "We've had enough of you."
CBS News

(CBS News) BENGHAZI, Libya - The shockwaves from that anti-Islamic video are still reverberating across the Muslim world this weekend. Hundreds of protestors battled with police Saturday in Bangladesh, and thousands marched in Nigeria as well.

But in Libya, a new twist on violent protest -- attacks on Islamic militia groups. Residents claim the Libyan army has done little to bring to heel. We were in the center of the action Saturday in Benghazi.

The death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his team was the last straw. Benghazi's citizens marched on Friday with the country's air force flying overhead to show support.

Their message to the armed men who refuse to give up their guns: "We've had enough of you."

Anti-militia protests show Libya's frailty
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After dark, a hardcore decided to enforce that message. They stormed four bases belonging to the fighter groups, including radical Islamists Ansar al-Sharia, suspected of attacking the U.S. Consulate.

Facing popular anger like this, the fighters fled.

We arrived at one base just after the official Libyan army had taken control. They showed us the makeshift jail where dozens had -- until an hour before -- been locked up at the fighters' mercy.

Later near midnight, hundreds of citizens -- most young men -- drove to a bigger base on the edge of town. That's when the looting and shooting started, catching us in the crossfire. It's still not clear who was firing or why. But by the time it was over, at least 30 were injured and 11 dead.

By morning, regular Libyan Army soldiers had secured this base too. An apparent triumph for the citizens.

"Very happy. Me and all the citizens in Benghazi are all very happy," said one man. "Very happy."

But this may not be victory-- just a ceasefire while the fighters re-group for a comeback.

The endgame is to try to talk the militias into joining the Libyan army, which is not easy. The situation is so fraught that the president of the National Congress flew to Benghazi Saturday night to meet with military commanders to try and head off more fighting.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."