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Libya's president has ordered all of the country's militias to come under government authority or disband - a move that appeared aimed at harnessing popular anger against the powerful armed groups following the attack that killed the US ambassador.

The assault on the US mission in Benghazi, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, has sparked an angry backlash among many Libyans against the myriad armed factions that continue to run rampant across the nation nearly a year after the end of the country's civil war.

On Friday, Benghazi residents staged a mass demonstration against the militias, and stormed the compounds of several armed groups in the city in an unprecedented protest to demand the militias dissolve.

President Mohammed el-Megaref said the militias, which the weak central government has relied upon for providing security in neighbourhoods and at state facilities since the removal of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, must fall under the authority of the national government or be disbanded.

He said a joint operations room in Benghazi will coordinate between the various authorised armed brigades and the army. Armed groups operating outside the "legitimacy of the state" will be disbanded, and the military and police will take control over those militias' barracks, he said.


In a statement published by the official LANA news agency, the military asked all armed groups using the army's camps and outposts and barracks in Tripoli and other cities to hand them over. It warned that it will resort to force if the groups refuse.

The militias, which arose as people took up arms to fight Gaddafi's regime, bristle with heavy weapons, pay little attention to national authorities and are accused by some of acting like gangs, carrying out killings.

The government has brought some militias nominally under the authority of the military or Interior Ministry, but even those retain separate commanders and often are only superficially subordinate to the state.

The Press Association, photo by America Abroad Media