Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia, 'weakened' by fighting, announces dissolution

TRIPOLI (AFP) - The Libyan extremist group Ansar al-Sharia, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and deemed a terrorist organisation by the UN and United States, announced its "dissolution" in a communique published online on Saturday (May 27).

Washington accuses the group of being behind the Sept 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in which ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Ansar al-Sharia is one of the extremist groups that sprung up in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, in the chaos following the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. They overran the city in 2014.

East Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar earlier this month launched an offensive to oust extremist fighters from their two remaining strongholds in Benghazi.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

In its communique Ansar al-Sharia said it had been "weakened" by the fighting.

The group lost its leader, Mohammed Azahawi, in clashes with Haftar's forces in Benghazi at the end of 2014.

Most of its members then defected to the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group. Ansar al-Sharia later joined the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, a local alliance of Muslim militias.

At its zenith, Ansar al-Sharia was present in Benghazi and Derna in eastern Syria, with offshoots in Sirte and Sabratha, western Libya.

The organisation took over barracks and other sites abandoned by the ousted Gaddafi forces and transformed them into training grounds for hundreds of militants seeking to head to Iraq or Syria.