* Anti-militia protests had been called for Friday
* But few turned up after warning from mufti
* Public anger growing since killing of U.S. Ambassador
By Peter Graff and Omar al-Mosmary
TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Libya, Sept 28 Authorities in
Libya thwarted plans for a huge demonstration against militia in
the capital Tripoli on Friday, while in Benghazi, scene of mass
anti-militia protests last week, supporters of an ousted
Islamist group returned to the streets.
Activists had hoped that a planned demonstration in the
capital would be as successful as a giant anti-militia protest
held in Benghazi last week, but only about 400 protesters turned
up on Friday after the country's mufti and mosque preachers
warned people not to attend.
Those that did turn up gathered in Tripoli's Algeria Square
and then marched to the main Martyr's Square, chanting and
clapping, and bemoaning what they described as an attempt to
"I am one of the people who carried a gun and fought
(Muammar) Gaddafi, and now I am back on the square, to say 'no'
again. No to the leaders of militia, yes to a civil state," said
protester Murad Zikri, who runs a school in Tripoli.
Last week's Benghazi protests were the biggest outpouring
yet of public anger at the militias that still patrol the
country a year after the end of the civil war that toppled the
late Libyan autocrat.
The protests were spurred in part by a backlash against an
attack on the U.S. consulate there that killed Ambassador
Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
But the government, which enthusiastically backed last
week's protest, appears to have decided to withdraw its support
for street action. The mufti of Libya, Sadeq al-Gharyani,
announced that the protests should be halted.
"I call on the people not to participate in this march so
that no blood is spilled," he said beforehand. "There are some
people who want to use these protests to cause violence." His
condemnation was repeated at mosques.
Many of those protesters who did turn up criticised Gharyani
for having spoken out against the march, chanting: "Where where
where? Where are you mufti?"
VIOLENCE IN BENGHAZI
Activist Kulud Dribikha, 50, said the authorities had
withdrawn support for anti-militia demonstrations after feeling
threatened when marchers clashed with powerful groups that back
the government at the end of last week's Benghazi demonstration.
"They wanted a scapegoat for the attack on the U.S. embassy.
They didn't expect (the demonstrators) to reach the groups that
they support," she said.
In Benghazi, the scene of last week's huge anti-militia
protest, a small group of supporters of the Islamist group Ansar
al-Sharia, who had been driven out of the city by demonstrators
last week, protested outside a hospital that used to be guarded
by the fighters, demanding they be allowed to return.
Men later attacked a nearby police station, where they threw
grenades at a gate and trashed cars. Police said no one was hurt
and the crowd was dispersed.
Armed men also turned up at a second police station and
opened fire. Police officer Muftag al-Zuwai said two people had
been wounded there before a group of civilians had arrived and
helped chase the gunmen away.
Soldiers on the scene fired in the air to disperse a crowd,
and in the melee attackers attempted to set prisoners inside
An anti-militia protest planned for Friday in Benghazi was
called off. "There really isn't a mood for a protest in
Benghazi," said Wanis Najim, one of the organisers.
Since the death of Stevens, the government has faced calls
to rein in the militias. It has taken a twin-track approach -
shutting down Islamist militias operating without permission,
but also offering public backing to many of the most powerful
armed groups, which have official licenses.