* Ansar al Sharia listed as terrorist group by U.S.
* Was accused of role in 2012 killing of U.S. ambassador
* Libya in chaos, worst crisis since 2011 civil war
* Unrest depresses N.African state's oil production
(Updates with Ansar al-Sharia warning, U.S. comment,
By Ayman Al-Warfalli
BENGHAZI, Libya, May 27 The leader of Islamist
militant group Ansar al-Sharia in Libya's Benghazi city warned
the United States on Tuesday against interference or it would
face worse than the conflicts in Somalia, Iraq, or Afghanistan.
Libya's young democracy is in turmoil three years after the
NATO-backed war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, with rival
Islamist, anti-Islamist, regional and political factions locked
in a complex struggle for influence in the OPEC member state.
Four decades of Gaddafi's one-man rule left few institutions
or national army to resist competing militias and brigades of
former rebels who have become de facto power-brokers.
Ansar al-Sharia, listed as a foreign terrorist organisation
by Washington, was accused of orchestrating the 2012 attack on
the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in which U.S. Ambassador Chris
Stevens and three other Americans died.
Mohamed Zahawi, head of the Benghazi brigade of Ansar
al-Sharia, accused the U.S. government of backing renegade
former general Khalifa Haftar, who has begun a self-declared
campaign to purge Libya of Islamist militants.
"We remind America, if they intervene, of their defeats in
Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, because they would face in Libya
something much worse," he said in a statement. "It was America
who urged Haftar to turn the country towards war and bloodshed."
The United States has an embassy in Tripoli, but closed its
consulate in Benghazi after the 2012 attack.
A former general under Gaddafi, Haftar earlier this month
launched attacks with his irregular forces on Islamist militant
bases in Benghazi because he said the government had failed.
Ansar al-Sharia also runs a network of social services in
the city and has operated its own checkpoints.
Many Libyans are fed up with violence and Islamist militants
accused of assassinations and bombings especially in the eastern
city, and Haftar gained some support from regular army units.
But forces claiming loyalty to him also stormed the Tripoli
parliament a week ago, and he demanded the legislature hand over
powers in a further challenge to the vast North African
country's already stumbling transition to democracy.
Asked about Zahawi's assertion that Washington was backing
Haftar, a U.S. official in Washington replied: "That's
ridiculous, but coming from a terrorist, not unexpected."
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said
the United States opposed political violence by all sides in
Libya. "Our position is clear - political violence will not
solve Libya's political problems. We call upon all parties in
Libya to work constructively and productively toward finding
solutions to the current crisis."
CHALLENGE TO STATE
Earlier on Tuesday, unidentified gunmen fired grenades at
the Tripoli home of new Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq, and his
guards killed at least one assailant, just days after parliament
approved his appointment in a contested vote.
Full details of the morning attack were not clear, but
Maiteeq, who is Libya's third premier in two months, was
unharmed. "There were two cars and they fired RPGs
(rocket-propelled grenades) at his home," a source from the
prime minister's office said.
A businessman from Misrata, Maiteeq won backing from an
Islamist party and independents in a chaotic vote challenged as
illegitimate by rival lawmakers and anti-Islamist factions
Some lawmakers and officials have demanded that Maiteeq's
predecessor stay on because the vote in parliament was not valid
according to a justice ministry legal department.
Early elections have been called for June as a way to defuse
tensions, but many Libyans believe they may not be enough to
bridge deepening divisions over the country's transition.
Worried that unrest may spill over into anarchy across the
wider North African region, the United States and European Union
have been helping train Libya's nascent army. But constant
turmoil has undermined programmes to forge an effective force.
At stake also are Libya's large oil resources. They have
been squeezed by months of blockades by an array of former rebel
groups and local protesters whose demands range from more
autonomy to better payments.
Ibrahim Jathran, a former rebel commander, defected from a
state-run oil guards brigade with his men to take over four
major oil ports last summer to demand more autonomy for his
Jathran had agreed to lift his blockade steadily under a
deal with the government. But late on Monday he said he did not
recognise Maiteeq's government, suggesting the oil deal may be
Port shutdowns by Jathran's armed fighters and other
protests have cut Libya's output to 160,000 barrels per day from
the 1.4 million it was churning out beforehand.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Feras Bosalum in
Tripoli, Arshad Mohammed in Washington; writing by Patrick
Markey; Editing by Mark Heinrich)