Libya Says It Has the Militants Suspected of Killing Ambassador Stevens Surrounded

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Libyan soldiers have surrounded Ansar al-Sharia, the Islamist militia suspected of killing U.S. Ambassador Chris Steves and three other Americans, but say they are in desperate need of back up. Reporting from Tripoli, The Guardian's Chris Stephen reports that the Islamist militia has been blockaded in a remote region in the eastern Libya by government troops. "They have 150 to 200 men and 17 vehicles, Toyotas and four-by-fours," said army task force commander Colonel Hamid Hassi. "These people are very dangerous." The government blockade apparently consists of infantry units with pick-up trucks retrofitted with anti-aircraft guns staked out on a highway near Susah and Derna. But they don't have enough firepower to match Ansar al-Sharia's militants.

"You need good equipment to go in there," Colonel Hassi told The Guardian. "We asked the chief of staff to send us planes and helicopters, but we received nothing ... We need help from the United Nations or the Europeans." While it's not clear why the U.S. isn't providing support, coordinating with the Libyan government hasn't been easy, especially with the ouster of Libya's prime minister in a no-confidence vote on Sunday. In an interview with The Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum and Craig Whitlock, Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said post-war Libya's "lack of institutions" has plagued efforts to jointly investigate the attack. “I don’t think there’s been much coordination at all,” he said. According to The Guardian, drones have been heard buzzing overheard where Ansar al-Sharia is purportedly located. But such a strike brings its own headaches, As The Post noted yesterday. "Such a course might come at a steep political cost in Libya, disrupting its emergence as a democratic nation and imperiling ties with Washington." 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.