Thu, Sep 20, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Libya blames Ansar al-Shariah Brigade for US embassy attack

By Omar Ashour

However, several armed formations, such as Ansar al-Shariah and the Imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abd al-Rahman Brigades, still reject the transition to party politics and integration into state institutions. These organizations are numerous, but small. Some were not invited — or given sufficient incentive — to join official bodies.

“Nobody asked us to join the army or the police,” Sufian bin Qumu, Ansar al-Shariah’s commander in Derna and a former Guantanamo Boy detainee, said in April. “They did not even give me or any of my men a reward for fighting.”

Bin Qumu has a small paramilitary force training in the Bou Musafir forest on the outskirts of Derna. He says that if the head of the boy scouts or the city’s clan leaders asked him to disband the training camp, he would do so.

The tragic death of Stevens and his colleagues has sparked public outrage in Libya, adding to the isolation and delegitimization of the armed groups. Dozens of Libyan activist groups have uploaded videos paying tribute to Stevens, as well as issuing statements against terrorism and al-Qaeda. One of the Muslim Brothers’ Web sites includes such a statement, and Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadeq al-Gheriani, also condemned the attack.

Two issues remain critical in Libya to prevent future tragedies. The first is the need to capitalize on public support and continue the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process that started under the National Transitional Council, but was never completed. Second, the government must enhance its communication strategy.

Arab Spring governments condemned the outrageous movie smearing the Prophet of Islam, but they should have stressed that the US official and unofficial bodies had nothing to do with the film’s production. Collective punishment and targeting the innocent is forbidden in the Koran in more than 20 verses, such as: “That no burdened person [with sins] shall bear the burden [sins] of another” (The Star Chapter 53:18).

Omar Ashour is the director of the Middle East Graduate Studies Program at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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