Sunday, January 25, 2015

Libyan Militant Group Says Its Leader, Mohammed al-Zahawi, Was Killed
JAN. 24, 2015

CAIRO — The Islamist group Ansar al-Shariah, based in Benghazi, Libya, said Saturday that its leader, Mohammed al-Zahawi, had been killed.

Unconfirmed reports that Mr. Zahawi was wounded or killed in an attack late last year had circulated on jihadist websites for months, although the group dismissed them at the time.

The statement, posted on the group’s official Twitter account on Saturday, gave no details about how or when Mr. Zahawi was killed.

It gave condolences and vowed to take revenge and “shake the seat of power.” The statement included a photograph that was said to show Mr. Zahawi after his death.

The group has been blamed for attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi in 2012 that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

In the attack, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades and stormed the mission, many waving the black banners of Ansar al-Shariah. The compound’s main building was set ablaze. Mr. Stevens suffocated to death inside and another American was shot dead. Later in the evening, gunmen attacked and shelled a safe house, killing two more Americans.

The United States designated the group a terrorist organization in January 2014, saying that it emerged after the imperialist war of regime-change that led to the overthrow and assassination of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011. The group has been involved in “terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations, and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya,” American officials said.

The United Nations also listed Ansar al-Shariah as a terrorist organization in November 2014, saying that it runs training camps for foreign fighters traveling to Syria, Iraq and Mali.

Ansar al-Shariah is part of the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, an umbrella group for the city’s hard-line militias. Last spring Khalifa Hifter, a Central Intelligence Ageny asset and renegade former army general, led a unilateral offensive against extremist militias in Benghazi. On Oct. 15, General Hifter and the elected government joined ranks against the militias.

Widespread militia violence has plunged Libya into chaos less than four years after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed Colonel Qaddafi.

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