UPDATE 1-Two Islamist militias in Libya's Derna say disbanding

Sun Sep 23, 2012 2:53am IST

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BENGHAZI, Libya, Sept 22 (Reuters) - The two main Islamist militias in Derna, a city in eastern Libya known as an Islamist stronghold, withdrew from their five military bases and announced they were disbanding, residents said on Saturday.

"Abu Slim had three camps and Ansar al-Sharia had two. So it's five. Empty. All empty," Siraj Shennib, a 29-year-old linguistics professor who has been part of protests against the militia, said by telephone.

He said commanders from the two groups had addressed the crowd in person and announced that they were disbanding.

Shennib said the militias' announcements were apparently motivated by events in Benghazi, eastern Libya's biggest city, where Ansar al-Sharia withdrew from all its bases in the city late on Friday amid mass demonstrations in support of the government.

Those demonstrations turned violent early on Saturday when the crowd turned against another group that had sworn support for the government.

Libya's LANA news agency quoted Abu Slim commander Mohammed Bilal as saying the group had announced it would hand over its compound in Derna to the authorities in the presence of civil groups.

It quoted Ansar al-Sharia Derna commander Hafed al-Birani as saying in a statement to local radio that the militia had disbanded and handed over its compound to its original owners.

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