After more than a week marked by protest after protest excoriating the United States over a video mocking Islam, it was a very different demonstration: hundreds of protesters angrily storming the Benghazi headquarters of an armed Islamist group, infuriated by a deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate last week.
The backlash against Libyan militias was massive, according to the Associated Press, which reported that tens of thousands rallied against armed militias in Benghazi before hundreds took on the Ansar al Sharia compound.
The Islamist group has been accused of involvement in the attack last week that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, a charge that it denies. Banners at the protests paid tribute to Stevens as marchers chanted slogans against extremism and the armed militias that wield power in Libya.
"Our law is God's law, not the law of the jungle," women chanted as they marched Friday, according to Agence France-Presse. Some of the protesters went on to storm the Ansar al Sharia compound, where they reportedly forced the group to flee before setting its headquarters on fire.
The U.S. now describes the assault last week on the Benghazi consulate as a terrorist attack, an apparent shift from the Obama administration's initial description of the deadly incident as a reaction to the online video trailer for "Innocence of Muslims," which denigrated the Islamic prophet.
The security vacuum around Benghazi has alarmed Libyans and Western officials alike, as signs emerge that Islamic extremists who were repressed under ousted strongman Moammar Kadafi have seen their influence grow.ALSO:
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Libyans participate in a protest Friday against Ansar al Sharia, an Islamic extremist militia, and other Islamic militias in Benghazi, Libya. Credit: Mohammad Hannon / Associated Press