The Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and deemed a terrorist organisation by the UN and United States, has announced its “dissolution” in a communique published online.
Washington accuses the group of being behind the September 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in which ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
Ansar al-Sharia is one of the jihadist groups that sprung up in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, in the chaos following the death of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. They overran the city in 2014.
East Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar earlier this month launched an offensive to oust jihadist fighters from their two remaining strongholds in Benghazi.
In its communique Ansar al-Sharia yesterday said it had been “weakened” by the fighting.
The group lost its leader, Mohammed Azahawi, in clashes with Haftar’s forces in Benghazi at the end of 2014.
Most of its members then defected to the so-called Islamic State group. Ansar al-Sharia later joined the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, a local alliance of Islamist militias.
At its zenith, Ansar al-Sharia was present in Benghazi and Derna in eastern Syria, with offshoots in Sirte and Sabratha, western Libya.
The organisation took over barracks and other sites abandoned by the ousted Kadhafi forces and transformed them into training grounds for hundreds of jihadists seeking to head to Iraq or Syria.