Americans tour base to recruit Libyan anti-militant force: commander

Tue Nov 6, 2012 2:24pm EST
 

By Hadeel Al Shalchi

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - U.S. officials in Libya have begun to look for recruits for a commando force which they plan to train to fight militants, a former commander of Libyan rebels who toppled Muammar Gaddafi said on Tuesday.

There was no immediate U.S. comment. After a wave of anti-American violence in the Arab world in September during which the U.S. ambassador to Libya died in an Islamist militant attack, President Barack Obama took measures to improve the security of U.S. diplomatic installations in the region.

A team of about 10 Americans from the embassy in Tripoli visited a paramilitary base in the eastern city of Benghazi 10 days ago to interview and get to know potential recruits, according to militia commander Fathi al-Obeidi.

"The American team asked us for a tour of our base and we granted them permission to walk around freely," he told Reuters.

"They stood with many of our men taking down information. They asked them about their ages, backgrounds, their tribal loyalties. They wanted to know what kind of training they had received, if any."

Obeidi is a commander with Libya's Shield, an umbrella group for various armed militias that refused to join the official army after the war that ousted Gaddafi last year, saying it was still being run by Gaddafi loyalists.

He also helped a team of U.S. marines in September lead a rescue effort that saved a group of Americans hiding in a safe house after an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens died.

Obeidi said the interviewers also took note of the types of uniforms the men were wearing and asked about their opinion on security in Libya.   Continued...

 
An exterior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori