Ansar al-Sharia


Ansar al-Sharia

Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, meaning "Partisans of Sharia", is an Islamist militia group which advocates the implementation of strict Sharia law across the country.

Formed in eastern Libya during the 2011 Civil War, the group primarily operates in Benghazi, officially denying having a presence elsewhere in the country. Ansar al-Sharia gained notoriety for its alleged role in the September 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, which resulted in the murder of the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. The group denies any involvement in the attack. In October 2012 the group became known as Ansar al-Sharia in Libya (ASL), most likely to differentiate itself from Tunisia's Ansar al-Sharia group and the Yemeni al-Qaeda affiliate of the same name.

Fighting between Islamists and non-Islamists in Libya has intensified since May 2014 when forces loyal to General Haftar launched a large scale offensive codenamed Operation Dignity on militia groups in Benghazi, including Ansar al-Sharia. The group provides security and social services to citizens in Benghazi, helping to draw donations from Libyan expatriates.

The group's leader and founder Mohammad al-Zahawi is thought to have died in January 2015 from wounds sustained in a battle with Libyan government troops in the eastern city of Benghazi the previous year.

Ansar al-Sharia in Libya has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the US government.

Milo Comerford, The Centre on Religion and Geopolitics