Protest in Benghazi against militias, 21 September 2012 (Photo: Abdullah Doma/AFP)
More than three months after the storming of the U.S. mission, and with the Libyan investigation into the attack that killed Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans all but ground to a halt, Benghazi remains jittery and tense. Even in affluent neighborhoods, gunfire and explosions form an almost nightly soundtrack. Many residents are wary about where they venture after dark. The American drones that circle overhead prompt bitter complaints -- as well as the occasional attempt at black humor. "That's my brother-in-law up there keeping an eye on me," one man said with a laugh as he pointed skywards.
But there is little levity when it comes to confronting Benghazi's dense knot of security challenges --- which include rogue militias, frequent assassinations, and a fraught political environment made even more flammable by the ready availability of weapons. "I think the security situation is going from bad to worse after the consulate attack," says Wanis al-Sharif, the top Interior Ministry official in eastern Libya. Why that is depends on whom you ask.