Torture and Plundering: Libya’s Militias Run Wild

NTC Unable to Keep 'Allies' in Line

It is a story told with alarming regularity in Libya. Two rival militias, both nominally allies of the National Transitional Council (NTC) engage in an intense gunbattle. When the guns finally fall silent and one of the factions has taken a base belong to the other, they proceed to take everything that isn’t nailed down.

Even those that weren’t directly involved in the battle rush in and start grabbing loot. Cars are stolen, and more battles break out when rival factions argue over who gets to take what. Mass looting may be a viable strategy in a video game, but it is really starting to wear thin among Libya’s public.

It would be bad enough on its own, surely, but many of the militias don’t stop there. Open-ended detentions and torture, in some cases even leading captives to be tortured to death, are fairly widespread problems.

At the center is the question: where is the NTC? The NATO backed faction talked tough about imposing control over the militias in the wake of Moammar Gadhafi’s killing, but is seemingly unable even to keep its own auxiliaries from killing each other, let alone imposing order the way the NATO forces figured they would.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of