Two die in Libya compound attacks

Two protesters have been killed as hundreds of demonstrators attacked militia compounds in Benghazi, angry at the unchecked excesses of armed groups in the city including last week's killing of the US ambassador, a Libyan hospital official has said.

Mohammed al-Fakhri, manager of al-Hawari hospital, said two young men died and about 30 were injured in overnight clashes near the headquarters of the Rafallah Sehati brigade.

It was the third compound protesters attacked after breaking off from a huge march in the centre of the city, part of a growing backlash against the militias.

A building used by the Islamist group Ansar al-Shariah, linked to the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens, was among those overrun.

For many Libyans, the September 11 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi was the last straw in one of the biggest problems Libya has faced since the ousting and death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi around a year ago - the multiple mini-armies that with their arsenals of machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades are stronger than the regular armed forces and police.

The militias, a legacy of the rag-tag popular forces that fought Gaddafi's regime, tout themselves as protectors of Libya's revolution, providing security where police cannot. But many say they act like gangs, detaining and intimidating rivals and carrying out killings.

The public backlash comes in part in frustration with the interim government, which has been unable to rein in the armed factions. Many say that officials' attempts to co-opt fighters by paying them have only fuelled the growth of militias without bringing them under state control or integrating them into the regular forces.

Residents of another main eastern city, Darna, have also begun to stand up against Ansar al-Shariah and other militias. The anti-militia fervour in Darna is notable because the city, in the mountains along the Mediterranean coast north of Benghazi, has long had a reputation as a stronghold for Islamic extremists.

During the Gaddafi era, it was the hotbed of a deadly Islamist insurgency against his regime. A significant number of the Libyan jihadists who travelled to Afghanistan and Iraq during recent wars came from Darna.

During the revolt against him last year, Gaddafi's regime warned that Darna would declare itself an Islamic Emirate and ally itself with al Qaida. But now, the residents are lashing out against Ansar al-Shariah, the main Islamic extremist group in the city.