The deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other American citizens when a group of armed men stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi has cast a renewed focus on severe tensions roiling the North African nation since the fall of longtime leader Moammar Kadafi last year.
Residents who gathered in the eastern Libyan city to mourn the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens could not agree who had been behind the attack. But recent months have seen assassinations of security officers from the ousted Kadafi government and the destruction of minority Sufi Muslim shrines as the country’s newly elected government struggles to assert itself after decades of dictatorial rule. Western analysts have warned that radical Islamist groups are looking to exploit the vacuum, but Libya's new rulers have been reluctant to crack down on anyone other than those who were associated with Kadafi.
“This is a wake-up call,” said Sean Kane, a political analyst who previously worked in Libya for the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue. "While what happened yesterday is not at all representative of broader Libyan society, there has been an alarming trend of growing extremist militancy in the country over the last several months. A possible tipping point is being approached and if the problem is not faced up to soon it might be too late."