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Following attack on Italian consul, Libya announces special diplomatic security force

On Saturday, gunmen opened fire on the Italian consul's armored car in Benghzi, Libya. In the wake of this attack, and the Sept. 11 attack on the US mission which killed the ambassador and three other Americans, Libya has announced a plan for a special security force to protect foreign diplomats.

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Ali ShuaibReuters / January 13, 2013

An unidentified armed guard stands next to the armored car of the Italian Consul, Guido De Sanctis, that was fired on as he left the consulate on Saturday in Benghazi, Libya. On Sunday, the Libyan government announced plans to create a special security force to protect foreign diplomats.

Mahmoud Sohim/AP

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Tripoli

Libya plans to create a special force to protect diplomats, government sources said, after a gun attack on an Italian consul once again exposed the precarious security situation in the North African state.

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Unidentified gunmen in Benghazi opened fire on Guido De Sanctis's armored car on Saturday. The diplomat was unhurt but the attack was a reminder of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission there that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

"We are discussing putting in place a force that would look after diplomats. There are also plans to protect foreigners working for foreign companies," a defence ministry source said, declining to be named as the proposal was still being discussed.

"The idea is it would be mixed between police and army but would likely come under the command of the defence ministry."

The source said the members were likely to be trained abroad but did not give an estimate of how many there would be.

More than a year after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, security in Libya remains in disarray.

To keep a degree of order, the government relies on numerous militias made up of thousands of Libyans who took up arms against Gaddafi. The groups provide what passes for official security but also what poses the main threat to it.

The government has taken a twin-track approach, saying it will shut down rogue groups but licensing many of the most powerful armed brigades.

Almost 6,000 former rebel fighters have begun training to be policemen under a drive to disarm militias, the new interior minister said in an interview last week.

"THIS IS NOT SWITZERLAND"

Confirming the government plan for a diplomatic security unit, a foreign ministry source said diplomats currently had to advise Libyan authorities if they planned to travel more than 50 miles from their base.

"Even when the force is established, diplomats need to take care of themselves. This is not Switzerland," the source said.

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