Residents of Libya's second-largest city warned on Saturday of a "revolution" to get rid of armed militias and Islamic extremists after protests spurred in part by the killing of the US ambassador left four dead in an unprecedented eruption of public frustration.
In a sign of how weak the country's post-Gaddafi leadership remains, authorities tried to stem the popular anger, pleading that some of the militias are needed to keep the country safe -- since the police and army are incapable of doing so.
A mass protest on Friday against militias against the compounds of several armed groups in Benghazi lasted into early Saturday, as thousands stormed the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamic extremist group suspected in the September 11 attack on the US Consulate which saw the US ambassador killed.
They drove out the Ansar gunmen and set fire to cars in the compound -- once a major base for Gaddafi's feared security forces -- and then moved onto the base of a second Islamist militia, the Rafallah Sahati Brigade. Brigade fighters opened fire to keep the protesters at bay.
The state news agency said four protesters were killed and 70 injured in the overnight violence.
There were no new protests on Saturday, but the city of one million people in eastern Libya was brimming with anger, rumors and conspiracy theories.
The bodies of six soldiers were found in the morning dumped on the outskirts of the city, shot through the forehead and their hands cuffed, state TV reported. An army colonel was reported missing, feared kidnapped.
Some militiamen bitterly accused Gadhafi loyalists of fueling the protests. Some media reports accused militiamen of taking revenge on Gadhafi-era veterans in the military, while military spokesman Ali al-Shakhli blamed Gadhafi loyalists.
Backers of the ousted regime continue to hold sway in some parts of the country, particularly the western city of Bani Walid and parts of the deep south. Gadhafi loyalists near the southern town of Barek al-Shati have been clashing with a pro-government militia for several days, killing nearly 20, and abducted 30 militiamen from a bus, according to Essam al-Katous, a senior security official.