Although they are tasked with keeping Benghazi safe, members of security face the highest risk of being targeted.
It was two o’clock in the morning when 28-year-old A.S. finally reached his home in Fuhwaihat, west of Benghazi, out of breath and with rattled nerves. He managed to get away from a car that had been chasing him and whose passengers had been shooting at him.
It was not the first time A.S. has been targeted—it is becoming a common occurrence amongst members of the national army’s Marine Force. “My job is a continuous source of danger,” said A.S. “I never feel secure on the streets.”
An unknown threat
A.S. says most of his colleagues have no idea who is attacking them or why. “They throw hand grenades in our deployment areas or in our cars and they often escape."
Every day A.S. argues with his mother before going to work. She does not want him to leave the house and face the similar fate of many of his colleagues, who have become regular death targets since 2012.
Police and army members, regardless of their ranks, have become prey for terrorists. "Terrorists use explosions and guns to kill the police and members of the army," A.S. said. "Recently, they started to kidnap them and mutilate their bodies before or after killing them."
According to statistics from Galaa Hospital in Benghazi, one of three hospitals for cases of this kind, it received 62 assassination cases in 2013.
Arab Organization for Human Rights in Libya reported 51 killings in the month of February 2014 alone in Benghazi, Derna and Sirte. The victims were mostly security personnel.
A soldier after the revolution
A.S. joined the marine battalion formed in 2011 after the revolution, where most of the members were new civilian volunteers.
He joined the battalion because he wanted to fight with the revolutionaries on the front lines, he said, adding that he returned to Benghazi and underwent military training. "Now I am a regular soldier and I carry a military number in this battalion."
In the past, he and his fellow colleagues used to perform tasks given to them by the joint security room, now they take orders given to them by the command of the general staff. Sometimes they storm or guard certain areas in the mornings, afternoon or evening, depending on the orders. When there are no specific tasks to perform, they spend their time inside the premises assigned to them.
"Murder in the city of Benghazi has become a common practice day and night,” he said. "Kidnapping with the aim of killing or for getting a ransom has become a daily practice—targets are young and old people. Security men and the army practice their work with their hearts full of fear. There is nothing that makes us go to our work, other than our love for our country."
Three of A.S.’s colleagues were killed in November 2013 while on duty east of Benghazi. They were all shot dead when armed men attacked them to free a number of detained people. Neither the government nor the Defense Ministry nor the Command of the General Staff revealed the results of the investigations in the crime.
According to A.S., most of the crime cases in Benghazi are closed with the culprit unknown, although a specialized security room was created with the purpose of protecting the city and its security.
A spokesman for the joint security room in Benghazi, Ibrahim al-Shara told Correspondents: “The room has been able to capture a number of people who admitted committing crimes in Benghazi, but none of them were political or religious in nature," Shara said.
However, Shara does not negate the "clear and explicit targeting of security men, whether affiliated with the former regime 's army or the recruits who joined the army and police force after the February 2011 revolution."
Shara believes that killings are not carried out by only one fraction. "There are hardliners, Takfirists, followers of the former regime and those targettting security because of personal problems."
Working through the long Benghazi nights
In the morning hours, life goes on as usual in Benghazi. Schools, banks, government and non-government institutions open every day for business. But at night, the calm is torn apart by the sounds of explosions and bullets.
Twenty-seven-year-old H.N., a member of the Benghazi police force said that his family and friends constantly urge him to quit his dangerous job.
"Whenever there is a crime, a kidnapping incident or armed clashes, my mother calls me," said H.N. "My phone stops ringing the moment I walk into my house."