More Protests Follow Attack On U.S. Consulate

Melissa Block speaks with Hadeel Al-Shalchi, Reuters' Libya Correspondent, about the scene on the ground in Benghazi after the attack this week that killed four U.S. diplomats.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. It's been a day of more protests and many questions about how in Libya, Egypt and now Yemen, angry demonstrators managed to penetrate some layers of security at U.S. diplomatic missions. We begin in Benghazi, Libya, where four men are in custody after the deadly attacks on the U.S. consulate Tuesday night. I spoke with Reuters correspondent Hadeel Al-Shalchi, who's following that story in Benghazi.

HADEEL AL-SHALCHI: I spoke to the deputy interior minister, Wanis al-Sharif. He told me that they have four men in custody at the moment and they're undergoing interrogations with them because the security officials in Benghazi suspect that these men possibly helped to instigate violence on Tuesday night at the U.S. consulate.

I tried to push a bit more about who these people are, whether or not they belong to a certain group or a certain ideology. He said at the moment that they can't give me that information.

BLOCK: And when you say they're in custody, have they actually been formally arrested?

AL-SHALCHI: He actually told me that they haven't. They are in custody at the moment for investigation, yeah.

BLOCK: What has the scene been today in Benghazi, two days after these attacks? I know yesterday there were demonstrations in support of the ambassador, Chris Stevens. We saw images of people in Benghazi holding up signs saying Benghazi is against terrorism. Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans. Any signs of anything like that today?

AL-SHALCHI: Today was a little bit quieter than yesterday. One would have suspected heavier security on the streets, maybe more checkpoints, that kind of thing, but there haven't been in the past couple of days, including today. People are still talking about it, especially now that there have been attacks in Yemen. And, you know, people do feel like the death of an ambassador, especially somebody who was as popular as, you know, as Chris Stevens, and they feel like it was really a big burden on their shoulders and something that they're quite ashamed of.

BLOCK: There had been attacks near the consulate quite recently and attacks, I think, on a British diplomat in Benghazi, as well. What can you tell us about the climate around those attacks and who may have been responsible for those?

AL-SHALCHI: Benghazi's security has always been a little - much more dodgier than any other place in Libya. Most of the radical groups, you know, what people like to call Salafi, or hard-line, ultra-conservative groups do stem from here. And what exacerbated the situation is that after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi and during the war, they became very well armed.

BLOCK: I want to ask you more about those Salafi groups you mentioned, the hardliners, the extremely conservative ultra-religious groups. They've been demolishing Sufi mosques and landmarks around Libya. They've been targeting women who appear in public. Have they been an active and visible presence around Benghazi?

AL-SHALCHI: They've been active all over Libya. I mean, it's a very fluid and interesting situations because people within the security forces, they also have some of these ideologies. And so, that was actually during the shrine desecration in Tripoli, some people will say that the security forces allow or at least turn a blind eye because they sympathize. And also, they are not trained. They're just regular civilians who are now armed and want to protect their cities and are now receiving salaries from the government to do so.

BLOCK: I've been talking with Hadeel Al-Shalchi. She's Reuters' correspondent in Benghazi, Libya. Hadeel, thank you so much.

AL-SHALCHI: You're welcome. Thank you.

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