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Benghazi in Transition

Benghazi is in a state of transition, most likely from bad to horrendous.

Security in Benghazi, the eastern Libyan city where four Americans were killed Sept. 11 in a terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate, has decayed to the point where Westerners are fleeing, assassinations and kidnappings are rife and residents worry that U.S. drone strikes on jihadist targets are imminent.

“The situation has obviously deteriorated. It is a systematic deterioration,” said longtime Benghazi resident Jalal Elgallal, who was spokesman of the now-defunct National Transitional Council.

Mr. Elgallal recently escaped harm from a nearby bomb blast as he waited in his car at a traffic light.

“We don’t do a lot of going out now,” he said in a phone interview from Benghazi. “There is uncertainty about what is going to happen in the very near future.”

In the 15 months since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed, Benghazi — the cradle of the Libyan revolution — has been besieged by rampant violence, much of it resulting from score-settling between the heavily armed militias that control the city and those who served in the Gadhafi regime.

“It has been a series of attacks, kidnappings and assassinations,” William Lawrence, director of the North Africa project of the International Crisis Group, said in a phone interview from Morocco. “The general situation in Libya continues to be bad, primarily because of the weak security infrastructure that existed before and after Gadhafi.”

In January, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Canada urged their citizens to leave Benghazi. The British Foreign Office said it was aware of “a specific and imminent threat to Westerners in Benghazi.”

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are fleeing like rats out of Mali. Some of them will almost surely end up in and around Benghazi. That tortured Libyan city will likely remain on the no-go list for some time.

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