A political activist in the eastern city of Darnah said the Abu Salim Brigade announced its intentions to give up its bases and there were unconfirmed media reports in Libya that a second organization would follow suit, The New York Times said Sunday.
The announcements came after a major demonstration in Benghazi called for militias formed during last year's rebellion to cease operations. Some protesters moved against bases of an Islamist militia tied to the Sept. 11 consulate attack that left four Americans dead.
Darnah has a reputation for being a stronghold for staunch Islamist militia groups, The Times said.
The Times said the anti-militia sentiment has some in the new Libyan government concerned. The government relies on some militias to act as a de facto security force, and losing those groups could cause a breakdown of order and a potential power vacuum that militants could exploit.
Some officials urged patience and negotiation with extremists who were not likely to go quietly. "You can't come to these bodies (militias) that already exist on the ground and tell them that I want to finish you, or that I want to integrate you," Saleh Joudeh, a member of the Libyan Congress told The Times. "If we do that we're fooling ourselves and we're fooling the people."
But some protesters insisted the hard-line Islamists groups had to go sooner rather than later because they were focused on their own agendas and weren't providing much in the way of law and order.
"They say they are handling security, but what security do we have?" said Ashour Bentaher, a political activist in Darnah. "There are assassinations, there are bombings, kidnappings -- what security?"