"No one will stop anyone from doing anything," Fathalla al-Awam, head of the local council, told The Washington Post. "There's no police, no army and no militias. Nothing. It's an open city from east and west.'
The city, a port, is 156 miles east of Benghazi, where radicals killed the U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans on Sept. 11. It was already a hotbed of Islamist sentiment under slain Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
Attacks on local officials and reporters who oppose the Islamists have become common, the Post said. In March, a new police chief was gunned down as he put gas in his car, and on Thursday a building the local government planned to convert to a security center was bombed.
Observers say the Abu Slim Martyrs Brigade and other radical groups have become less open in their operations since the Benghazi killings. Instead of occupying buildings and operating checkpoints, they are under wraps in the city and on farms in its hinterland.
"They were the police and they were the criminals at the same time," Hussein al-Misary, a local journalist, told the Post.