TRIPOLI, Libya — An Islamist-allied militia group in control of Libya’s capital now guards the U.S. Embassy and its residential compound, a commander said Sunday, as onlookers toured the abandoned homes of diplomats who fled the country more than a month ago.
An Associated Press journalist saw holes in the residential compound left by small-arms fire and rockets, reminders of weeks of violence between rival militias for control of Tripoli that sparked the evacuation.
The breach of a deserted U.S. diplomatic post — including images of men earlier swimming in the compound’s algae-filled pools — likely will reinvigorate debate over the U.S. role in Libya, more than three years after supporting rebels who toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
It occurred just before the two-year anniversary of the slaying of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya.
A commander for the Dawn of Libya group, Moussa Abu-Zaqia, said his forces had been guarding the residential compound since last week, a day after it seized control of the capital and its international airport after weeks of fighting with a rival militia. Abu-Zaqia said the rival militia from Zintan was in the compound before his troops took it over.
Some windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched. The AP journalist saw treadmills, weight benches, and protein bars in the compound’s abandoned gym.
Forks, knives, and napkins set for a banquet sat on one table, while a cantina still had cornflakes, vinegar, salt, and pepper sitting out.
It didn’t appear that the villas in the compound had been ransacked.
Another Dawn of Libya commander said the U.S. Embassy, about a half a mile away, also was under guard by his militiamen.
The Dawn of Libya militia is not associated with the extremist militia Ansar al-Shariah, which Washington blames for the deadly assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed Mr. Stevens and the three other Americans.
A video posted online Sunday showed unarmed men playing in a pool at the compound and jumping into it from a second-story balcony.