Libya's top jihadist group, blamed for deadly unrest that includes attacking a US mission, said Tuesday there will only be security in the increasingly lawless country if Islamic law is introduced.
"Stability and security are dependent on the application of sharia (Islamic law)," Ansar Al-Sharia said, explaining that this was its position in light of the "political bickering" in Libya.
At the same time, it said it does not recognise state institutions, including the security services, accusing them of apostasy and of being "taghuts," or evil forces at the service of tyranny.
But it said its weapons "will not be aimed at Muslims and children."
The heavily armed group of ex-rebels is based in Libya's second city, Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
Its fighters command the western access to Benghazi as well as several neighbourhoods in the city according to local sources.
Ex-rebels have become a thorn in the side ot the government, which is struggling to impose its authority in the oil-rich North African nation.
Their militias and other groups have carved their own fiefdoms in a country flooded with weapons looted from Kadhafi's arsenal.
On Monday, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan pledged to beef up the security forces to combat the unrest plaguing the country, particularly Benghazi, which has been hit by a string of deadly attacks in the past week.
"There are those who want to sow chaos in the country to prevent the development of the state, to govern Libya in their own way and make it like Somalia," he said.
Zeidan, who was briefly abducted by armed men in Tripoli last month, said weapons, ammunition and other resources will be provided to security forces in Benghazi.
Ansar al-Sharia has been blamed for a spate of deadly unrest in Benghazi, including the September 2012 attack on the US consulate that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The group has denied any involvement in that incident.
In its statement, it defended its fighters, saying "they are now considered criminals and extremists" after Libya's war "turned against them."