No one is safe in Libya these days. Judges, activists, human rights defenders and former officers in Moammar's Gadhafi's army are being silenced with bullets and knives.
There are no formal security forces, weapons remain unsecured and the economy is foundering because rebels seized oil ports in the east.
For all these reasons, a rogue general with a checkered past has found support in large swaths of the country as he vows to fight what he calls terrorist groups.
His name is Khalifa Hifter, a renegade general from Gadhafi's old army who led a failed war in Chad in the 1980s before fleeing to the United States, where he settled in Virginia.
He isn't particularly loved, but he's finding support among factions of the patchwork militias that make up Libya's security forces, as well as powerful political players, as he vows to fight extremism from his base in eastern Libya.
"We'll show no mercy to anyone who falls into our hands," Hifter told a room of reporters after surviving an assassination attempt earlier this month. "We are defending the world against terrorism."
His words tap into fears over the rise of militant Islam following the Arab revolts that swept through the region bringing hope of change. But those uprisings have led to a terrifying period of destabilization, power vacuums and battles over ideology from Syria, to Iraq, to Libya and beyond.
Military force, Hifter says, is the only way forward in Libya. And he's holding true to his word with airstrikes by an air force in eastern Libya that's pledged loyalty to him. There have also been gunbattles in Benghazi, the birthplace of Libya's revolution and a center for Islamist militias. Many citizens welcome his tough approach.
Hifter isn't seen as a hero. Rather, he's won support because no one has been held accountable for near daily assassinations. One of the latest casualties was an outspoken human rights activist and lawyer named Salwa Bugaighis, who was stabbed and shot in her home this week by unidentified assailants in a killing that sent shock waves through Benghazi.
Before her death, she said in interview that she didn't trust Hifter, who once served Gadhafi. But she said he is capitalizing on real fears that many ordinary Libyans have of Islamist militias, Gadhafi loyalists and criminal gangs operating in the security vacuum.