Inplainview News Weblog - 2013: Arab Revolutions. Libya

2013-09-03 Patrick Cockburn. Special report: We all thought Libya had moved on – it has, but into lawlessness and ruin

A little under two years ago, Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, urged British businessmen to begin “packing their suitcases” and to fly to Libya to share in the reconstruction of the country and exploit an anticipated boom in natural resources.
Yet now Libya has almost entirely stopped producing oil as the government loses control of much of the country to militia fighters.
Mutinying security men have taken over oil ports on the Mediterranean and are seeking to sell crude oil on the black market. Ali Zeidan, Libya’s Prime Minister, has threatened to “bomb from the air and the sea” any oil tanker trying to pick up the illicit oil from the oil terminal guards, who are mostly former rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi and have been on strike over low pay and alleged government corruption since July.
As world attention focused on the coup in Egypt and the poison gas attack in Syria over the past two months, Libya has plunged unnoticed into its worst political and economic crisis since the defeat of Gaddafi two years ago. Government authority is disintegrating in all parts of the country putting in doubt claims by American, British and French politicians that Nato’s military action in Libya in 2011 was an outstanding example of a successful foreign military intervention which should be repeated in Syria.
In an escalating crisis little regarded hitherto outside the oil markets, output of Libya’s prized high-quality crude oil has plunged from 1.4 million barrels a day earlier this year to just 160,000 barrels a day now. Despite threats to use military force to retake the oil ports, the government in Tripoli has been unable to move effectively against striking guards and mutinous military units that are linked to secessionist forces in the east of the country.
Libyans are increasingly at the mercy of militias which act outside the law. Popular protests against militiamen have been met with gunfire; 31 demonstrators were shot dead and many others wounded as they protested outside the barracks of “the Libyan Shield Brigade” in the eastern capital Benghazi in June.
The Interior Minister, Mohammed al-Sheikh, resigned last month in frustration at being unable to do his job, saying in a memo sent to Mr Zeidan that he blamed him for failing to build up the army and the police. He accused the government, which is largely dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, of being weak and dependent on tribal support. Other critics point out that a war between two Libyan tribes, the Zawiya and the Wirrshifana, is going on just 15 miles from the Prime Minister’s office.
Diplomats have come under attack in Tripoli with the EU ambassador’s convoy ambushed outside the Corinthia hotel on the waterfront. A bomb also wrecked the French embassy.
One of the many failings of the post-Gaddafi government is its inability to revive the moribund economy. Libya is wholly dependent on its oil and gas revenues and without these may not be able to pay its civil servants. Sliman Qajam, a member of the parliamentary energy committee, told Bloomberg that “the government is running on its reserves. If the situation doesn’t improve, it won’t be able to pay salaries by the end of the year”.

2013-09-02 Egypt's consul in Tripoli attacked by militants

Egypt's consul in the Libyan capital of Tripoli was attacked Monday by a group of unidentified militants, the Egyptian embassy said.
In a press statement, the embassy said that the gunmen forced the consul out of his car at gunpoint while he was going shopping in Andalus district.
The Egyptian diplomat was robbed of his car and slightly injured, the statement said, adding that he was at a hospital for treatment.
The embassy said that security forces later found the car in Kashlaf area near the Sports City in Tripoli.
Last week, some unidentified men attempted to steal a parked car of Egypt's deputy consul outside a hotel in Tripoli.

2013-08-12 DAVID MARTOSKO. 400 US surface-to-air missiles were 'STOLEN' from Libya during the Benghazi attack and are 'now in the hands of Al Qaeda', claims whistleblower

Four hundred American surface-to-air missiles were 'taken from Libya' during the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, a former U.S. Attorney who represents whistleblowers claimed on Monday.
He added that the U.S. intelligence community is terrified they might be used to shoot down airliners.
Joe diGenova, whose wife Victoria Toensing – a former deputy assistant attorney general – also represents Benghazi witnesses and others with knowledge of the terror attack, told WMAL radio that the loss of those missiles is also one the reason the U.S. State Department shut down 19 embassies across the Middle East last week.
President Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton originally maintained that the terror attack was the product of a spontaneous protest, a line that diGenova thinks was calculated to conceal the loss of so much military hardware to enemies of the United States.
The loss of the 400 surface-to-air missiles, he told WMAL's audience, 'is why we shut down the 19 embassies recently.'
'They were afraid that there was going to be a missile attack on one of the embassies. Remember, you can take a shoulder-held missile and shoot it into an embassy. Not just into the sky.'


Two years ago this month, Tripoli, the capital of Libya, fell to the amalgam of rebel forces that had been closing in on the city. The country’s leader Muammar Qaddafi fled to his home town, Surt, where, on October 20, 2011, rebels stabbed, beat, and shot him to death after his convoy was hit by a NATO missile strike. Qaddafi’s eccentric, forty-two-year dictatorship was over, signalling the apparent end to a dramatic chain of events that had started nine months earlier, in the eastern city of Benghazi. There, inspired by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, in neighboring Egypt, Libyans had demonstrated against Qaddafi’s rule, and the protests had turned into a bloody national showdown with security forces. The protesters, eventually assisted by French, American, and British bombers under the NATO banner, succeeded. The smoke had not yet cleared when the victory was being touted as a shining example of what Western powers could do on a modern battleground without ever putting “boots on the ground.”
With no further need for war and with Western powers fussing over what was being vaunted as the oil-rich nation’s new democracy, Libya should have once again achieved peace and stability. Instead, the country, of more than six million people, seems to have been fatally destabilized by the war to remove its dictator, and it is increasingly out of control. Militias that arose on various regional battlefronts found themselves in possession of vast arsenals and large swaths of territory. Despite the orchestration of parliamentary elections and the assumption of nominal rule by civilian politicians in Tripoli, those militias have not stood down; instead, they have used their force and their firepower to try to effect change in the capital, even, on several occasions, besieging government buildings. They have also fought one another over long-held regional enmities; the most recent such battle occurred last month.
The current Prime Minister, a lawyer named Ali Zeidan, has defended his government’s powerlessness, saying that its failures derive from the weakness of Libya as a state. There is a great deal of truth to that: assembled from three ancient Ottoman wilayats, the modern state of Libya was only eighteen years old when Qaddafi seized power from the country’s monarchy, in 1969. In his absence, Libya’s nationhood is like a garment worn thin. As the Libyan author Hisham Matar wrote last week, “Under Gaddafi we were afraid of the state; now its weakness imperils all we have achieved. “
The degree to which Libya is out of control became apparent on September 11, 2012, when a large mob, which included extremists both inspired by and affiliated with Al Qaeda, attacked a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, killing the visiting U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and with three others. The incident did not set off a debate about what to do in Libya but, rather, incited an almost entirely America-centric one, characterized by politically motivated finger-pointing about U.S. command-and-control weaknesses and errors. Meanwhile, the NATO-facilitated situation on the ground in Libya has worsened, with extremists operating with increasing impunity.
In June and July, dozens of Libyans were killed in separate clashes between militias in Benghazi and Tripoli. The past week or so has been particularly bad. On Friday, July 26th, a prominent lawyer in Benghazi, Abdelsalam al-Mismari, was shotkilled as he left a mosque after Friday prayers. Mismari was a prominent leader of the 2011 rebellion against Qaddafi, and, more recently, he had emerged as a vocal opponent of the country’s second-largest political group, the Justice and Construction Party, a conservative faction allied with the Muslim Brotherhood. The suspicion is that extremists assassinated him. Two security officials were also killed in the city that day. Then, on July 27th, more than a thousand inmates broke out of a prison outside Benghazi, in still murky circumstances. (This mass jailbreak coincided with others, linked to Al Qaeda, in Baghdad, and to the Taliban, in Pakistan.)
On Tuesday, news came that the Justice Department had charged a Libyan militia leader in Benghazi, Ahmed Abu Khattala, with complicity in the attacks that killed Ambassador Stevens. Abu Khattala, who has acknowledged being at the compound that night but denies any responsibility for Stevens’s death, has openly mocked the U.S.’s attempts to hold him accountable for the murders. In Benghazi on Wednesday, Suliman Ali Zway tweeted, “I met Abukhattala twice, and I’m very familiar with the Benghazi military dynamics/environment; good luck getting any1 to arrest him.”

2013-08-06 MICHAEL S.SCHMIDT. U.S. Charges Libyan Militia Leader in Benghazi Attack

Federal law enforcement authorities have filed murder charges against Ahmed Abu Khattala, a prominent militia leader in Benghazi, Libya, in connection with the attacks on a diplomatic mission there last Sept. 11 that killed the United States ambassador and three other Americans, according to senior law enforcement officials.
In an interview with The New York Times in October, Mr. Abu Khattala said that he had arrived at the American compound in Benghazi as gunfire broke out but that he had played no role in the attack, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed. He said he entered the compound at the end of the siege in an attempt to rescue Libyan guards who worked for the Americans and were trapped.
Mr. Abu Khattala accused American leaders of using the Benghazi attack to play “with the emotions of the American people” in an effort to “gather votes for their elections.”

2013-08-04 Yitzhak Benhorin. Report: CIA moved missiles out of Libya to Syria's rebels

Members of Congress are seeking an investigation into covert CIA efforts to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels, CNN reported over the weekend.
Among the many secrets still yet to be told about the Benghazi mission, is just how many Americans were there the night of the September 2012 attack.
According to one source, that number was 35, with as many as seven wounded, some seriously. It is unknown how many of them were CIA.
A source told CNN that 21 Americans were working in the building known as the annex, believed to be run by the agency.
CNN said the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency's Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out, subjecting its agents to frequent polygraph examinations.
US Rep. Frank Wolf, whose district includes CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, is seeking a probe into the matter.
"I think it is a form of a cover-up, and I think it's an attempt to push it under the rug, and I think the American people are feeling the same way," he said.
"We should have the people who were on the scene come in, testify under oath, do it publicly, and lay it out. And there really isn't any national security issue involved with regards to that," he said.
Wolf is pushing for a congressional select committee to probe the matter and has enlisted the support of 150 fellow Republican members of Congress. They want to get to the bottom of the failures that took place in Benghazi, and find out just what the State Department and CIA were doing there.

2013-07-28 Amina Ashraf, Borzou Daragahi. Benghazi blasts and jail break rock Libya

At least two explosions targeting the city centre of Benghazi capped a weekend of violence and chaos in eastern Libya that included a vast prison break, three assassinations and rowdy protests against the country’s Islamists.
The privately owned Libyan news channel al-Ahrar said the explosions on Sunday night struck the courthouse where protesters first took to the streets in February 2011 to launch what became a Nato-backed armed uprising against the country’s longtime regime, and another recently refurbished courthouse. Al Jazeera and Reuters reported three explosions.
The latest violence further undermined the oil and gas-rich country’s already fragile security. Hours before the explosions, the country’s leadership had announced a cabinet reshuffle.
At least 1,000 prisoners fled from the Kuwaifiya prison near the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday amid chaotic anti-Islamist protests prompted by the assassinations on Friday of a prominent political activist and two security officials, the official WAL news agency reported.
On Sunday, officials reported that some of the escaped prisoners had been caught while others had been returned to jail by their families. The interior and judiciary ministries called on escaped prisoners to turn themselves in in exchange for a review of their sentences, or face forcible return to detention.

2013-06-09 Libya army chief of staff 'resigns' after deadly clashes

Libyan army chief of staff Youssef al-Mangoush has reportedly resigned after 30 people died in clashes between protesters and a militia in Benghazi.
The General National Congress accepted his resignation in a session on Sunday, sources at the assembly say.
The clashes erupted when protesters gathered outside the Libya Shield Brigade premises demanding it disband.
The government has struggled to tackle the presence of armed militias since Col Gaddafi's death in 2011.

2013-06-08 SULIMAN ALI ZWAY, KAREEM FAHIM. Dozens Are Killed in Libya in Fight With Militia

At least a dozen people were killed here Saturday and dozens wounded after members of a powerful militia fired on protesters surrounding the group’s headquarters in an outpouring of public anger at the armed bands that have been blamed for fueling political violence and undermining a fledgling state.
For several hours on Saturday afternoon, fighting raged at the militia’s compound on the edge of Benghazi, as residents in nearby apartment blocks fled their houses and ambulances carried away wounded protesters. By nightfall, the protesters had evicted the militia and set parts of the compound on fire.
Though most injuries appeared to be from gunfire, other victims appeared to have been maimed by explosions, she said. She said that by late Saturday evening, the death toll had reached at least 27 people, a number that could not be independently confirmed.
Several people said the protest started with a land dispute, when a family that claimed ownership of the compound demanded that the militia, Libya Shield, leave. But witnesses said it quickly grew, drawing on broader anger at the stubborn persistence of Libya’s militias, whose power long ago eclipsed that of the country’s weak government.
The lack of security has been acute in Benghazi, where mysterious assassinations have been a hallmark of Libya’s transition since the overthrow of its longtime ruler, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Police stations and other symbols of the government have repeatedly been attacked, at least partly in reaction to the government’s attempts to rein in the armed groups.
The protesters complained that Libya’s new leaders had accommodated the militias, and even given them official status, rather than demanding that they disband.

2013-05-13 Mathaba. Libya’s “Water Wars” and Gaddafi`s Great Man-Made River Project

It was Muammar Gaddafi’s dream to provide fresh water for all Libyans and to make Libya self-sufficient in food production. In 1953, the search for new oilfields in the deserts of southern Libya led to the discovery not just of significant oil reserves, but also of vast quantities of fresh water trapped in the underlying strata. The four ancient water aquifers that were discovered, each had estimated capacities ranging between 4,800 and 20,000 cubic kilometers. Most of this water was collected between 38,000 and 14,000 years ago, though some pockets are believed to be only 7,000 years old.
At the time of the NATO-led war against Libya in 2011, three phases of the Great Man-Made River Project were completed. The first and largest phase, providing two million cubic metres of water a day along a 1,200 km pipeline to Benghazi and Sirte, was formally inaugurated in August 1991. Phase II includes the delivery of one million cubic metres of water a day to the western coastal belt and also supplies Tripoli. Phase III provides the planned expansion of the existing Phase I system, and supplies Tobruk and the coast from a new wellfield.
The ‘rivers’ are a 4000-kilometer network of 4 meters diameter lined concrete pipes, buried below the desert sands to prevent evaporation. There are 1300 wells, 500,000 sections of pipe, 3700 kilometers of haul roads, and 250 million cubic meters of excavation. All material for the project was locally manufactured. Large reservoirs provide storage, and pumping stations control the flow into the cities.
The last two phases of the project should involve extending the distribution network together. When completed, the irrigation water from the Great Man-Made River would enable about 155,000 hectares of land to be cultivated. Or, as Gaddafi defined, the project would make the desert as green as the flag of the Libyan Jamahiriya.

2013-05-13 Mathieu Galtier. Libyans say country on 'hopeless path' after bombing

Outraged locals took to the streets of Benghazi on Monday to rail against a government that has failed to bring security to Libya after a car bomb outside a hospital killed as many as 13 people.
"The country is on a dark and hopeless path now," said Benghazi resident Bob Abubaker. "The attack was intended to kill civilians. Tomorrow, I can predict it will be a big mess in Benghazi when people go to funeral … the government has done nothing to protect our city."
The car bomb exploded close to Benghazi's Al-Jala Hospital, and children were among the victims.
Benghazi is where the revolution that led to the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi began. It has seen assassinations and other attacks, including the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11.
Libya is dominated by militias that battled Gadhafi's forces during the civil war in 2011. Many attacks are blamed on infighting among various militias. Monday's explosion was the first in which Libyan civilians were targeted.
Saturday, the Libyan government negotiated the end of a two-week siege of the country's Justice and Foreign Ministries by militias calling for a ban from the new government of anyone who held a senior position in the Gadhafi regime. The militias had been pushing for such an "exclusion law."
Libyans said the bombings demonstrate how ineffective the government is compared with the militias.
"Take the exclusion law: Government and congress had done nothing for six months," said Mustafa Busim, a businessman from Benghazi. "When revolutionaries went with weapons, they passed the law. It's crazy."
Mohammed Magarief, president of Libya's General National Congress, announced that a special committee is being set up to oversee Benghazi's security situation after Monday's terrorist attack.

2013-05-05 Libya parliament bans Gaddafi-era officials

Libya's parliament has passed a law banning officials from the Gaddafi era from holding political office.
The vote in the General National Congress (GNC) came a week after militias backing the law began besieging the ministries of justice and foreign affairs.
They had said they would not leave until the bill was passed.
The law could affect senior members of the government, including Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.
Both Mr Zeidan and GNC speaker Mohamed Megaryef were diplomats before the revolution.
Human rights groups say the measure is too sweeping.
"This law is far too vague - potentially barring anyone who ever worked for the authorities during the four decades of Gaddafi's rule," Human Rights Watch's Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement on Saturday.

2013-04-28 Chris Stephen, Afua Hirsch. Libya faces growing Islamist threat

Diplomats are warning of growing Islamist violence against western targets in Libya as blowback from the war in Mali, following last week's attack on the French embassy in Tripoli.
The bomb blast that wrecked much of the embassy is seen as a reprisal by Libyan militants for the decision by Paris the day before to extend its military mission against fellow jihadists in Mali.
The Guardian has learned that jihadist groups ejected from their Timbuktu stronghold have moved north, crossing the Sahara through Algeria and Niger to Libya, fuelling a growing Islamist insurgency.
"There are established links between groups in both Mali and Libya – we know there are established routes," said a western diplomat in Tripoli. "There is an anxiety among the political class here that Mali is blowing back on them."
That anxiety escalated last week after militants detonated a car bomb outside the French embassy, wounding two French guards and a Libyan student, the first such attack on a western target in the Libyan capital since the end of the 2011 Arab spring revolution.
"The armed groups we are fighting are fleeing to Libya," said Colonel Keba Sangare, commander of Mali's army garrison in Timbuktu. "We have captured Libyans in this region, as well as Algerians, Nigerians, French and other European dual-nationals."

2013-04-23 DAVID D.KIRKPATRICK. Car Explodes Outside French Embassy in Libya DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK.

The explosion of a car parked outside the French Embassy in Libya wounded two French guards on Tuesday in what appeared to be the first major terrorist attack on a diplomatic compound in the capital since the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011.
If deliberate, the blast would be the most significant such attack on a diplomatic facility in Libya since a siege of a United States outpost in Benghazi last September, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. A string of more minor attempted attacks on Western or United Nations diplomats began before that attack and has continued since then, although mostly outside the capital.
No one claimed responsibility Tuesday, following the pattern of earlier attacks. But Libyans immediately suspected militant Islamists angry over the French intervention in Mali, where French troops are supporting government efforts to oppose Islamic militants in the north of the country. The assault came a day after the French Parliament voted to extend the French military deployment there.
In the months since French soldiers landed in Mali in January to roll back an attempted takeover by hard-line Islamists, militants in Libya and around the region have denounced the invasion as a new imperialist adventure by the Mali’s former colonial ruler.
And in Libya that anger has blended with mistrust of the motives behind France’s leading role in the Western airstrikes to help topple Colonel Qaddafi. While most Libyans are overwhelmingly grateful for the French airstrikes that stopped Colonel Qaddafi’s troops from crushing the insurrection against him at its start in Benghazi, Islamist militants and others believe the Western powers also sought oil and influence for themselves.
On Tuesday, Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, condemned the attack and pledged a swift investigation. The French and Libyan authorities would “make every effort to ensure that the circumstances of this odious act are exposed and it perpetrators quickly identified,” Mr. Fabius said in a statement from Paris.
An official in his ministry said Mr. Fabius would travel to Libya on Tuesday.

2013-02-27 Russia backs Libya’s democratic transformation

Russia supports the goals of the new Libya, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said in a meeting today, Wednesday, with former Libyan post-revolution Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril.
“Russia has reaffirmed its firm support for Libya’s sovereignty, independence and unity,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released after the meeting, according to the Voice of Russia.
The statement added that Russia also supported the aspirations of Libyans “for a better life through implementing comprehensive democratic transformations, and ensuring national accord.”
The meeting between Jibril, who heads the National Forces Alliance (NFA), and Lavrov focussed on the current security situation and efforts of the General National Congress to restore Libya’s economy and form new government institutions. Jibril and Lavrov also discussed recent developments in the Middle East and North African region.
“Special significance was attached to ways to strengthen the traditionally friendly Russian-Libyan relationships in various fields,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Until now, Lavrov has taken a notably unsympathetic stand towards Libya since the revolution. Last October, he said that “war crimes” in Libya committed since the fall of the Qaddafi regime should be investigated by the International Criminal Court. Prior to that Moscow tried to introduce a motion in the Security Council demanding that the Libyan government negotiate with the pro-Qaddafi forces that were running Bani Walid at the time.

2013-01-28 Daniel J.Graeber. The Coming Oil War … Against al-Qaeda

A consortium minding security issues for journalists working in hostile territory warned that credible reports revealed a threat to oil installations in Libya. Islamists based in Libya were said to have played a role in deadly January attacks on the In Amenas natural gas facility in eastern Algeria. Those attacks were said to be in response to an Algerian decision to let French forces use its airspace to fight al-Qaida supporters in nearby Mali. Now, it seems the threat focus has shifted back to Libya, where the government of Moamar Gadhafi has ended and the new war on terror begins.
The International News Safety Institute said it was alerted by “credible sources’” that terrorist groups may be planning attacks on oil fields in Libya. The warning said it considered Benghazi a likely target given the large number of oil fields in the western port city. INSI’s advisory came as the U.S. and British government issued similar warning for citizens remaining in Libya.
“We are aware of a specific, imminent threat to Westerners in Benghazi,” a warning from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office read. “We advise against all travel to Benghazi and urge any British nationals who are there against our advice to leave immediately.”
In mid-January, a faction of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb stormed the In Amenas natural gas facility in eastern Algeria. That raid left several hostages and foreign fighters dead. Sources close to militant groups in Libya said the Algerian attack had the logistical support of Islamic fighters who traveled across the western border.
For post-war Libya, oil and natural gas makes up nearly all of the country’s export revenues and about 80 percent of all government revenues. The government in response to renewed al-Qaida tensions and a high level of violence in Benghazi ordered a petroleum security team on high alert. In Algeria, the military there wasted no time, and gave no quarter, when al-Qaida stormed its energy interests. Oil and natural gas accounts for about 98 percent of the country’s exports, prompting the IMF in 2011 to warn that the government needed to take action to diversify its economy.
evealed in the documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, were al-Qaida plots to target oil tankers.

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