Berenice Stories

Short Stories by John Oakes

Posts Tagged ‘al Shabaab

LIBYA – DECAPITATING DEMOCRACY

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On 2nd August 2014 I wrote this in a post called ‘Can Libya’s neighbours remain on the sidelines much longer? ‘Libya is in a parlous state and her neighbours and allies are deeply concerned for the stability of the region. The insipient civil war is leading to fears that a connection between Libyan Islamists and ISIS in Iraq, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya and Boko Haram in Nigeria is a likely and undesirable outcome.
Awful events in Sirte have tested the patience of Libya’s neighbour, Egypt, beyond braking point and should evoke a wider international response. The 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians held by supporters of the Islamic State in Sirte are believed to have been murdered by their captors. A video has been released which shows a number of men wearing orange execution suits being killed on a beach and their heads cut off. Sirte, the city close to which Muammar Ghaddafi was born, is situated in central Libya where the Gulf of Sirte meets the desert. It is now said to be dominated by ISIS.
Reuters reports today [16th February 2015] that Egypt’s air force bombed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets inside Libya [in Derna] on Monday, a day after the group released a video showed the beheading of 21 Egyptians there, marking an escalation in Cairo’s battle against militants. It was the first time Egypt confirmed launching air strikes against the group in neighbouring Libya, showing President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is ready to expand his fight against Islamist militancy beyond Egypt’s borders. Egypt said the dawn strike, in which Libya’s air force also participated, hit ISIS camps, training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya, where civil conflict has plunged the country into near anarchy and created havens for militia.
A Libyan air force commander said between 40 to 50 militants were killed in the attack. “There are casualties among individuals, ammunition and the [ISIS] communication centres,” Saqer Al-Joroushi told Egyptian state television. “More air strikes will be carried out today and tomorrow in coordination with Egypt,” he said. The 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, who had gone to Libya in search of work, were marched to a beach, forced to kneel and then beheaded on video, which was broadcast via a website that supports ISIS. Before the killings, one of the militants stood with a knife in his hand and said: “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for.”
Reuters also reports; ‘Egypt is worried about the rise of Islamic State, especially in areas near its border. It called on Monday for the U.S.-led coalition that has been bombing Islamic State in Syria and Iraq to confront the group in Libya as well.’
The Libya Herald, in a report dated 16th February, states; ‘This morning’s Egyptian airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) in Derna hit targets mainly outside the town, the Libya Herald has been told. These included military camps to the south and southeast set up during the Qaddafi regime but now used by IS. Other targets are reported as Ansar al-Sharia’s headquarters in the Bomsafr forest between Derna and Ain Mara, the Abu Salim brigade headquarters and the Jebel Company buildings serving as the IS headquarters and ammunitions store. The one exception appears to have the targeting of the home in central Derna’s Bab Al-Shiha area of Bashar Al-Drissi, one of the IS leaders. There were reports he had been killed two months ago but it is now said that he was injured in today’s action and taken to hospital.’
On 4th November 2014 I wrote this in a post entitled ‘The Islamic Caliphate of Eastern Libya and its Implications’ ; Those who advocate dialogue with the Islamic extremists may find little enthusiasm for their position in Libya’s eastern neighbour, Egypt, which is fighting a bloody war in Siani. According to Egyptian government figures, more than 500 people, most of them military and security forces personnel, have been killed across Egypt in militant attacks in the past year. The extreme Islamist group Ansar Bayt al Maqdes has claimed responsibility for many of these attacks. Ansar Bayt al Maqdes may hope to establish a Provence of the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula. Should this happen Egypt would be threatened by IS/ISIS on its eastern and western flanks.
In a particularly bloody attack Bayt al Maqdes militants detonated a truck bomb in Sinai at the Karm al-Qawadees military checkpoint Oct. 24, killing 30 military personnel and wounding 27. Karm al Qawadees is near northern Sinai’s biggest town, el-Arish, and not far from Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip. Another three soldiers were killed in a fire-fight hours after the initial explosion. Egyptian sources have said that initial investigations of the Sinai massacre have thrown up the unwelcome news that a number of the terrorists are undergoing training in eastern Libya. It is also being claimed that the weapons and munitions used in the attack bore Libyan serial numbers. It would not be too difficult to see these attacks in the Sinai as an attempt to destabilise Egypt.’

Reports from Libya today [16th February] suggest that a growing number of Egyptian nationals have been kidnaped in some sort of reprisal for the air strikes

Libya’s hopes of a democratic future may have been beheaded along with 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS in Sirte.

John Oakes
16th February 2015

Some further thoughts on the implications of the Sirte massacre:-

Speaking at Kings College London on 16th February 2015, Sir John Sawers, sometime head of MI6, suggested Britain should consider putting troops on the ground in the wake of the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIL. He said that Britain needs to hold a debate on whether it is better to intervene, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, or to “pull back” from international intervention. Both approaches, he said, carry “huge risks”.
Another view is expressed by Deborah K. Jones, US ambassador to Libya when she says in her ’17th February address:-‘It is time for Libyans to realize that only they can build a new Libya; only they can save their country. Those who continue to fight, those who refuse to engage in dialogue, must be sanctioned by the international community – and we are prepared to do that.’
It is clear that the UK and the US have no appetite, at the moment anyway, for committing ground troops to deal with the ISIS crisis. However, there appears to be a full blown ‘four front’ war in prospect in which Boko Haram threatens to destabilize Nigeria and is encroaching on Chad, the Houthis crisis in the Yemen is escalating and is hardly noticed outside the Middle East, the Libyan debacle adds a foothold for ISIS on the Mediterranean shore and ISIS in the Levant threatens Lebanon. Egypt is at the focal point of all these conflicts and the recent reduction in US aid for its military is significant.

John Oakes
17th February 2015

Update 18th February 2013

A warning of the threat to Europe posed by IS in Libya

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11418966/Islamic-State-planning-to-use-Libya-as-gateway-to-Europe.html

Update 20th February 2015

Was Egypt too quick to respond? This is a thoughtful opinion piece by a notable writer on Middle East affairs.

http://www.aawsat.net/2015/02/article55341627/opinion-sisis-if-only-moment

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AL QAEDA ‘CUCKOOS’ AND THE TUAREGS OF MALI (UPDATED 21ST JUNE 2013)

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There are numerous analyses of the current problems in Mali. I have argued elsewhere that one of the unforeseen consequences of the civil war in Libya was to catalyse the Tuareg rebellion in Northern Mali and that al Qaeda franchises muscled in on the act to assume control. My piece in this blog called ‘The Libyan Civil War – Some Consequences for Children’ was, in fact, a draft paper for the ‘War Child Journal’ and was written with a narrow focus – that of bringing the plight of children in the Sahel to a wider readership.
Amongst that interesting blogs on the subject of Mali is ‘Crossed Crocodiles’ and I suggest that the following might be interesting reading:
http://crossedcrocodiles.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/the-tuareg-mali-terrorists-oil-and-uranium/
Whatever we might think about the underlying cause, some are predicting a ‘Somalia’ in the Sahel.
I am aware that there are numerous differences between Mali and Somalia. It is facile to compare the two but I would respectfully draw attention to the UNHCR data on Somalia and Mali.
There are an estimated 1,022,856 refugees from the long running problems, largely caused by the Al Qaeda franchise Al Shabaab, in Somalia. So far the UNHCR estimate that there are 211,645 refugees who have fled the crisis in Mali which is but a few months old. The possibility of it spreading to Algeria, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and more is a nightmare we must all share.
For data on refugees from Somalia read:
http://data.unhcr.org/horn-of-africa/regional.php
….and from northern Mali:
http://data.unhcr.org/MaliSituation/regional.php

Update 9th January 2013
This is worth following up
http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2013/01/07/feature-02

Update 11th January 2013
France enters the fray;
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/11/us-mali-rebels-idUSBRE90912Q20130111

Update 13th January 2013
A useful guide to Mali’s armed groups:
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/01/20131139522812326.html

Update 14th January 2013

Some good words on why France intervened:
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/01/201311413431010619.html

Update 17th January 2013

Some background to the attack on the BP gas facility in Algeria carried out by an al Qaeda franchise – apparently because of the French intervention in Mali.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/algeria/9807107/Algeria-attack-Mokhtar-Belmokhtar-the-one-eyed-gangster-behind-the-raid.html

Update 18th December 2013

Some interesting comments about the BP gas facility. Did the terrorists enter Algeria from Libya?
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/17/libyan-connection-to-in-amenas-raid-still-unclear/

Update 23rd January 2013
A balanced piece on the nature of the al Qaeda in Mali, the French intervention and the UK Prime Minister’s assertions about the threat as a whole.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/mali/9818699/To-Malians-al-Qaeda-is-a-foreign-invader.html

……and the confusion about where the terrorists came from continues:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/22/terrorist-source-claims-libyan-connection-with-in-amenas-attack/

Update 27th January 2013

This is a very well researched piece about crime and al Qaeda in Mali and its neighbours\:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/mali/9829099/Revealed-how-Saharan-caravans-of-cocaine-help-to-fund-al-Qaeda-in-terrorists-North-African-domain.html

Update 1st February 2013
This report from Mali should be read widely.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/mali/9843619/Dispatch-Inside-Timbuktu-the-city-freed-from-its-al-Qaeda-tormentors.html

Update 11th February 2013

Reports of an al Qaeda training camp in Mali
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/mali/9860822/Timbuktu-al-Qaedas-terrorist-training-academy-in-the-Mali-desert.html

Update 14th February 2013
The al Qaeda ‘cuckoo’ caught in the process of laying its egg in the Tuareg nest. The plan to take over in Mali revealed:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/9868922/Mali-Telegraph-finds-al-Qaeda-plan-in-Timbuktu.html

Update 2nd March 2013
Al Qaeda leader probably killed by Chadian forces in Mali
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/algeria/9905145/Al-Qaeda-commander-behind-Algeria-gas-plant-attack-killed-in-Mali.html
Update 3rd March 2013
More on the possible killing of the al Qaeda leader by Chadian forces
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/algeria/9905870/Mokhtar-Belmokhtars-death-could-have-repercussions-for-French-hostages.html

Update 3rd May 2013
Interesting news about drug smuggling routes and al Qaeda.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/02/cocaine-flows-through-sahara-al-qaida

Update 21st June 2013
Latest developments in Mali discussed by experts in this al Jazeera piece.

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2013/06/201362083515984986.html

Written by johnoakes

December 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Darfur, Libya, Mali

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Libya and the law of unforeseen consequences (Update 31st January 2013)

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When President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron gave their support to the ‘17th February’ rebellion in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi they may not have paused to think of the consequences, at least in regard to the effect on a number of African states supported by Gaddafi’s largess. What is more the French and British intelligence agencies will now be turning their attention to the changes the Arab Spring has wrought in countries south of the Sahara.
Whilst the fall of Gaddafi was received with wide approval there are some in Africa who may now be lamenting his demise. Amongst them are the residents of the cities of Timbuktu and Gao where the river Niger bends northwards to meet the Sahara. These were the ancient entrepots of the trans-Saharan slave and gold trade in the now troubled West African state of Mali.
Mali is a big, landlocked country much of which is the homeland of the Tuareg, the famous ‘blue men of the desert’ who live their unique nomadic life in the Sahara and whose origin is a mystery and customs warlike.
The Tuareg had been conducting a rebellion against the Mali government of President Amadou Toumani Toure. The Tuareg had also supplied Gaddafi with mercenaries which he armed lavishly with modern weapons. When his regime fell his Tuareg units fled back to Mali with their considerable weaponry and military training. The iron law of unforeseen consequences now made itself felt.
Two events led to further discord. On 22nd March 2012 a military coup by the western trained Mali army deposed President Toure because he was not dealing effectively with the Tuareg rebellion. The military handed over power to a civilian government but were destabilise at a crucial time leaving a power vacuum. The Tuareg rebellion, now stiffened and heavily armed by Gaddafi’s old mercenaries, took advantage and grabbed control of the province of Anzawad, their old homeland, an area in the north of Mali nearly as large as France.
There were others lurking in the background ready to piggyback on the Tuareg rebellion. Amongst them were men of an al Qaeda franchise called Ansar Dine. Its name means “Defenders of the Faith” and its followers embrace a puritanical form of Islam known as Salafism.
Ansar Dine muscled in on the Tuareg separatists and together they declared an independent Islamic state in Northern Mali. However they were uneasy bedfellows. At first Ansar Dine’s turbaned fighters gained a reputation for keeping order after outbreaks of looting. When they started enforcing strict sharia law they earned hostility from locals in Timbuktu and Gao who practised a more tolerant style of Islam.
In June 2012, the Movement for Jihad and Unity in West Africa (MUJAO), another al-Qaeda linked group with Algerian connections, took control of the headquarters of the Tuareg separatists in northern Mali. The Mali government has so far been powerless to act against them and are currently seeking outside assistance.
In a chilling excess of religious fervour not unlike the Taliban who demolished the ancient statue of Buddha on the old Silk Route in Afghanistan, members of Ansar Dine have begun to destroy the holy shrines of Sufi saints in Timbuktu.
Apart from its historic role in the trans-Saharan trade, Timbuktu was a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. There are disturbing reports that the Ansar Dine fanatics are destroying, amongst other historical shrines, the 17 metre high Tomb of Askia which was built by the Emperor of Songhai in 1495. The International Criminal Court is calling the attacks on Timbuktu’s holy sites a war crime.
The wider context is important. The conflict in Somalia has been a magnet for British jihadists. They join al Shabaab, Somalia’s principle al Qaeda franchise led by Ahmed Abdi Godane. It is estimated that fifty or so Britain’s have joined them recently. Should they return they will pose a disproportionate threat to the home security services.
The developments in Mali offer jihadists a new home. Its long borders with Algeria make it a threat to France in particular but it will also focus our own intelligence services on a new region in the future.
Update 28th January 2013
As French forces liberate Timbuktu rebels destroy the precious library.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/mali/9832061/Mali-French-troops-encircle-Timbuktu-as-fleeing-Islamists-burn-ancient-scrolls.html
Update 31st January 2013
Prime Minister Cameron visits Tripoli.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/9840355/David-Cameron-ducks-question-of-defence-cuts-during-Tripoli-visit.html

Written by johnoakes

July 8, 2012 at 9:47 am