Berenice Stories

Short Stories by John Oakes

Posts Tagged ‘Ambassador Stevens

LIBYA -BENGHAZI HAS BEEN HIJACKED. (UPDATED 26th NOVEMBER 2013)

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In Benghazi, Libya’s second city, senior police and military personnel are being summarily executed by persons unknown. Still unresolved is the killing of US Ambassador Stephens, an event which upset the American people and which left a blemish on the career of Secretary Hillary Clinton. The killing was probably indented to provoke an attack on Libya by the US. The US wisely restrained its more hawkish leaders and acted with commendable, though clearly pained, restraint. However, someone in Benghazi is seeking to paralyse the rule of law. There is talk of a Benghazi hit list and fear of retribution has silenced the people.
At last the democratically elected government under prime minister Dr Ali Zeidan has commenced to get a grip on events and the new interior minister, Ashour Shuwail, has set out his priorities, at the top of which is his intention to stop the Benghazi killings and find and punish the perpetrators.
Benghazi is a fiercely independent city but its people do not deserve the dreadful events which have marred recent months. They have given much for the future of Libya. The city was cordially hated by Gaddafi who neglected it in favour of his home town of Sirte. Despite (or because of) this it was Benghazi people who first had the courage to defy the Gaddafi regime and risk all to fight for a democratic government, a free press and an end to the repression and fear. Unless the security situation is resolved the wealth which is the right of its citizens will be denied them. Diplomats will avoid the city and normal commerce will be curtailed. Eastern Libya needs investment and its infrastructure is in critical need of repair and restoration.
The interior minster’s second priority is to bring the revolutionary militias into the government fold, either by disbanding them or absorbing them into the state police or the military. Benghazi and Eastern Libya has some notably recalcitrant militias amongst which are Ansar al Sharia commanded by Mohammed Zahawi, Rafallah al Sahati commanded by Mohammed al Gharabi and the Zawia Martyr’s brigade. These militias were apparently curtailed, or at least restrained, following the ‘Save Benghazi’ rally on Friday 21st September when hundreds of demonstrators arrived at the Salafist Ansar Al-Sharia militia headquarters in Benghazi’s Nasr square demanding the brigade leave immediately. Even so, they still appear to exercise a malign and undemocratic influence.
There are signs of resolve and competence in the new Libyan government.

Update 21st December 2012
This from the Libya Herald shows how urgent the matter of security in Benghazi has become.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/12/21/army-calls-for-calm-in-benghazi-as-details-of-attack-emerge/

Update 6th January 2013
At last some progress.

http://libya.tv/en/thousands-of-men-sign-up-for-police-training/

Update 9th January 2013
A very interesting piece – worth following up:
http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2013/01/02/feature-02

Update 25th January 2103
US and UK citizens urged to leave Benghazi and news of a threat to Libyan oil instillations. Benghazi’s British School teachers elect to stay but are watchful:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/24/westerners-urged-to-leave-benghazi-over-imminent-terror-threat/

Update 23rd February 2013

This from the Libya Herald gives us some idea of how difficult it is to police Benghazi at the moment. A new police chief has been appointed and let us hope he can handle the situation.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/02/23/new-police-chief-for-benghazi/

Update 29th March 2013
The alleged sexual assault of British Citizens in Benghazi is disturbing. We await the reaction of Libyan women to this event with interest. Read these:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/03/28/kidnap-and-sexual-assault-of-aid-convoy-britons-in-benghazi/
and:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/28/britons-kidnapped-sexually-assaulted-libya

Update 9th June 2013

Reports of a very serious incident in Benghazi today.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/09/benghazi-libya-shield-protests-at-least-27-dead/

Update 26th November 2013

Serious clashes in Benghazi:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/11/25/breaking-news-fierce-fighting-in-bngshazi/#axzz2lk3uheIQ

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/11/25/breaking-news-zeidan-in-benghazi-for-emergency-talks/#axzz2lk3uheIQ

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/11/25/benghazi-declares-general-strike/#axzz2lk3uheIQ

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/11/25/benghazi-fighting-subsides-as-ansar-al-sharia-disappears/#axzz2lk3uheIQ

http://www.aawsat.net/2013/11/article55323478

Ansar al Sharia’s Derna units attempt to move to Benghazi but are stopped by Libyan government forces:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/11/25/ansar-al-sharia-convoy-blocked-from-leaving-derna/#axzz2lk3uheIQ

Ansar al Sharia forces from Ajdabia reported to have attempted to join the Benghazi fight.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/11/25/ajdabiya-ejects-ansar-al-sharia/#axzz2lk3uheIQ
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/11/29/bomb-fails-to-deter-major-benghazi-pro-saiqa-demonstration/#axzz2mLfLBKTN

BENGHAZI, AL QAEDA HIT LISTS AND US POLITCAL BAND WAGONS (UPDATED 21ST NOVEMBER 2012)

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To lose and ambassador is not a good thing to do and the Obama administration must be held to account for allowing a popular one to be killed in Benghazi on 11th September 2012. It seems that the Governor Romney’s campaign people have focused their spotlight on Obama’s apparent parsimony in the matter of the diplomatic security budget and suggested that was the prime cause of Ambassador Stevens’ untimely death in Benghazi. However, I argue that this manufactured furore is a white elephant – if the GOP stalwarts will excuse the pun.

I suggest that the question Secretary Clinton should be required to answer is not, primarily, about the funding of security arrangements at the US Consulate in Benghazi. It is about a failure in old fashioned management and local knowledge which allowed Ambassador Stevens to visit Benghazi at such a sensitive time; made all the more dangerous by the violent feelings resulting from the publication in the US of an ill-conceived anti-Islamic video.

Firstly Benghazi is a volatile and, right now, a lawless city. Its citizens have often taken their grievances to the streets, sometimes violently. It was the seat of the 17th February uprising against the Gaddafi regime. It was the provincial capital of Cyrenaica, now called Eastern Libya. The oil fields are mostly within Eastern Libya, as is the source of water for the Great Man Made River which supplies Libya’s major cities. Benghazi’s people feel that they ‘own’ the oil and the water and that they were the first to risk their lives to rid the country of Gaddafi. There is an air of paranoia and Tripoli envy in the city.

There are a number of independent and heavily armed militias in Benghazi. They have developed a taste for summery justice. They were first raised in February and March 2011 to fight against Gadaffi and have neither been disbanded nor absorbed into the National Army or police force. They are employed by the Libya’s embryo government as de facto army units and police forces. One of them was called Ansar Sharia, the most likely perpetrator of the well organised attack on the US consulate during which Ambassador Stevens died of smoke inhalation and the later attack on the CIA annex. The ambassadors’ death seems to have been a deplorable but secondary outcome of the planned attack. There were connections between the Ansar Sharia militia in Benghazi and Derna and the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This must have been clear before 11th September 2012.

There was no US Consul in Benghazi. Ambassador Stevens appears to have covered the duties himself, mostly from his embassy in Tripoli. The consulate is housed in a rented villa and appears to have been guarded by a five man security team from the US diplomatic protection service and a rota of Libyan guards employed by a small British security company called Blue Mountain. This company had a Libya partner and other security contracts in Benghazi. The Blue Mountain guards were armed with Tasers and were thus not employed or equipped to defend the consulate against a heavily armed attack. Their British manager appears to have left Benghazi following a difference of views with the company’s Libyan partner. Two of his sometime employees had earlier blown a substantial hole in the consulates perimeter wall with an IED in revenge for their dismissal. The vetting and oversight of Blue Mountain may have been less than rigorous. The consulate was also guarded by members of a local armed militia.

The US consulate in Benghazi was the last to fly a foreign flag. The British had evacuated their diplomatic personnel from their Benghazi consulate after an attempt on their ambassador’s life in broad daylight in a well-guarded part of the city. This incident must surely have focused the attention of Secretary Clinton’s Libya watchers in Washington. The British have been useful allies of the US with whom they exchanged intelligence in the past. They have long and well-earned experience of diplomacy in Benghazi. The Red Cross had also left the city after its premises were attacked. They are usually the last to leave in such circumstances.

The Ansar al Sharia militia brigade is, therefore, the most likely perpetrator of the well organised attack on the US consulate and the CIA annex during which Ambassador Stevens died of smoke inhalation. His death seems to have been a deplorable but secondary outcome of the planned attack. There are said to have been connections between Ansar Sharia and the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Its rhetoric had been aimed at the US for some time. This must have been well known before 11th September 2012.

There were other pointers which must have alerted the US diplomats in Libya to potential dangers. The 11th September was the anniversary of the killing by the US in Pakistan of Abou Yahya al-Libi the al Qaeda second in command. He was a Libyan and revenge taken in Libya for his killing would have been gruesome publicity for the reach and power of al Qaeda.

There is now some speculation about Ambassador Stevens’ dairy in which he is supposed to have expressed his suspicion that he was in an Al Qaeda ‘hit list’. Perhaps he was. There is a hit list in Benghazi. He would not have been on it. It is aimed at killing senior police and military officers who had served in the Gaddafi regime. So far fifteen or so have been murdered but the killers have not yet been identified.
Ambassador Stevens was popular in Benghazi. He had been posted there very soon after the 17th February uprising and helped those who are attempting to form the new government in Libya immeasurably. He had earned the thanks of the people of Benghazi and, tragically, may have felt safe amongst them. Perhaps he was overconfident. His advisers and superiors in the State Department should have taken more care of him. So the real questions are these. Was the management of the US consulate in Benghazi effective? Was the ambassador’s visit to Benghazi necessary when the conditions there were so volatile? Was the CIA not aware of potential al Qaeda connections in Benghazi? Their expertise and effectiveness in Libya must surely be examined.

US citizens will be heartened to know that a 30,000 strong street protest in Benghazi led to the disbandment of ‘Ansar al Sharia’. However, there have since been a series armed attacks in Benghazi which indicate that many militiamen have gone to ground, taking their arms and ammunition with them.

John Oakes

amazon.com/author/johnoakeslibyastories

Update 16th October 2012

Republican senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte in a joint
statement said;

“We must remember that the events of Sept. 11 were preceded by an escalating
pattern of attacks this year in Benghazi, including a bomb that was thrown into
our consulate in April, another explosive device that was detonated outside of
our consulate in June and an assassination attempt on the British ambassador. If the President was truly not aware of this rising threat level in
Benghazi, then we have lost confidence in his national-security team, whose
responsibility it is to keep the President informed. But if the President was
aware of these earlier attacks in Benghazi prior to the events of Sept. 11,
2012, then he bears full responsibility for any security failures that occurred.
The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is
ultimately the job of the Commander in Chief. The buck stops there.”

Read
more: http://swampland.time.com/2012/10/15/hillary-clinton-takes-one-for-the-team/#ixzz29TGj0BYd

and also; http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100185456/interrupted-by-the-moderator-denied-time-to-respond-the-debate-was-hard-on-mitt-but-he-was-right-about-libya/

Update 26th October 2012

There are a number of commentators who have never been to Libya who seem ready to write about the killing of the US ambassador in Benghazi. The tragedy has become embroiled in the US Presidential election campaign. The possibility of a premature reaction by the US must alarm us all.

The Libyan Prime Minster elect, Ali Zidan, is likely to appoint a cabinet member responsible for finding the killers. There is evidence that two of the possible culprits have been apprehended, one in Egypt and the other in Tunisia.

The flowing two pieces are, therefore, interesting. Let us hope that the US government is capable of sober judgment and measured responses;

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100186461/benghazi-will-do-to-obama-what-al-qaeda-did-to-chris-stevens/

http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/10/25/stevens-murder-suspect-killed-in-cairo-tunisian-held-in-tunis-jail/

Updated 3rd October 2012

Further to the story of a suspect held in Tunis;

http://www.bradenton.com/2012/11/02/4263957/senators-us-gets-access-to-libya.html

Update 4th October

More on Libyan Al Qaeda suspect in Egypt

http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/11/02/libyan-amongst-12-al-qaeda-suspects-arrested-in-cairo/

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/suspect-in-libya-us-mission-attack-killed-in-cairo-police-.aspx?pageID=238&nid=33218

Update 12th November 2012.

The plot thickens as we await the Congressional hearing on Thursday.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/concoughlin/100189203/was-petraeus-forced-out-to-silence-his-account-of-benghazi-killings/

http://www.eurasiareview.com/13112012-petraeus-resignation-sparks-speculation-oped/

Update 18th November 2012

The David Petraeus story becomes very intersting for Libyans. He has given evidence before a US Congressional Committe and the LIbyan Herald carried this yesterday.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/11/17/david-petraeus-claims-cia-knew-all-along-that-benghazi-attack-was-orchestrated-by-terrorists/

Update 21st Novemver 2012

Update 21st November 2012

This is the 18th assassination of high level security officials in Benghazi since the revolution. They were all sometime senior officials of the Gadaffi regime.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/11/21/benghazi-security-directorate-chief-assassinated/

WILL PRESIDENT OBAMA BE FORCED INTO A ‘SHOW OF STRENGTH’ IN LIBYA?

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As President Obama strives for re-election, pressures may be mounting on him to strike at those who killed the US ambassador and his colleagues in Benghazi on 11th September. The process of identifying and selecting the possible assassins in Libya is well advanced. The President’s reactions in this matter will be guided by public opinion at home as well as by strategic imperatives. To allow the killer of one of his ambassadors to go unpunished will have both domestic and international repercussions. Whatever the outcome, the killing of Ambassador Stevens will change the way US diplomats conduct their business abroad and security considerations will limit their effectiveness.
There is no shortage of those who suggest that the USA has lost influence in Africa as a result of President Obama’s weakness. There are indications, for example, that the Egyptian army is ‘retiring’ many officers suspected of being too close to the USA. The al Qaeda led destabilisation of Mali is likely to affect Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The tension between the Muslim north and the Christian south of Nigeria will open up many opportunities for the promoters of violence, notably the al Qaeda franchise Boko Haram.
The US policy in Libya must be seen in the wider context. ‘Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’, now in de facto control of much of Mali, has been seeking a foothold in Libya and has found friends in the Salafist ‘Ansar al Sharia’ militia brigade in Benghazi and Derna. The US has long been interested in Derna, the seaport some miles to the east of Benghazi, where a number of young men were recruited to fight with the Taliban in Afghanistan and some have been returned to Libya by way of Guantanamo.
One Derna resident in particular has a most interesting profile according to Wikileaks. He is Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda Bin Qumu who was a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay for six years. He was a member of the ‘Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’ and later trained in an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and fought there as a commander of Arab volunteers. When in 2007 the Guantanamo Bay issue became and embarrassment to the Obama administration Bin Qumu was released and returned to Libya where the Gadaffi regime agreed to keep him in prison. However, in 2010 he was released from the notorious Abu Salim jail as part of an amnesty for anti-regime prisoners. He is one of founders of the ‘Ansar al Sharia’ militia in Derna and Benghazi and it is this group which is suspected of the attack on the US embassy on 11th September. A 30,000 strong street protest in Benghazi led to the disbandment of ‘Ansar al Sharia’ but there have recently been a series armed attacks in Benghazi which indicate that many militiamen have gone to ground, taking their arms and ammunition with them.
The investigation which followed the killings on 11th September is not yet complete but an interesting hypothesis is developing along the following lines. Soon after the civil war in Libya got underway the US established a CIA post in an annex near the US embassy in Benghazi. From here signals traffic between Libyan suspects and al Qaeda units were monitored. It is probable that the location and function of this annex became known to the Ansar al Sharia militia. It is also supposed, on good grounds, that this militia was recruited by ‘Al Qaeda in the Arab Maghreb’.
It is argued that ‘Ansar al Sharia’ made a plan to attack the embassy and the annex which were surrounded by high walls and guarded by some US security specialists and some locally employed contract personnel. The plan was left ‘on the vine’ to await an opportune moment for its execution.
That came on 11th September when angry crowds demonstrated outside the US embassy against a now notorious and ill-conceived anti-Islamic video. Ambassador Stevens was also visiting the embassy on 11th September, apparently to interview a Lebanese contractor. Did Ansar al Sharia have foreknowledge of the ambassador’s presence in Benghazi?
When the protest started outside the embassy ‘Ansar al Sharia’ militiamen launched their attack. They were appropriately armed and used mortars to lob bombs over the high walls. The nature of the attack in which weapons were used skilfully means that experienced fighters were involved. It was well planned operation which took the form of two assaults, the first on the embassy and the second on the so called annex situated about half a mile distant.
US drones launched above Benghazi and Derna soon after the attack picked up telecoms between ‘Ansar al Sharia’ operatives in Benghazi and known al Qaeda units. It is, therefore, likely that the attackers were linked with ‘Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’. Among the American personnel evacuated from Benghazi after the attack were about a dozen C.I.A. operatives and contractors whose presence may have been betrayed to ‘Ansar al Sharia’. There are few foreigners in Benghazi at the moment and the presence of so many Americans must have been obvious. It is has always been a city where news spreads rapidly by word of mouth. Unless the US personnel lived without locally employed domestic servants their lives would have been subject to the closest scrutiny.
President Obama will have a number of options to consider. He has, however, made it clear that the US will punish the killer of Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues. What will he do?

LIBYA – A GOOD START IN THE VOLUNTARY SURRENDER OF ARMS AND AMMUNITION

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There has been some success with the planned weapons amnesty in Benghazi. On Saturday and today Tahir Square has been the venue for citizens to hand over arms and ammunition to the Libyan National Army. At a similar event in Tripoli’s Martyrs Square two tanks were handed in by the Triq Asour militia brigade.
The hope is that the amnesty will be expanded to other parts of the country. It may not be as readily accepted in Libya’s third city, Misurata, where a large number of militia brigades have become deeply entrenched. The Misuratans are wary of their neighbours, the Warfella tribal confederation based in Beni Walid, and may be reluctant to believe that the National Army will be capable of keeping the peace. Many members of the Warfella federation held out for Gaddafi until the last days of the civil war. They are suspected by many of being pro-Gadaffi still. The Misuratans may feel that the Libyan National Army is still tainted by ‘Gadaffism’ and will favour the Warfella.
In the eastern sea port of Derna, Salafist militias are in power at the moment but may not be popular. The prominent families in Derna are unlikely to live with the situation for too long but may still feel powerless. The Libyan Navy has recently stationed a warship there. It may help to tilt the balance of power in favour of ordinary citizens. In the meantime there are known to be a number of radical Islamists in town.
In the Jebel Nefusa, the mountain range south west of Tripoli, there were serious clashes in June between a Zintan militia and the Mashasha tribe. More than 100 people were killed and several thousand displaced. This area will remain tense for some time.
In Kufra in the south east the long standing differences between the Sway tribe and the Tebu minority is still simmering and neither party is likely to hand in its weapons. This is a region troubled by arms, drug and people smuggling.
The successes in Tripoli and Benghazi must be heartening for ordinary Libyans. Many are stating openly that the killing of the US ambassador in Benghazi was the catalyst which started a reaction against heavy handed militias. If that is so, Ambassador Stevens will not have died in vain.