Berenice Stories

Short Stories by John Oakes

Posts Tagged ‘Ansar Sharia

LIBYA ON THE BRINK OF CIVIL WAR?

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20th May 2014
The Forces of Major General Khalifa Hafter appear to be gathering for an armed confrontation with Islamist militias in Benghazi, Libya’s second city and sometime capital of the old province of Cyrenaica. In the mean time the price of Brent crude has shot up at the likelihood of a civil war in Libya and the US has moved six hundred marines from Spain to a forward base in Sicily in order to protect and evacuate US diplomats and other citizens from Tripoli where Islamist militias range freely. They are threatened mainly by powerful forces from Zintan, a city on the edge of the Jebel Nefusa. The Libyan General National Congress, by now probably without legitimate mandate, has been attacked by Zintani militias and has been stood down. The ‘legitimate’ but so far ineffective, Libyan army, seems to be divided and has not shown its hand. The Libyan Air Force units in Tobruk and, I believe, Benina have declared their support for Hafter.
Hafter’s forces, now named the Libyan National Army, are based to the east of Benghazi and were said to number 6,000 on the 17th May, though the Special Service (Lightning) Brigade stationed within the city is reported today to have sided with Hafter who also has tribal support, though the extent of this is unknown to date. It is probable that Hafter has been joined by Ibrahim Jadhran’s Cyrenaica Defence Force which hails from Marsa Brega and controls the main oil terminals on the southern shores of the Gulf of Sirte. The Islamist Omar Mukhtar Brigade is said to have left Kufra to join the confrontation though I do not know where it is heading.
Haftar’s tribal militiamen seem to have set up a ring of road blocks around Benghazi in order to stop Islamist forces, from Derna in particular, from entering the city and coming to the aid of those within. The Islamist forces within Benghazi are made up of the Ansar Sharia Brigade, Libya Shield No. 1, Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade and 17th February Brigade.
At the time of writing the Libya Herald appears to be off line though its server may be unable to cope with the unprecedented number of calls on its service. The last news I have been able to access from that source was on 17th May 2014 and I take the liberty of copying parts of its despatches here.
‘A threat by General Khalifa Hafter made on Libya Awlan TV today to “cleanse and purify” Benghazi of Islamist militants took concrete form this evening when a massive explosion destroyed Ansar Al-Sharia’s radio station in the city’s Leithe district.
Earlier in the day, an imam, said to be a supporter of Ansar, was also reported killed at his home in Hay Salam. He was named as Mohamed Ashur.
Hafter launched his assault on Ansar as well as on 17 February Brigade and Libya Shield No. 1 Brigade, both widely viewed in the city as Islamist, from his Al-Rajma military compound in the east of the city yesterday morning. The operation which took everyone by surprise has so far left dozens dead and at least 250 wounded. Benghazi Medical Centre told the Libya that it had 35 bodies and dealt with 138 injury cases. Jalaa Hospital said it had two dead and 29 injured and Marj Hospital six dead and 81 injured.
Figures could not be obtained from Hawari and other hospitals.’

It seems that the action has been in the south west of the city – in Hawari and Sidi Ferej districts, in particular the area controlled by Ansar Al-Sharia between the south-western gate checkpoint and the cement factory – as well as in the port area where clashes were reported between Hafter’s forces and Libya Shield 1.
The Libya Herald continues:
‘……. Hijazi said that he did not recognize the legitimacy of the government or the GNC. He claimed that the GNC had long lost their legitimacy back on 7 February (the date he said they were supposed to end their term).
The government and GNC were out of touch, weak and ineffective, he added, saying that his own forces’ military actions were in response to demands of the people (in the face of terror attacks by extremists, criminals and extremist Islamists). He stressed that the “Dignity” operation would continue, but refused to disclose any further details.
Earlier in the day Hijazi had called on residents of three districts to evacuate, on the assumption of a planned military strike. However, Hijazi refused to elaborate.
This evening, there was an eerie calm in Benghazi as most of the city’s inhabitants waited nervously to see what happened next. There are conflicting reports as to how much support Hafter enjoys in Benghazi. Some inhabitants and commentators have expressed relief and joy on the fact that someone – anyone – was prepared to confront the extremist militias.
Others saw no difference between the illegitimate Hafter, who they saw as pursuing his own personal political agenda, and the extremist militias he was confronting.’

Some notes on Khalifa Hafter follow:-

The Libyan revolution began on 17th February 2011 in Benghazi. On Saturday 5th March 2011, the Libyan opposition movement in Benghazi nominated an Interim National Council to lay the foundations for a government. A Military Council of fifteen including, Omar Hariri, was also set up. The most interesting figure was Staff General Abdul Fatah Yunis, who had resigned as Gaddafi’s Interior Minister on 20th February. Yunis was a long standing colleague of Gaddafi and one of his companions in the 1969 coup. It seemed to some observers that he may have harboured ambitions to replace Gaddafi and some believed that he may have kept ‘back channels’ open to his erstwhile boss. He may even have attempted to negotiate a deal in which Gaddafi would stand down thus bring the rebellion to a relatively peaceful end. This would not have suited some of the hard line Islamist militias.
In protest over the Gaddafi brutality, Khalifa Hafter, a native of Benghazi who was a retired Libyan general made his way from the USA and joined the Military Council. He became the general commanding the rebel forces.
Hafter was one of Gaddafi’s senior officers during his long and abortive war with Chad. I understand he was left in Chad to fend for himself when Gaddafi withdrew his forces after a humiliating defeat. Hafter sought exile in the USA, living near the CIA Head Quarters in Langley and he may have been what is politely known as a CIA asset. It is this apparent connection with the CIA which has made Haftar unpopular in some quarters in Libya and allowed the suspicion to grow that he is still under its influence.
Early disagreements amongst members of the Military Council led to disquiet and Italy, France and Britain later sent teams of military advisers to get the staff work sorted out. After some infighting, Abdul Fatah Younis took overall command of the rebel forces with Hariri as his deputy and Hafter was deposed to third place. Abdul Fatah Younis was murdered on or around 29th July 2011 and his killers have yet to be brought to book. Hariri and Hafter remained in command at least until the attack on Tripoli. Harai’s whereabouts are not known at the moment but he, and Haftar, would have been precluded from military command by the Political Exclusion Law passed in February 2013 by the Libyan General National Council as he had held high office under Gaddafi.
I believe that Hafter has been touring the country and building support for the formation of a Libyan National Army with which he is about to confront the Islamist militias which are holding the reins of power in Benghazi and Tripoli. He appears to have won over the powerful Zintani militias and some Air Force units. It remains to be seen if he can win over the highly organised militias in Misurata which are known to have Islamist leanings and to oppose the Zintanis.
On 20th Febraray 2014 the ‘Middle East Online’ reported in part:
‘On….Feb 14, Maj. Gen. Khalifa Hafter announced a coup in Libya. “The national command of the Libyan Army is declaring a movement for a new road map” (to rescue the country), Hifter (sic) declared through a video post. Oddly enough, little followed by way of a major military deployment in any part of the country. The country’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan described the attempted coup as “ridiculous”.’
Ali Zeidan was deposed as Prime Minster and went into exile. Haftar roamed the country building a military following. He clearly reached the conclusion that the time was ripe to make his move when a number of protesters were killed in Benghazi. This report in the Libya Herald dated 10th May 2014 describes the event.
‘Three protestors were shot dead in Benghazi early this morning outside the headquarters of the 17 February Brigade. Another 20 were injured. Four were taken to the city’s Jalaa hospital, were one is in a critical condition, according to the hospital’s spokesperson. Sixteen were taken to the Benghazi Medical Centre………..The protestors had gone to the brigade’s headquarters after shots were fired yesterday afternoon at them while they were demonstrating outside the Tibesti Hotel over the security situation in the city. They were convinced that the gunmen were members of the brigade.
As with so many other similar incidents in Benghazi the exact circumstances of what happened are confusing and it is impossible to say who killed the demonstrators.
As they headed to the headquarters at the end of Venezia Street at about 7.30pm, ignoring warnings from the Benghazi Joint Security Room not to do so. Shortly afterwards, as dusk fell, the lights in the area were turned off.
For around two and a half hours they chanted slogans outside the gates of the brigade, which is headed by Ismail Salabi, such as “We don’t want you here”, “No to militias” and “All we need are the police and the army”. According to one of the protestors, there was then shooting of automatic rifles in the air from inside the headquarters, in “an attempt to scare us off”. Another report says that the shooting was proceeded by an explosion, possibly from anti aircraft missile fired from inside the base…..’

As I write Haftar may be regrouping to the east of Benghazi and awaiting further recruits to his banner. That the Special Forces ‘Lightening’ Brigade stationed in the city has declared for him he is commencing to look stronger.

22nd May 2014
According to Khalifa Hafter the pause in the progress of his forces in Benghazi is because the Islamist militias have taken refuge amongst the civilian population. This, he points out, requires a change in tactics in order to save innocent lives. He argues that the operation, code name Dignity, continues according to plan.

The commander-in-chief of Libya’s Air Force, Col. Gomaa Al-Abbani, has just backed Haftar’s offensive. Abbani said: “The Air Force’s Chief of Staff announces its full accession to Operation Dignity” and called on the Libyan people to “support the armed forces in their battle against terrorism and to restore security.”

In the meantime political support the operation appears to have grown. There are reports that the largest political bloc in the Libyan General National Congress, The National Forces Alliance, has voiced its support for Hafter.

Significantly, the powerful armed forces of Misurata assembled as though to move to Tripoli to oppose Hafter but stood down and returned to their bases. Their appearance in Tripoli would have caused some unrest in any case but their failure to act may have tipped the balance of power further in favour of Hafter. They are Islamist in outlook and will be a hard nut for Hafter’s forces to crack should it come to a showdown.

There are rumours that demonstrations in favour of Hafter’s Operation Dignity are planned in Tripoli and Benghazi tomorrow. We will see.

22nd May 2014

The Misurata militias did not abort their mission and have arrived, according to this AP report, in Tripoli. This will not help the planned? protests and Hafter will certainly face difficulties. See this:

‘Tripoli, AP—Islamist-led militias on Thursday streamed into the Libyan capital amid a standoff with fighters loyal to a renegade general whose offensive has won support from officials, diplomats and army units, but has also threatened to fragment the country further.

The militias, known as Libya Central Shield, are composed of groups from the western city of Misrata. They are under the command of the army’s chief of staff, who answers to parliament.

Witnesses in Tripoli said they saw Misrata militiamen take positions early on Thursday in army barracks in the city’s south, near the airport highway. The residents spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their own safety.’

This from the Libya Herald adds to the picture. The difference between the GNC and the government is becoming notable. ‘The Libyan Government has called on armed groups – namely Libya Central Shield, Qaaqaa and Sawaiq brigades – to leave Tripoli as the brigades squared up in the capital this evening.
Members of the Misratan-based Libya Central Shield arrived on the outskirts of Tripoli today, stationing themselves in the Salaheddin district, where clashes took place in the early hours of yesterday morning. It is not clear how many Shield troops have arrived in Tripoli……….It said it would hold the General National Congress (GNC) responsible for any of Libya Central Shield’s actions, because Congress head Nuri Abu Sahmain had called on them to protect the capital.’

The powerful Qaaqaa and Sawaiq brigades are from Zintan, the city in the Jebel Nefusa in which Saif al Islam Gaddafi is still held pending trial. They have been in Tripoli for some time.

There are useful and well informed sources which offer further information, in particular you will find Jason Pack here:
http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2014/05/libya-power-struggle-brink-civil-war-2014519151514777968.html

The best guide to the Libyan Militias is to be found here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19744533

John Oakes

For books by John Oakes see… (USA): http://www.amazon.com/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 ….. (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Update 20th May 2014
Hafter speaks:
http://www.aawsat.net/2014/05/article55332450

Is this significant? Has the balance of power shifted in favour of Hafter? The Misuratani forces have failed to move to Tripoli.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2014/05/20/central-libya-shield-forces-scrap-move-on-tripoli/#axzz32LaFWQkw

Update 22nd May 2014

A good piece on Hafter in the Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/rival-militias-prepare-for-showdown-in-tripoli-after-takeover-of-parliament/2014/05/19/cb36acc2-df6f-11e3-810f-764fe508b82d_story.html

LIBYA’S PARLOUS STATE.- SOME NOTES ON THE MAY 2013 CRISIS IN LIBYA

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Armed militia units entered the Libyan capital, Tripoli, with the intention of influencing a vote in the democratically elected General National Congress. The likelihood that the government and the armed forces would be destabilised has alarmed many observers.

A Reuters report datelined 7th May 2013 from Tripoli read –“ Libya’s defence minister resigned on Tuesday in protest at a siege by gunmen of two government ministries that he denounced as an assault on democracy almost two years after the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

He was the first cabinet minister to quit in a crisis over the siege, which armed groups refused to lift even after parliament bowed on Sunday to their main demand by banning from government posts any senior official who served under Gaddafi.

“I will never be able to accept that politics (can) be practiced by the power of weapons … This is an assault against the democracy I have sworn to protect,” Defence Minister Mohammed al-Bargathi said.

Members of parliament in Libya, plagued by armed disorder since Gaddafi’s demise, say the new legislation could be applied to around 40 of 200 deputies and could also unseat the prime minister, who some protesters demand should quit immediately.

Diplomats fear that parliament, in agreeing to vote under duress, could effectively embolden the powerful armed groups that fought to topple Gaddafi and are now more visible in Libya than state security forces, and that the sweeping terms of the vote could cripple the government’s ability to function.

On Monday a spokesman for parliament conceded that the siege of the ministries was out of the government’s hands and that it would be up to the militiamen now to leave as promised.”

Update 18th May 2013

It now seems that the Interior Minister also tendered his resignation (according the Libya Herald dated 18th May 2013):-

Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail handed in his resignation ten days ago, but Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has refused to accept it.

“The Interior Minister handed over his resignation to the Prime Ministry but it has not yet been accepted,” spokesman of Libya’s Interior Ministry, Majdi Urufi, said, speaking live on state television station Al-Watanya.

It now (22nd May 2013) seems that the Interior Misister, Ashour Shuwail, has refused to withdraw his resignation despite the Prime MInister’s efforts to retain him. Dr. Zedan has asked the GNC to approve Khalifa Shiekh for the post. He is from Suq Al-Jumaa and was an assistant to former Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelal with whom he fell out.

AN ATTEMPT TO SUBVERT LIBYA’S DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED GENERAL NATIONAL CONGRESS BY FORCE OF ARMS?

The Libyan General National Congress (GNC) voted on Sunday 5th May 2013 to form a High Committee to Implement the Criteria for Occupying Public Positions to implement a Political Isolation Law. Under the law all those who held key posts from September 1, 1969 when Gaddafi took power, until the fall of his regime in October 2011 will be excluded from government. The ban will remain in force for 10 years, according to the draft.

The law could force out several ministers as well as the congress leader, depending on the wording finally adopted. The GNC Vice President, Salah al-Makhzoum, said a compromise had been reached among the political blocs by adding “exceptions” in the bill in order to retain key individuals. It remains to be seen if these exceptions were included in Sunday’s vote.

As they voted the freely elected legislators of the GNC may have been influenced or even intimidated by armed revolutionary militia brigades surrounding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Justice Ministry. Observers have noted that brigades from Misurata, Nalut, Benghazi and Tripoli were numbered amongst them. It is estimated that more than 300 armed militia vehicles entered Tripoli during late March and early May.

Prime Minister Zedan at first stated that the pressure brought upon the GNC by armed militias may have ensured that the vote for the Political Exclusion Law was passed in haste and under duress. In this context it is noted that Dr. Zedan revealed he had been targeted by armed men during a conference with the militias.The Libya Herald quotes him thus:

It has emerged that militiamen tried to intimidate Prime Minister Ali Zeidan when he met and negotiated with them. He said today that they had brandished a grenade and a gun at him. He did not say when this happened. ”The rebels unlocked the grenade in front of me but no one was hurt because the grenade did not explode and it was taken quickly outside the Prime Ministry headquarters,” he stated today at a press conference. He said that they also had put a gun on the table in front of him saying that they could easily use force against him.

So incensed was his defence minister, Mohamed Bargahthi, that he resigned in protest against the use of force to influence a democratically elected congress.

Prime Minister Zedan singled out Adel Al-Ghiryani, the president of the ‘Supreme Council of Libyan Revolutionaries’, as the possible instigator and leader of the armed intervention. It is easy to see why. Al-Ghiryani spoke to the media outside the besieged Foreign Ministry in Tripoli demanding the dismissal of Ministry employees, including Libyan ambassadors who had worked for Qaddafi. His Vice President, Mr Kaabar, went further and stated: “We are determined to bring down the government of Ali Zidan.”

It is interesting, therefore, that no less a figure than sometime post-Gaddafi Libyan Prime Minister, Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, has had the courage to speak out against the law. He is now the Head of the National Force Alliance party in the GNC and commands a considerable following in the country. He told Al-Arabiya TV, “We participated in the overthrowing of Gaddafi but the law says we must go. But I say that I have performed my part in the 17 February Revolution and no isolation law is able to erase that from history.” Political proscription should, he said, be based on what individuals had done rather than the jobs they had held. In his interview with Al Arabiya TV Jibril said that legislation as sweeping as the Political Isolation Law was unprecedented in any country. He also deplored the presence of militias besieging government ministries before the GNC took its vote. “The law was passed under duress and force of arms.Libya needs to approve the isolation law, but not now.”

The case of Mahmoud Jibril illustrates the difficulties the ‘political isolation’ law may create for the governance of Libya.

The problem for Jibril is that from 2007 to early 2011, he served the Gaddafi regime as head of the National Planning Council of Libya and of the National Economic Development Board of Libya. He was one of the ‘jama‘at Saif,’ a group of apparatchiks recruited to high level posts by Gaddafi’s favourite son, Saif al Islam, who was attempting to soften his father’s autocratic rule but expected to succeed him. Jibril’s tribe, the Warfella, is thought by some to be Gaddafist. It supplied many of Gaddafi’s security personnel and army officers.

A DILEMMA FOR THE NEW HIGH COMMITTEE TO IMPLEMENT THE CRITERIA FOR OCCUPYING PUBLIC POSITONS

Jibril has a point and the key role he played in the days when the ‘17th February 2011’ anti-Gaddafi rebels were close to extermination in Benghazi may have been forgotten outside Libya. A short summary of the key events may serve to remind us.

On Saturday 5th March 2011, the Libyan opposition movement in Benghazi nominated an Interim National Council to lay the foundations for a government. Not all the members were named for security reasons.

The first Council had 32 members representing various regions and cities. Mustafa Abdul Jalil was elected Chairman. A judge from al Baida, he was Justice Minister under Gaddafi but resigned after the Benghazi uprising began. As Chairman of the Council, he had a price on his head believed to be 500,000 Libyan Dinars.

Dr. Mohammed Jebril el Warfally, and Ali Aziz el Esawi, the former Libyan ambassador to India and a sometime minister for the economy, trade and investment were made responsible for foreign affairs. Both these men would be ineligible for office if the new political isolation law is exercised without care.

Mohammed Jibril played a key role in the negotiations to achieve French support for military intervention on the side of the National Transition Council. It will be remembered that on 5th March 2011 President Sarkozy issued a press release, in which he welcomed the formation of the Interim National Council. This was the Council’s first sign of legitimacy. With Gaddafi’s heavily armed forces threatening Benghazi this news brought hope and a number of French flags sprouted around the besieged city. What Sarkosy now needed was the approval of President Obama and a mandate from the United Nations.

By the following Thursday, National Transition Councillor Mohammed Jebril was in Sarkozy’s office in the Elysee Palace and an agreement of considerable importance was reached. Sarkozy agreed to recognise the National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya. Sarkozy also agreed implement a ‘no fly zone’ and to bomb three key airfields in Libya, notably the one in the south used for receiving mercenaries from Chad and elsewhere.

US Secretary Hillary Clinton was in Paris at the time. Jebril later met her at her Paris hotel and persuaded her to back the National Transition Council.

On Thursday 17th March, resolution 1973 was put before the UN Security Council in New York, when France, Britain and the USA

were among the ten who voted in favour of the use of all necessary means to protect civilian lives in Libya.

Russia and China were amongst five nations which abstained. It was thus that the intervention of NATO in Libya’s civil war was assured. Qatar joined NATO on behalf of the Arab League. Jibril’s role in these negotiations is a matter of history and cannot be overlooked. Should Jebril be barred from public office?

THE PEOPLE FIGHT BACK

By Tuesday 7th May 2013 it became clear that Prime Minster Zedan had persuaded his defence minister to withdraw his resignation. This event seems to have given courage to those who supported the democratically elected government.(It was later to emerge that the Interior Minister had also resigned but D. Zedan has refused to accept it and, for a while, denied it in public.)

On Friday 10th May around 400 anti-Militia demonstrators gathered in Tripoli’s Algeria Square carrying placards in support of democratic government. There are some reports that a number of them were chanting slogans against, Sheik Hamid bin Kalifa al Thani the Emir of Qatar. This is disturbing as Qatar played an important part, alongside NATO, in the battle to depose Gaddafi.

The Islamic Wahabi sect is dominant in Qatar, as it is in her larger neighbour Saudi Arabia. It is possible that some Libyans believe that funds are being channelled from Qatar to the Salfists in Libya: social media sites have been full of such rumours for some time. The Qatar embassy in Tripoli was quick to state that there was no interference in Libyan affairs. It was my impression that an agreement had been reached between the Libyan government and Qatar that the latter would communicate with Libya via official channels.

It seems that 200 or so protesters left Algeria Square and began to march along the seafront road to the Foreign Ministry building. As they did so their numbers grew. From the testimony of one of the marchers it is clear that they were divided about the Political Isolation Law but united in their determination to see that democracy should not be high-jacked by armed militias. The angry and, by now, large crowd was successful in clearing the militia ‘guards’ from the Foreign Ministry and its grounds. The Ministry (and the Justice Ministry) is now back in business after a two-week siege.

QATAR WAS THE MAIN TARGET OF A DEMONSTRATION IN BENGHAZI. THE FLAG OF THE OLD SENUSSI EMIRATE OF CYRENIACA APPEARED ON THE STREETS.

On 10th May a demonstration outside the Tebesti Hotel in Benghazi was interesting because an effigy of Emir Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa al-Thani was burned. Benghazi is a troubled city where the US ambassador Stevens was killed in an attack on his consulate and over 20 senior military, air force and police officers have been killed. Many suspect the Salafist militia Ansar Sharia of complicity in these killings.

Rumours that Qatar may be funding Salafist have recently been circulating via social media. One hypothesis is that the Wahabi of Qatar and the Ansar Sharia militia of Derna both have Salafist leanings and there may be unofficial back channels between them.

One intriguing aspect of the Benghazi demonstration was the appearance of the black flag of the old Senussi Emirate of Cyrenaica, which was founded in 1949 during the British occupation of Eastern Libya. It has been adopted by the ‘Federalist’ movement, prominent in Eastern Libya, which looks for the reintroduction of the three provinces, Tripolitania, the Fezzan and Cyrenaica. That they may envisage a separate state of Cyrenaica in which most of Libya’s oil and water is found must have raised the anxiety level of the Zidan government. A parallel is found in the Scottish Nationalist Party which is endeavouring to gain independence for Scotland and sequestering the income from North Sea Oil.

The febrile situation in Benghazi was made worse by a large explosion in the car park of al Jalaa hospital on 13th May. Three were killed and many injured. This sparked a street protest blaming the Islamist Ansar Sharia of Derna and demanding more action by the army to restore a semblance of quiet. The interior Minister has been dispatched to Benghazi to lead an investigation and attempt to supply better security for the citizens.

LIBYAN CHIEF OF STAFF UNDER PRESSURE TO QUIT

Those of us who are anxious to see Libya succeed are also watching, with some trepidation, the plots and manoeuvres going on around the current leadership of the Libyan armed forces. Libya needs its army. The remote southern region has been declared a military zone and Chad and Niger have complained to the Libyan government about Islamic extremist gangs finding refuge there. At the moment the army is outgunned by the militias.

The General National Congress voted on 5th May to consider appointing a new Chief of Staff in a month’s time. According to GNC spokesman Omar Hemidan this was because of the poor performance in rebuilding the army by the current Chief of Staff, Major-General Yousef al-Mangoush.

The Libya Herald reports that ‘the Major General faces opposition from officers of the new national army, especially in Benghazi and other eastern regions. Though government officials continue to express confidence in al-Mangoush, a recent conference in al-Burayqah saw army officers, militia leaders and civilian leaders call for the chief-of-staff’s immediate dismissal and an investigation into missing funds issued to the Libyan Army’s General Staff. One of the groups represented at the conference was composed of current and former army officers who have organized under the name “Free Libyan Army Officers Assemblage.” The group has called for the elimination of the Libyan Army’s General Staff and its replacement with an ‘independent body of qualified personnel’.

Update 26th May 2013. The destabilisation of the Libyan military has repercussions. Without a strong and well organised army Libya’s remote southern regions are impossible to control. It has been suggested that Mokhtar ben  Mokhtar, the man thought to have been responsible for the attack on the BP facility in southern Algeria, has established a base in Libya from  whence he dispatched an attack Niger. Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou has claimed that that suicide bombers who carried out the two deadly attacks in the north of the country had come from Libya

THE PRESIDENT OF THE GENERAL NATIONAL CONGRESS MAY RESIGN (Update 22nd May 2013)

There are indications that the GNC President, Mohamed Magarief, may resign on 28th May. The Political Isolation Law would seem to bar him from holding high office as he was a Libyan ambassador to India during the Gaddafi regime. He broke with Gaddafi and joined the opposition in 1980.

Update 29th May 2013. Mohamed Magarief resigned as President of the GNC yesterday after an eloquent speech. It seems that he retains his seat in Congress and it will be interesting to see what becomes of him. He spent many years of his life in exile from Libya as an opponent of the Gaddafi regime.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

The Political Isolation Law has yet to be scrutinised by the legal arm of the GNC. It will be interesting to see how it emerges for final ratification.

The future of Major General Mangoush will be interesting. The Zedan government has expressed its support for him but he is perceived as being too slow to build up the army and absorb the armed militias into its fold. The development of the ‘Free Libyan Army Officers Assemblage’ needs watching.

Update 10t June 2013
A terrible incident in Benghazi when around 200 protesters were apparently fired upon by Libya Shield militia has resulted in at least 27 fatalities and the resignation of Major General Mangoush. His position as Chief of Staff has been less than secure of for some time. The Benghazi incident is complex and needs more attention so I have appended a link to the Libya Herald report for readers who wish to keep up to date.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/09/mangoush-resigns/

The drafting of a constitution for Libya will be difficult as the Salafist are ruthless and will try to insist on a theocratic government. Also Adel al Gharayani and his ‘Supreme Council of Libyan Revolutionaries’ may be emboldened to intervene and intimidate the GNC again. I take the liberty of adding this piece from The Libya Herald by Ahmed Elumami. dated Tripoli, 21 May 2013.

Finishing touches are being put to the draft law on the elections for the “Commission of 60” which will draw up the new constitution.  It should be ready for submission to Congress next week according to Constitution Election Committee member Wissam Suqair. The Committee was set up on 10 April under the chairmanship of Benghazi Congressman Suleiman Zubi andt given 45 days to submit its proposals to Congress. That gives it until Saturday.

According to Shaban Abu Seta, one of the three congressmen on the committee, the draft is ready but there are some details to be ironed out regarding seats allocations for women and other groups.

The Commission will be elected on the basis of 20 members each from Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan – Libya’s historic regions – and deliberately follows the structure of the Commission of 60 that drew up Libya’s 1951 independence constitution.

The emergence on the streets of Benghazi of Federalists and their black flag may be a flash in the pan but is none the less interesting. In this context it is important to read part of a report in Al Jazeera dated 8th May 2013:

‘The growing tension between the groups and the government has alarmed federalists and other factions in the east, prompting their leaders to unite to defend their territory from a similar assault. Representatives from these groups pledged on Saturday to revive the Cyrenaica Congress. Formed about a year ago to demand greater autonomy for the east, it sets out a manifesto for a federal Libya.

“We will not let Cyrenaica be ruled by the power of force,” said Ahmed Zubair al-Senussi, a distant relative of King Idris, who was deposed in a military coup led by Gaddafi in 1969.

Senussi will remain the symbolic head of the congress. In addition to selecting a head and combining military forces, the leaders moved to start a television channel for the region. The eastern congress agreed to start work on June 1, when it will hold its first assembly in the city of Al Baida. For about 10 years after Libya became an independent state in 1951, the country was run along federal lines with three regions. Power was devolved to Cyrenaica, to the southern province of Fezzan and to Tripolitania in the west.’
Update 9th June 2013
Reports of a very serious incident in Benghazi in the Libya Herald today will need further thought. It seems that the Libya Shield militia was involved in fighting with 200 or so protestors who may have had a number of federalists amongst them but there may have ben others involved.

See this report from Benghazi
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/09/benghazi-libya-shield-protests-at-least-27-dead/
….and these interesting pieces on the failure of the army to establish control over the militias;
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/world/africa/libyan-violence-threatens-to-undercut-power-of-militias.html?ref=opinion
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/opinion/libya-doesnt-need-more-militias.html?_r=0

The independence and integrity of the ‘High Committee to Implement the Criteria for Occupying Public Positions’ will be particularly interesting. The mistakes made in the Iraqi de Ba’athification Council are only too obvious in hindsight.

Read the ‘Political Isolation Law’ in full here:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/05/14/political-isolation-law-the-full-text/

Update 26th June 2013

Note – A new Congressional President elected……

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/25/nuri-ali-abu-sahmain-elected-congress-president/

Update 30th July 2013

This small piece in Al Jazeera sums up the situation in LIbya at the end of July.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/07/2013729163050948443.html

JOHN OAKES

For books by John Oakes see… (USA): http://www.amazon.com/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 ….. (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

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/