Berenice Stories

Short Stories by John Oakes

Posts Tagged ‘Colonel Hamid Buheir

BENGHAZI – THE BATTLEGROUND FOR DEMOCRACY IN LIBYA

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Late in November 2011, just after Gaddafi’s favourite son, Saif al Islam, had been captured trying to escape Libya and imprisoned in Zintan, I was allowed a four minute TV interview with George Alagaih on the BBC GMT program. As the interview was closing I attempted to persuade Mr Alagaih that Benghazi was likely to be a centre of unrest in future. I had, by this time, taken up my allotted four minutes and the producers instructed Mr. Alagaih to move on. He politely terminated the interview and I bolted from the studio. Since that interview a number of events have shown that there was some truth in my assertion.
The main obstacles to the rule of law in the city are the militias which were first raised to dislodge the Gaddafi regime but which have never been disbanded by a government which lacks a proper army and police force.

In December 2012 I attempted to summarise the reasons in this blog for the alarm I felt for the city in which I had lived and worked for so long as follows:
‘In Benghazi, Libya’s second city, senior police and military personnel are being summarily executed by persons unknown. The British Ambassador’s motorcade was attacked in broad daylight and 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.’

On 21st December 2012 I wrote this about a heroic attempt by the ordinary people in Benghazi to rid themselves of oppressive militias:
‘Following the ‘Save Benghazi’ rally on Friday 21st September hundreds of demonstrators arrived at the Salafist ‘Ansar Al-Sharia’ Militia headquarters on Nasr Square demanding the brigade leave immediately. Members of Ansar Al-Sharia who were acting as guards at Al-Jalaa hospital were also removed by protesters.

Around 80 or so protesters also took control of the headquarters of the Rafallah Al-Sahati brigade, located at a farm in Hawari district, some 15 kilometres from Benghazi’s city centre. The Ukba bin Nafi’a Brigade stronghold was also cleared of militiamen. Reports of injuries and probable fatalities during these clashes are yet to be verified. The Libyan police moved in quickly to occupy the bases.

Later, the Libyan National Army’s First Infantry brigade’s commander, Colonel Hamid Buheir has confirmed in Benghazi that the Ansar al Sharia militia has been disbanded. There are clearly militiamen still at large. The colonel was kidnapped by masked men from outside his house on Saturday morning. The Salafist kidnappers accused him of being a Kuffer and threatened his life. His kidnappers received a phone call from someone instructing them not to kill him. He was released by being thrown from a car on to a roundabout. It would be interesting to find out who made the telephone call. Five soldiers from Colonel Buheir’s First Infantry Brigade were found dead. They had been shot through the head with their arms tied behind their backs in the Hawiya district of Benghazi.

There are other significant questions which remain unanswered. How did the group who killed the US ambassador on 11th September know his travel plans? He was on a brief visit to Benghazi and his travel plans were said to be secret as was the location of the safe house in which he was to stay.

The Benghazi militias which are to be brought under formal military control appear to be the Rafallah Al-Sahati brigade, the Sidi Hussein Martyrs brigade, and the Abu Salim brigade. The Ansar Al-Sharia brigade has apparently agreed to disband. The Rafallah Al-Sahati Brigade is to be merged with the 17 February Brigade which has for some time submitted to government control as has the Libya Shield Brigade.’

A second attempt by citizens to rid Benghazi of overweening militias took place recently with disastrous results.This report dated 9th June 2013 appeared in the Libya Herald:
‘The Chief of Staff, Major-General Yousef Mangoush, has quit. He submitted in his resignation to Congress this afternoon (Sunday 9th June 2013) following yesterday’s bloody incident in Benghazi in which 31 people died in clashes between members of the First Brigade of the Libya Shield Forces (Deraa 1) and protestors who were demonstrating outside the brigade’s headquarters, demanding the force be disbanded……….Before resigning Mangoush put out a statement condemning what had happened and announced that the four Shield brigades in Benghazi would become army units.’

Following the dreadful killings the Libyan army’s Special Forces (the Saiqua Brigade) took control of the head quarters of the
First Battalion of the Libya Shield (Deraa 1). This seems to have been followed by armed attacks on military bases by assailants not yet identified. There are indications that a sabotage unit of Gaddfists may have been involved in the attacks. The situation is still confused.

In mid May 2013 Colonel Wanis Abu-Khamadah’s Thunderbolt Brigade shut down the Benghazi arms bazaar operating in the ‘Jinihin’ second hand market in Sidi Hussain. Not before time. Small arms were readily available and costing less and less as the market glutted.

Gaddafi’s appetite for arms was extraordinary and his arms depots have been systematically looted since his downfall. Libyan has become a major source of illegal arms exported eastwards into Egypt and Syria and south-westwards into the Sahel countries and Nigeria.

On 24th May Libyan Special Forces captured a truck attempting to leave Benghazi carrying of SAM – 7 heat seeking ground to air missiles. Gaddafi purchased some 20,000 SAM-7 of which it is estimated 14,000 were used. This leaves an estimated 6,000 still unaccounted for and causing some consternation as they are capable of bringing down civil airliners. There are plenty of customers for these lethal weapons in the Levant and the Sahel.

Update 18th June 2013
The government has to overcome this dreadful security problem. This may signal a start but time will tell

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/17/zeidan-promises-more-military-aid-for-benghazi/

Update 21st June 2013

This balanced and well written piece on Benghazi and Eastern Libya and the discussions which follow it are definitely worth reading.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/02/20132178950966868.html

Update 26th June 2013

Another senior officer killed in Benghazi – and the emergence of a new threat. More later…

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/26/another-senior-officer-murdered-in-benghazi/

Update 3rd July 2013

More violence in Benghazi
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/02/benghazi-security-patrol-targeted-by-car-bomb/

Update 5th July 2013

A prominent Federalist military leader shot and wounded in Benghazi:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/04/hamid-al-hassi-injured-in-benghazi-attack-two-companions-die/

Update 6th July 2013

A bomb blast in a shopping street and an attempt on the French Honorary Consuls life:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/05/benghazi-shoppers-may-have-had-lucky-escape/

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/05/french-consul-and-wife-survive-benghazi-gun-attack-unharmed/

Update 9th July 2013

Yet another ex Gaddafi colonel killed in Benghazi, this time with a car bomb.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/08/second-benghazi-booby-trap-car-killing-in-12-days/

Update 22nd July 2013

The killings go on. This time there appears to be a link with Derna:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/22/retired-colonel-assassinated-in-derna/

Update 24th July 2013

A number of police stations in Benghazi have suffered bomb attacks. Some are suggesting the bombings are connected to the difficult question of land ownership. Gaddafi summarily took land from rightful owners and gave it to his supporters. This land ownership problem will bedevil Libya for some time to come.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/24/fourth-bomb-attack-on-benghazi-police-station-three-injured/

Update 27th July 2013

Even more killings. Some are blaming the Moslem Brotherhood and Gaddafi Loyalists.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/27/two-more-assassinations-in-benghazi/

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/26/founder-of-17-february-coalition-assassinated-in-benghazi/

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/27/massive-jailbreak-near-benghazi-1200-convicts-on-the-run/

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/07/2013727185041190637.html

Update 29th July 2013

Two bombs detonated in Benghazi. This is turning very nasty and there does not seem to be a single reason for all the mayhem and carnage.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/28/dual-bombings-in-benghazi-confirmed/

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/07/201372961313382581.html

Update 31st July 2013

Another senior army officer killed in Benghazi

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/31/military-commander-killed-by-car-bomb-sons-survive/

Update 2nd August 2013
This piece in the libya Herald records the serious disagreement which has broken out between the Interior Minister and the security services in Benghazi. The latter have accused the former of being clinically dead or otherwise controlled by some force bent on taking over Libya!

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/08/02/tensions-between-security-forces-difference-of-opinions-on-benghazi-security/

Further to all the above there is stunning news that the CIA may have been smuggling arms from Libya to Syrian rebels before Ambassador Stevens was killed. If this is true it is explosive news and may cause a great deal of discord in the US. See this piece in the British Daily Telegraph for further details:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/10218288/CIA-running-arms-smuggling-team-in-Benghazi-when-consulate-was-attacked.html

Update 3rd August 2013

Yet another senior army officer killed in Benghazi with a car bomb.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/08/03/38686/

……..and 900 Special Forces have been sent to Benghazi to try to restore order:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/08/03/38686/

Update 4th August 2013

Libya’s Second Deputy Prime Minister Awad Barasi resigns, ostensibly because of the government’s failure to quell the violence i Benghazi. There is some speculation that he is playing the long game and intends to challenge Dr. Zedan for ge post of Prime Minister soon. He has connections with the Muslim Brotherhood.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/08/04/barasi-resigns-as-deputy-pm/

Perhaps the formation of an inner cabinet (see below) will speed up the government response to the awful killings in Benghazi and elsewhere. We will see.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/08/06/streamlined-cabinet-set-up-to-confront-security-crisis/

Update 7th August 2013

A very interesting development. The US has filed a murder charge against Ahmed Abu Khatala the leader of the Ansar Sharia militia – and believed to lead the Abu Obaida Bin Jarrah militia – for the murder of Ambassador Stevens. Mr. Khatala admits that he was in the US Consulate compound on the night Ambassador Stevens was killed but denies murder.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/08/07/americans-file-murder-charges-in-chris-stevens-killing/

Update 10th August 2013

This is the best study (by the Human Rights Watch) of the situation in Benghazi to date

http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/08/08/libya-wave-political-assassinations

Update 13th August 2013

Yet another attempted assassination. This time a special forces colonel survives a car bomb attack.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/08/13/special-forces-colonel-survives-assassination-attempt/

Update 26th August 2013

This suggests that arrests have been made and suspects are being sent to Tripoli:

http://www.libyaherald.com/libya-guide/

Update 27th August 2013

News of more arrests and of hospital A & E departments closing because of violence.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/08/26/three-more-terrorist-suspects-arrested-in-benghazi/

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/08/26/two-out-of-three-benghazi-hospital-ae-departments-shut-to-protest-violence/

LIBYA – WHAT IS GOING ON IN BENGHAZI? (UPDATED 29TH JUNE 2016)

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Muammar Gaddafi did not like Benghazi much. The city was ruled for some time by his henchwoman Huda Ben Amer. She had first come to his attention as he sat in his Tripoli bunker watching a TV relay of a public hanging in Benghazi. The victim was slow to die and thrashed about on the end of the rope, so she hurried his demise by hanging onto his legs. Gadaffi was impressed and appointed her mayor of Benghazi where seh was  called Huda the Executioner. She fled to Tripoli soon after the events that followed 17th February 2011 uprising and her villa in Benghazi has been razed to the ground.
This helps to explain, but does not excuse, the recent killing of 14 high ranking officers who served in Gadaffi’s military but changed sides and were deployed to Benghazi by the new Transitional Government. No one has been arrested for these assassinations. The view that the Libyan military should purge itself of the remnants of Gadaffi’s regime is not without adherents in Benghazi.
The most pressing of the many problems facing Libya’s new government is the large number of ant-Gaddafi militias which are still bearing arms. They have been particularly active in Benghazi which has been badly hit by violence. Amongst the organisations which have been attacked are the United Nations, the Red Cross, a convoy carrying the British Ambassador and the Tunisian Consulate.
Global attention has been focused on Benghazi since 11th September when the U.S. consulate was stormed. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens died of smoke inhalation while trapped alone inside the villa, and three other Americans were killed in the attack and during a rescue attempt that followed. The US has responded. US drones have been conducting reconnaissance missions over Benghazi, and a counter-terrorist unit has also been sent to Libya. Two American warships, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers the USS Laboon and the USS McFaul, have also been deployed off the Libyan coast. FBI agents are waiting to go to Benghazi to find out who killed Ambassador Stevens but appear to be stuck in Tripoli.
On 12th September, just hours after Ambassador Stevens was killed, the Libyan cabinet dismissed Wanis Sharif as Deputy Interior Minister with responsibility for the Eastern region. Also dismissed was Hussein Abu Humaida, the head of the Security Directorate in Benghazi. On 16th September Interior Minister, Fawzi Abdulal, appointed in their place veteran police chief Colonel Salah Al-Din Awad Doghman with the title of Assistant Undersecretary at the Interior Ministry with responsibility for eastern Libya. Libyan police in Benghazi have so far refused to serve under Colonel Doghman. He told Reuters “When you go to police headquarters, you will find there are no police. The people in charge are not at their desks. They have refused to let me take up my job.”
There has been a predicable response to the US reaction by the Libyan Salafist militia, Ansar al Sharia, which is thought to have been responsible for the deadly assault on the American consulate in Benghazi. An Ansar al Sharia spokesman has said that “If one U.S. soldier arrives, not for the purpose of defending the embassy, but to repeat what happened in Iraq or Afghanistan, be sure that all battalions in Libya and all Libyans will put aside all their differences and rally behind one goal of hitting America and Americans,”

At least Colonel Doghman seems determined to sort things out – when he gets some police officers to work for him. He told Reuters that ‘America, Libya, the world, should know that in this situation they should have the right person in place. Libyans should know that there is firm leadership. If there had been wise leadership, this attack could not have happened.’ We will see.

Added Friday 21st September …see ‘Save Benghazi’  http://www.facebook.com/BenghaziFriday

Later Friday 21st September… AP reports –(AP)- Around 30,000 Libyans marched through the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday in an unprecedented protest to demand the disbanding of powerful militias in the wake of last week’s attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans……..

Update – Saturday 22nd September…….a summary of Libya Herald, The Telegraph and Time reports;

Following the ‘Save Benghazi’ rally on Friday 21st September hundreds of demonstrators arrived at the Salafist ‘Ansar Al-Sharia’ Militia headquarters on Nasr square demanding the brigade leave immediately. Members of Ansar Al-Sharia who were acting as guards at Al-Jalaa hospital were also removed by protesters.

Around 80 or so protesters also took control of the headquarters of the Rafallah Al-Sahati brigade, located at a farm in Hawari district, some 15 kilometres from Benghazi’s city centre. The Ukba bin Nafi’a brigade stronghold was also cleared of militiamen.  Reports of injuries and probable fatalities during these clashes are yet to be verified. The Libyan police moved in quickly to occupy the bases.

The army Chief of Staff Yousef Mangoush, Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur and Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelal urged the protesters to remain calm. “I call for restraint on all sides, and I also call on the chief of staff to take all necessary measures to control the situation and secure the lives and safety of our citizens” said National Congress Speaker Mohammed Magarief.

Update 24rd September.  

The Libyan National Army’s First Infantry brigade’s commander, Colonel Hamid Buheir has confirmed in Benghazi that the Ansar al Sharia militia has been disbanded. There are clearly militiamen still at large. The colonel was kidnapped by masked men from outside his house on Saturday morning. The Salafist kidnappers accused him of being a Kuffer and threatened his life. His kidnappers received a phone call from someone instructing them not to kill him. He was released by being thrown from a car on to a roundabout. It would be interesting to find out who made the telephone call. Five soldiers from Colonel Buheir’s First Infantry Brigade were found dead. They had been shot through the head with their arms tied behind their backs in the Hawiya district of Benghazi.

There are other significant questions which remain unanswered. How did the group who killed the US ambassador on 11th September know his travel plans?  He was on a brief visit to Benghazi and his travel plans were said to be secret as was the location of the safe house in which he was to stay.

The Benghazi militias which are to brought under formal military control appear to be the Rafallah Al-Sahati brigade, the Sidi Hussein Martyrs brigade, and the Abu Salim brigade. The Ansar Al-Sharia brigade has apparently agreed to disband. The Rafallah Al-Sahati brigade is to be merged with the 17 February brigade which has for some time submitted to government control as has the Libya Shield brigade.

Updated 27th September 2012

According to the Libya Herald today the Human Rights Watch has called for a change to Libyan Law 38 of 2012 which grants immunity for any acts “made necessary by the 17 February revolution”. It also calls for the abolition of Article 2 of Law 38, which, it argues, legalises interrogations by armed militias and other bodies.

Update 27th September

An interesting time line from the Washington Post…..

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/from-video-to-terrorist-attack-a-definitive-timeline-of-administration-statements-on-the-libya-attack/2012/09/26/86105782-0826-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html

Update 28th September

Posts on my Facebook and reports from the Libya Herald are suggesting that the Congress for Benghazi has noted the progress made since last Friday in bringing the militias into the government fold and re-establishing the role of the National Army and police. The Congress has called for all revolutionaries to join the organs of the state or otherwise disband. Facebook posts, as far as I am able to translate them, suggest that ordinary citizens of Benghazi want a peaceful future without interference from militant militias or from the US or Europe. They clearly want to order their own lives and are aware that they fought for, and voted for, a democracy. However, a bomb exploded early yesterday outside the Security Directorate. There are rumours of another ‘Save Benghazi’ street demonstration today. There were 11 deaths after the clashes with militias last Friday.

Later from my Facebook;The statement issued by the organizers of Juma Save Benghazi 2012.09.21…..” we publish this statement …
To assure you that we have decided to postpone our demonstration … After the National Conference resolution. And members of the National Congress of Benghazi…. they promoted our demands … They pledged to implement them …”

Update 30th Seprember

This interesting background piece from the New York Times suggests that the CIA had a listening post in Bengahzi…

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/24/world/africa/attack-in-libya-was-major-blow-to-cia-efforts.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0

Update 5th November 2012

I missed this about the tribal leaders meeting in Benghazi in September 2012. It is hard to read but important.

http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/7514/libyan-eastern-tribal-chiefs-population-and-govern

Update 10th November 2012.

The Boston Herald carries an ATP reporrt about the US response to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. It makes a number of things clear and is worth reading;

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/national/general/view.bg?articleid=1061173593&srvc=rss

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 yestarady.

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

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/

Update 23rd November 2012

More on Benhgazi’s top policeman.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/11/23/new-benghazi-police-chief-appointed-just-hours-after-rejection-of-previous-nominee/

Update 10th December 2012

The long delay in finding the killers of Ambassador Stevens is making the US restive. See this in the Libya Herald:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/12/08/egyptians-arrest-suspected-terror-leader-in-connection-with-benghazi-consulate-attack/

Update 19th December 3012

This from Al Jazeera today sheds more light on the killing of Ambassador Stevens.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2012/12/2012121942621595392.html

and Libya’s new Minister of the Interior and Defence set out their priorities, putting the security situation in Benghazi first.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/12/17/ministers-of-interior-and-defence-set-forth-their-plans-for-libya/

Update 9th January 2012

An interesting piece – worth following up;

http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2013/01/02/feature-02

Update 19th January 2013

The continued killings in Benghazi has led to speculation that it might be declared a military zone;

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/19/benghazi-could-be-put-under-curfew-prime-minister-ali-zeidan/

Update 23rd January 2013

In which Mrs Clinton expresses her views before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the killing of Ambassador Stevens:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9821292/Hillary-Clinton-on-Benghazi-Arab-Spring-shattered-security-in-region.html

Update 25th January 2013

UK citizens are told to leave Benghazi immediately:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/24/quit-benghazi-advice-is-overreaction/

…and later

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/24/westerners-urged-to-leave-benghazi-over-imminent-terror-threat/

….and the killing continues

ttp://wwwh.libyaherald.com/2013/01/25/another-benghazi-assassination/

Update 29th June 2016

This in the British newspaper The Guardian tells us much about the response in the USA to the killing of Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/28/house-benghazi-report-clinton-attack-military