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Short Stories by John Oakes

Posts Tagged ‘Misurata

LIBYA – HAFTER HAS WEAPONISED THE TRIBES (FURTHER NOTES ON FIELD MARSHALL KHALIFA HAFTER’S STRATEGY DATED 19TH FEBURARY 2020)

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It is for others to write about the Tripoli government, the Government of National Accord (GNA) as it is known. For these notes it is sufficient to say that it has resorted to an alliance with Turkey’s President who has commenced the supply of military hardware, advice and numerous Syrian mercenaries which have strengthened the GNA’s militias defending Tripoli and Misurata against Hafter’s Libyan National Army (LNA).  

Negotiations between representatives of the GNA and the LNA are taking place – or were taking place until today – in Geneva to arrange a lasting cease fire. Hafter’s LNA has effective control over most of Libya barring Tripoli and Misurata. He is able to use his high-tech weapons to attack targets in Tripoli and has fired on shipping in Tripoli’s harbour and on its only functioning airport.

The diplomatic efforts to devise a sustainable political solution to Libya’s long and brutal civil war are troubled by the divergences within the EU and the Gulf Sates involved in a proxy war in Libya. The weapons embargo placed long ago on Libya is being systematically violated.

Hafter, when confronted with Turkey’s belligerent intervention, was, in my view forced to play the tribal card. Libya is almost totally dependant on the revenue it earns from its extensive oil fields. These fields and the oil terminals though which the stuff is exported are in remote parts of Libya. Most Libyans live in the coastal cities such as Tripoli, Benghazi, Misurata, Tobruk and Derna for example. It is notoriously difficult to get people to work in the remote oil installations. The quasi military force, the Petroleum Facilities Guard, which guards them draws its recruits largely from tribesmen in whose homeland the installations are situated. I have written at greater length about this here. In effect, Hafter has used the Petroleum Facilities Guard to shut down the majority of Libya’s oil industry at the instigation, it is said, of Libyan tribal leaders. Hafter has a strangle hold on the Government of National Accord in Tripoli. He has weaponised the Libyan tribes.

According to the Libya Herald: –

In its latest information bulletin on the oil blockade of ports and pipelines released yesterday, Libya’s state National Oil Corporation (NOC) confirmed a drop in production to the current level of 191,475 b/d, as of Wednesday February 12, 2020, with losses at US$ 1,380,468,480.’l

The threat of fuel and power shortages in Tripoli, Misurata and other major cities is acute.

As I write, sheiks and notables from Libya tribes are gathering in Tarhuna for a conference. It will be interesting to see which tribes attend and what resolutions emerge from their deliberations.

Written by johnoakes

February 19, 2020 at 2:06 pm

LIBYA – HAFTER PUSHES ELEMENTS OF HIS FORCES FROM SIRTE TO ABU GREIN SOME 120 KM SOUTH EAST OF MISURATA. (DATED 31ST JANUARY 2020 AND UPDATED 8TH FEBRUARY 2020)

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Hafter has pushed forward his Libya National Army defensive line to the westwards of Sirte. It has stopped at the town of Abu Grein and may consolidate there to protect the strategic city of Sirte and to threaten Misurata, Libya’s third largest city.

I do not remember Abu Grein though some years ago I drove from Tripoli to Benghazi along the old coastal road. I assume it offers Hafter a defensible position from whence he can screen Sirte and the Libya Oil Crescent. This map may be useful despite being somewhat over busy. It gives the overall picture of the current war some days ago.

I have been arguing in this blog for some time that Hafter is a canny general. He has experience of urban warfare. His battles for the eastern cities of Benghazi and Derna will have given his fighters plenty of bitter experience of the collateral damage urban warfare causes both to people and military reputations. He will not forget that the Misurata militias are battle hardened and from a substantial part of his enemy’s military assets.

I suspect he will slowly tighten his cordon around the Tripoli oasis and redouble his efforts to influence the proxy war now afoot in Libya.

He will see Turkey’s belligerent intervention as a propaganda windfall as well as a military hazard. The French and the Greeks have been making very strong protests about Ankara’s efforts to send regular Turkish Army personnel and to sponsor the movement of Syrian militias into Misurata and Tripoli. The French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle is on station in the Eastern Mediterranian as a sign of President Macron’s unease.

As far as I can ascertain these are the Syrian militias preparing to go to – or are already in – Misurata. (I would welcome some information about them and their capabilities from anyone with the expertise in the subject of Syrian militias. In the meantime this appears to be the man behind the source. You will make your own assesment of its reliability. ) They are believed to be the al-Mu’tasim Brigade, Sultan Murad. Brigade, Northern Falcons Brigade, Hamzat, Legion of Levant, Suleiman Shah, Samarkand Brigade and the Euphrates Shield. I may have missed some but there are said to be 1,700 militiamen preparing to move or have already been deployed to Libya.

There is a good piece on the mercenary groups operating in Libya here. This piece about the Russian Wagner group fighting with Hafter’s LNA is interesting.

I suggest that Ankara’s belligerence has played into Hafter’s hands. Libya was an Ottoman province of importance. Hafter’s propaganda machine will not hesitate to put much emphasis on what he will suggest is the Turkish president Erdogan’s effort to re-establish Turkish colonial power in Libya.

Both sides in the Libya proxy war and both sides on the ground in Libya are engaged in an intense diplomatic campaign and a fierce propaganda war. Hafter will aim to influence civilians in Misrata and Tripoli to support him or at least oppose his enemies. His intelligence and propaganda assets are likely be in contact with people within Tripoli and Misurata. This paper by Nathaniel Greenburg gives some detailed and interesting background about the role of propaganda in Libya.

I suggest that Hafter will be intensifying his efforts to influence and spread discord amongst his opponents and to gain favour amongst the citizens of Tripoli and Misurata.

LIBYAN OIL PORTS CLOSED BY TRIBES SUPPORTING HAFTER AND THE LNA. (19TH JANUARY 2020)

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Today the international effort to bring peace to Libya is focussed on the conference in Berlin attended by Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Johnson,and President Macron as well as heads of sate, ministers and diplomats from Italy, Turkey, USA and Russia amongst others. Field Marshall Khalifa Hafter who commands the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Head of the Govenment of National Accord (GNA), are, of course, attending.

It is the primary purpose of the conference to establish an agreement between the GNA and Hafter. Other observers – with better insights and sources than I have – will be commenting on the conference and its outcome.

There are corroborated reports from Egytian and Libyan sources that the eastern oil ports have been closed by tribes in support of Hafter. They are said to oppose the arrival of Turkish sponsored mercenaries from Syria to strengthen the GNA which is defending Tripoli and Misurata against Hafter’s LNA which now surrounds them.

It is noted that Hafter’s LNA holds Eastern and Southern Libya and thus the important oil fields and the oil ports around the Gulf of Sirte and the oil port near the Eastern city of Tobruk.

Libya’s oil revenue is paid to the Libyan National Oil Company which is based in Tripoli and which has hitherto remained relatively neutral despite the schisms caused by the long years of armed strife in Libya. Hafter, it should be noted, has de facto control over most of Libya’s oil fields and the means of shipping their output but is unable to sell the oil. He has only once attempted to interfear with this. (There was an attempt to control the oil ports by an adventurer called Jhadran. Hafter effectivel removed Jhadran with the assistance of local tribes which exert some influence over the so callled ‘oil crescent’ of which more annon)

Turkey’s belligerent attempt to send troops – or Turkish sponsored militias – to the assistance of Hafter’s enemies has clearly had the effect of uniting powerful Libyan tribes against what they percieve as an attempt to revive Ottoman rule in Libya. It is noted that the tribes likely to be involved in the closure of the oil ports are the amongst those which cooperated with the Libyan resistance hero Omar Mukhtar in a long rebellion against the Italian occupation of Libya which followed the removal of the Turks in 1911. These tribes will be profoundly opposed to the percieved attempt by Turkey to renew ‘colonial’ ambitions.

These are the tribes in whose homeland the eastern oil ports are found. The al – Magharba tribe in which are the Ras Lanuf, the Marsa Brega and the al-Zuetina terminal and the al-Abaidat in which the Tobruk oil terminal is situated. The Zawia (known locallly as the Sway) tribe holds sway over the oil fields and much of the pipelines. (N.B. Spelling of Libyan tribal names vary – these are mine and follow E.E. Evans-Prtichard)

These tribes are amongst the so called Saadi tribes which are highly respected and influential. However, they would need encouragemet to act togther. The possibility that Hafter has been able to coordinate their actions – or at least encourage them to do so – is strong. It will not have escaped the notice of the more diligent diplomats that Hafter’s highly respected tribe, the Farjan, lives amongst the al-Magharba and the Awaqir tribes in the area stretching from near Sirte in the west to Bengahzi in the east. It makes a powerful statement of intent which those gatherd in Germany today might be wise to note.

It is significant that the Libyan National Oil Company has stated: –

“The blockade instructions were given by Maj Gen Nagi al-Maghrabi, the commander of Petroleum Facilities Group appointed by the Libyan National Army, and Col Ali al-Jilani from the LNA’s Greater Sirte Operations Room,”

Major General Nagi al-Maghrabi is a member of the Maghrabi tribe mentioned above. The Petroleum Facilites Group is a paramilitary force which guards the Libyan oil assets such as the oil ports around the Gulf of Sirte known as the ‘Oil Crescent’. They are in the homeland of the al-Magharba tribe and the guards are recruited locally. The oil ports can only have been taken over with their cooperation, or by the ‘tribesmen’ of the Patroleum Facilities Group.

At 15:45 UK time it was reported that tribes in Libya’s south west have occupied the Murzuk oil fields effectivley closing down the whole of Libya’s oil exports. The tribes are said to be acting against the percieved attempt by Turkey to interfear in Libya.

LIBYA – HAFTAR HAS TAKEN SIRTE AND IS THREATENING MISURATA. (A WORK IN PROGRESS UPDATED 17TH JANUARY 2020)

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Turkey has become belligerent and is attempting to gain a foothold in Libya. The Turkish parliament recently voted to send troops to aid the Libya ‘Government of National Accord’ (GNA) whose militias are under attack on the outskirts of Tripoli by the Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Field Marshall Khalifa Hafter. Some Turkish units have already been positioned in Tripoli and have, so far, opened an operations room from which they are helping to the GNA’s attempts to defend itself from Haftar’s forces. Turkish drones are being used in the defence of Tripoli and are likely ‘flown’ by Turkish ‘pilots’.

Turkey has been roundly condemned for this aggressive move by Egypt, Algeria and the African Union. Algeria has stated that it will not stand by and allow Turkish interference in Libya and Tunisia has stated that it will not offer Turkey bases from which to launch attacks on Libya. The African Union, which has also condemned the Turks, is anxious about the effect of its interference in Libya on the Sahel states which are not stable. Turkey has already severely antagonised Greece and Cyprus. It is disputing the sovereignty of some of the Greek islands and its invasion of Cyprus in the 1970 has left part of that island under Turkish control.

There are strange but uncorroborated reports such as this. Syrian militias are being offered Turkish citizenship and big money to fight in Libya. This appeared in a Libyan source recently; Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Research Fellow at the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, stated that “sources inside the Turkish-backed Syrian factions tell me that in exchange for fighting in Libya, fighters are being promised Turkish citizenship after 6 months of deployment.” (Note dated 15th January 2020; An article dated 15th January 2020 in the British broadsheet, the Guardian, coroborates and expands on this report.)

The GNA was, until Monday 6th January, in effective possession of Tripoli, Libya’s capital, its third largest city, Misurata,which lies 211 Km east of Tripoli and Sirte, Gaddafi’s birthplace on the Gulf of Sirte some 271 Km south east of Misurata. Much of the armaments, including drones, which Turkey has sent to aid the GNA have been shipped into Libya via Misurata’s port. The Misurata’s ‘Flying School’ has been used as a base for the GNA’s air force.

Haftar, from his headquarters in Benghazi, has reacted decisively to the Turkish threat. His forces hold sway over Eastern Libya, including the so-called oil crescent around the Gulf of Sirte and in Sothern Libya once known as the Fezzan. On Monday 6th January units of his LNA marched into Sirte virtually unopposed. The GNA’s militias hitherto in possession of the city retreated towards Misurata.

I suggest that Hafter’s forces will now move on Misurata as rapidly as possible to at least threaten and at best take possession of the city and its port before the Turks are able to get enough boots on the ground. To this end Haftar’s forces have announced the expansion of the war zone near Misurata and declared a no-fly zone which extends over the Tripoli. The no-fly zone comes into effect at 21:00 local time on 9th January. It includes Tripoli’s Mitiga airport and civil airlines are warned that their aircraft risk destruction if they attempt to ignore the no-fly zone.  

However, the Misurata militias are battle hardened and aggressive and I suspect Hafter may hope that the Turks will be discouraged by international condemnation from committing a large expeditionary force in Libya. Much will depend on the attitude adopted by the Misurata militias in the face of a potential large-scale Turkish intervention. Haftar has called for a ‘jihad’ against the Turks and there will be lingering resentment amongst many in Misurata about Turkey’s history in Libya.

Libya was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1551 to 1911 when Italians invaded and took possession. The main value of Libya to the Ottoman Turks was the slave trade via the slaving routes from sub-Saharan Africa to Tripoli and Benghazi. Also, Ottoman Tripoli was one of the principle ports of the notorious Barbary Corsairs. There was a period of ‘home rule’ in Libya under the Karamanli dynasty between 1711 and 1835. The Karamanlis were a family of Turkish cavalry officers who had married Libyan women and ceased power from the Ottoman Pasha of Tripoli in a brutal coup. It was during the Karamanli regime that Libya and the newly formed United States of America were briefly at war.

We do not have to look far for a principle reason for Turkey’s interest in establishing itself in Libya. The eastern Mediterranean is harbouring substantial natural gas reserves. They will be difficult to exploit for physical reasons. The most pressing difficulty is that to monetarise them a number of national interests have to be bought into agreement. Countries laying claim to a share of the reserves are Greece, Cyprus, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Libya. Turkey has no claim having no continental shelf falling within the undersea gas fields. It is noted that Turkey took a part of eastern Cyprus by forces in the 1970’s but its claim over what is called Turkish Cyprus is recognised only by itself. Some background on this problem can be found here.

Turkey has recently signed a treaty with the GNA in Libya which allows it some leverage in Libya’s claim to part of the eastern Mediterranean gas reserves. This is antagonising the other claimants considerably. Should Turkey consolidate its hold over the Libyan GNA it will, because of Libya’s strategic position in the Mediterranean, gain a whip hand in the exploitation of the eastern Mediterranean gas reserves. It is as well to remember that Turkey is now heavily dependent on Russian natural gas delivered through the TurkStream pipeline laid below the Black Sea and opened for business a few days ago. It should also be noted that TurkStream will be extended to carry Russian natural gas to European countries in the near future.

Turkey’s motivation for sending troops to Libya and the consternation it causes is probably best understood in terms of access to energy supplies.

HAFTER WENT TO MOSCOW TO SIGN A PEACE TREATY WITH THE TRIPOLI GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL ACCORD (UPDATE 14TH JANUARY 2020)

President Putin has perusaded Fied Marshall Khalifa Hafter to sign a cease fire in LIbya and agree to travel to Moscow and possibly sign a peace treaty with the Goverment of National Accoyd, his opponent in Tripoli. I have followed the progress of Hafter for some time and porpose to draw on the insights I have gained tio suggest why he has decided that the time is ripe to bring the fighting to an end and commence negotiations leading to a possible settlement in Libya.

Firstly, he would not have agreed to go to Moscow if he was not in a postions to negotiate from strength. His forces have recently taken the startegically important city of Sirte and he has been strong enough to declare a no-fly zone over Tripoli.

However, he may reason that he has reached a point where the risk inherent in futrher military action may be too great. That is, he may have calculated that taking Misurata and Tripoli would be costly militarly, politically and internationally.

He has been recruiting Sudanese militias from Drafur which may show that he is finding it difficult to recruit and train sufficient troops to keep his widly dispersed territory and its diverse population under his control and, at the same time, fight a costly and prologed urban battle which he would face had he continued his advance on Misurata and Tripoli. His battle to expel radical Islamist militias from Benghazi was prolonged and dirty. He may have calculated that the fanaticism and experience of some of the militias which oppose him would have caused long and politically costly delays.

In political terms he may calculate that the viscious and costly nature of urban warfare would arouse too much anti-war sentiments in the capital city and would alienate too many of the passive population against him.

He may recognise that there are traits in his personality and incedents in his history which do not make him potentially popular. His dual Libyan-US citizenship does not sit well with some factions in Libya. His notable ability to raise an army and to wield it well may not transfer into politcal sucsess.

Internationally he has been successful in gaining support from, amongst others Egypt, France, UAE and Russia and the tacit support of his sothern neighbours such as Chad and Niger. At one time Presidneyt Trump voiced his support but his somewhat bellicose remarks were modified by more balanced and statsmanlike communiques later. The USA is seruously concerend about the presence of IS and al Qaeda in Libya and suspect that they have enthusiastic allies in some of the militias supporting the Government of National Acciord in Tripoli.

Recently and in response to Turkey’s proposed military support for the Tripoli GNS Algeria made it clear that it would not tolerate foriegn intervention in Libya and the Afrcan Union was clearly opposed to Turkey’s beligerent threats. Italy, at one time a potential ally of Turkey against Hafter, is somewhat restrained by indecision right now.

I suggest that Turkey’s belligerence when it proclaimed its intention to send troops to aid Hafter’s enemies has caused consternation. It was clear that Egypt would not tolerate this and it demostrated its oppostion with naval ecercises in or near Libya territorial waters.

Persident Putin, ever the opportunist, was in comunication with the Turkish president Erdogen during the events around the opening of the TurkStream pipeline supplying Russian natural gas to Turkey. The influence he thus secured was sufficient to discourage Turkey’s beligerence and broker a cease fire between Tripoli and Hafter which appears to be holding resonably well so far.

The desperately dangerous sutuation in Iran will have concentrated minds in favour of avoiding all-out urban war in Tripoli and Misurata.

HAFTER REFUSES TO SIGN THE PEACE TREATY (FURTHER UPDATE 14TH JANUARY 2020)

Hafter has declined to sign the peace treaty proposed by presidents Putin and Erdogen and is believed to have left Moscow. It appears that the treaty did not allow for a satisfactory time table for disbanding the Tripoli militias. Hafter is of the opinion that they are dangerous.

He must be suffciently confident that he will be supported by Egypt and the UAE should Erdogen attempt to send troops to aid the Government of National Accord. Erodogen is now making belllicose threats about punishing Hafter.

WHY DID HAFTER REFUSE TO SIGN THE TREATY? (UPDATE 16TH JANUARY 2020)

There is some speculation about why Hafter risked refusing to sign the Putin/Erdogen treaty between him and the Tripoli Government of National Accord. A sometime British ambassador to Libya apparently suggests that Hafter is confident that his allies, Egypt, the UAE and others, will come to his aid should Erdogen commit Turkish or Turkish sponsored troops to join the Tripli militias.

Hafter has long held, and expressed, the view that the Tripoli militias are corrupt and contain too many militant Islamists. It has been one of his principle aims to defeat them and establish an independent police force and judiciary. He would not abandon that view or that plan easily. He can be somewhat volatile but he would not, in my view, abandon one of his principle objectives and Putin and Erdogen must have been ill advised to try to persuade him to do so.

There is another speculative hypothosis doing the rounds. It suggetst that he may have concluded also that Erdogen and Putin had privatley cooked up a plan to remove him from the field in their own interests. There is no eveidence to suport this.

Their is also the view in some quartes that should the Turks send a large body of troops to Libya public opinion would turn in Hafter’s favour. The history of Ottoman rule (see above) is not viewd with favour in modern Libya, a country which has not long, in the scheme of things, been independent.

Hafter can be volatile and he may have been angry enough by the lack of a commitment to stand down the Tripoli militias to put his long planned and carefully exicted plan in peril. I suggest he may believe he has sufficient strength and outside support to win the battle for Tripoli. If not, the outcome is likely to be a catastrophy for Libya.

HAFTER AGREES TO ATTEND A MEETING IN BERLIN ON SUNDAY 19TH JANUARY WITH MACRON, MERKLE AND HIGH STATUS REPRESENTATIVES FROM TURKEY, RUSSIA, US, UK, CHINA ANS ITALY. (UPDATED 17TH JANUARY 2020)

On 16th June Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, arrived in Bengahzi to invite Hafter to a summit meeting in Berlin at which he will make his expectations clear about a possible peace treaty between him and the Tripoli Goverenmant of National Accord.

It is clear that he cannot refuse to attend but he will expect a better informed and more balanced reception of his case than was possible when he met Erdogen and Putin in Moscow. He may well have felt that Erdogen in particular and Putin attempted to railroad him into signing a peace treaty which had been toheavily biased in favoutr of the Tripoil GNA.

Erdogen was said to have displayed anger in no uncertain terms after the Moscow peace intiative failed and has since upset a number of governments by continuing to send Turkish or Turkish sponsered troops to Libya. The US State Department has just expessed its alarm by calling for the removal of all mercenaries from Libya.

In the meantime consultations are taking place with the Algerian government and, no doubt, with Egypt. Both countries have been critical of Turkey’s belligerent intervention in Libya.

LIBYA – EQUATING BLACKS WITH MERCENARIES?

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One of the many problems the Libyan government is grappling with today is the illegal detention of people accused of being Gaddafi’s mercenaries during the recent civil war. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch, stated on 5th February 2013; ‘The [Libyan] government acknowledges that about 8,000 people are being detained across Libya, but only about 5,600 of these are in facilities controlled to some degree by the military or the Interior and Justice ministries.’
According to Libya’s Law 38 of 2nd May 2012 the Interior and Defence Ministries were required to refer all supporters of the former regime currently detained by militia, if there is sufficient evidence against them, to the judicial authorities by 12th July 2012. However, some authorities, including Lawyers for Justice in Libya, believe that Law 38 gives impunity for actions performed in the name of the revolution, stating as it does that there shall be no penalty for ‘military, security, or civil actions dictated by the February 17 Revolution that were performed by revolutionaries with the goal of promoting or protecting the revolution.’ It may be that militiamen accused in future of detaining and torturing suspects without due process of law will be able to escape sanction because of this ambiguity.
The deadline was far from being met when, on 14th July, Sarah Lea Whitson, the Middle Eastern and North African director of Human Rights Watch stated; ‘Across Libya, thousands of detainees still languish in prisons, without formal charge and without prospect of legal review. Despite months of cajoling the militias the transitional authorities missed the deadline and failed to gain control over approximately 5,000 people still held arbitrarily by armed groups, some subject to severe torture,’
Most detainees are Gaddafi security force members, former government officials, suspected foreign mercenaries or migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. There is growing evidence that militias are equating blacks with mercenaries. The Human Rights Watch has often warned about the maltreatment and torture of detainees held in militia detention centres. Many countries, with Chad at the top of the list, have denounced the treatment of their migrants in post Gaddafi Libya and it is clear that regional and diplomatic tensions will be heightened if the appeals are not heeded by the Libya government.
The Libya Herald reported on 5th February 2013 that some positive news came from the Libyan Minister of Justice, Salah Marghani, in a written note in which he states; “The Ministry has embarked on a policy that includes taking the necessary measures to end all violations and bring detention places under actual and full control of the judicial police.” The minister also made it clear that detention centres outside the control of the ministry of Justice would be criminalised.
It appears that the al-Roame facility for more than 2,000 prisoners in Misurata, which is to be under the aegis of the judicial police, will take control of all detainees in the city by mid May 2013 and this ‘model’ would be replicated elsewhere. To help, 24 prosecutors are being transferred from Eastern Libya to Misurata and thousands of new recruits to the police are being trained to control ‘judicial facilities’. Not before time it would seem and it is hoped that matters have improved since January 2012 when Médecins Sans Frontières stopped its work in detention centres in Misurata because its medical staff were being asked to patch up detainees midway through torture sessions so they could go back for more abuse.
The militias appear to be using the prisoners to revenge themselves against those who fought for Muammar Gaddafi and also as bargaining chips in the struggle for local and national power in Libya. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that some racial prejudice is involved which may have its roots in the slave trade, still active in some parts of Libya in the early part of the 20th century.
The case of Tawergha illustrates the point. In August of 2011, Misuratan militias broke out of the brutal siege of their city by Colonel Gaddafi’s forces and attacked their neighbours in Tawergha on whom the late dictator had once lavished money and favour. Accused of crimes against Misuratan civilians during the siege, all 35,000 or so residents of Tawergha fled and their town was systematically looted and destroyed by vengeful Misuratans. (Gadaffi’s forces had laagered in Tawergha whilst conducting the siege of Misurata and some of the young men of the town joined them in the fighting. Accusations of rape have been levied at them, though not yet substantiated.)
Tawergha, a town 38 kilometres or so south of Misurata, and now deserted by its inhabitants, was mostly populated with black Libyans, a legacy of its 19th-century origins as a transit town in the trans-Saharan slave trade. Now, on the gates of many their deserted and vandalized homes Misuratans have scrawled the words “slaves” and “negroes.”
Temporary sites for displaced Tawerghans have grown up and still remain in Libya. The UNHCR reports that some 20,000 of them have been registered in sites in Tripoli, Benghazi, Tarhouna and other smaller towns across the country. Another 7,000 or so were discovered in the south, near the town of Sebha. There must be some who remain unaccounted for – either staying with relatives or friends or hiding in the desert, afraid to emerge.
The UN Human Rights Council on Libya has complained that Tawerghans have been killed, arrested arbitrarily and tortured across the country. ,

JOHN OAKES
http://www.amazon.com/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

LIBYA – THE ZAWIYA TRIBE. (A fifth in the Libyan Tribes series) UPDATED 14TH FEBRUARY 2013

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The Zawiya tribe wields considerable clout in modern Libya because of the vast size and strategic importance of its homeland in the old eastern province of Cyrenaica. From Ajadabia its members are spread out across vast interior regions around major oil deposits and water sources. They also command the trade, legal and illegal, that passes through the Kufra oasis archipelago and along the only tarmac road from thence to Jalo in the north.
Desert traders and nomadic pastoralists the Zawiya conquered Kufra in 1840 subduing the indigenous Tebu which, at some time in antiquity, maintained a notable presence there. The remnants of their dwellings and forts are still visible. Since that time the Zawiya tribe has owned most of the date palm groves of the Kufra oases, employing the Tebu as labourers and extending its trading route into the Wadai, now part of Chad. It is said that Kufra under their rule was the most noted centre of brigandage in the Sahara. Plus ça change – plus c’est la même chose.
The Zawiya leadership promised the Grand Senussi, Mohamed Ben Ali as-Senussi, a liberal donation of dates and water if he would establish a religious community there. This he did and the Senussi order eventually moved its headquarters to Kufra from whence it exercised its moral and temporal suasion and commercial competence over the hitherto predatory Zawiya, establishing a profitable trade in slaves and arms between the south and the north until the Italians drove it out in 1931.
A minority of the inhabitants of modern Kufra are the descendents of the Senussi religious community known as the Ekwan who align themselves with the Zawiya. The Tebu have long been marginalised and since the fall of Gaddafi have acquired arms and become belligerent. Kufra is now a problem for the new Libyan government which has recently declared the south of Libya a military zone.
Libya is a huge country. The very size of it alone would make it difficult to govern but the nature of the terrain adds immeasurably to the problem. The remoteness of Kufra, one of a number of oases deep in Libya, is profound. It is largely protected by the Ribiana Sand Sea to its north-west and the Kalansho Sand Sea to its north-east. The road from Benghazi, the old slave trade route, passes the oases of Tazerbo and Zighen and then the gap in the sand seas to Kufra proper.
In 1941, the famous desert explorer and soldier, Colonel R.A. Bagnold, described the oasis complex thus: “Imagine northern Europe as a rainless desert of sand and rock, with London as Tag (the site of the fort in Kufra), a little area a few miles across, with shallow artesian well water, palm groves, villages and salt lakes, and with a population of 4,000. The suburb of Tazerbo with another 1,000 inhabitants is north-west where Liverpool is. Zighen would be near Derby, and Rebiana near Bristol cut off by a sea of dunes. Cairo would be at Copenhagen, across a sand sea. Wadi Halfar (on the Nile) would be near Munich, with waterless desert in between.”
The dilution of traditional tribal ties, caused by urbanisation in the coastal towns of Benghazi and Ajadabia, has not occurred in the proudly isolated Kurfa. There, the hostility between the black Tebu people and the white Zawiya tribe has long been endemic. Recently it has escalated into open warfare, largely because Tebu migrants have flocked to Kufra from their homeland in the Tebesti mountain region of Chad. They are seen as inferiors and foreigners by the Zawiya majority who’s social, political and economic dominance they threaten.
On the 23rd of February 2012, the Jamestown Foundation published its report entitled “The Battle for Kufra Oasis and the On-going War in Libya”. It states, in part: “An escalating tribal conflict in the strategic Kufra Oasis has revealed once more that Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) is incapable of restoring order in a nation where political and tribal violence flares up on a regular basis, fuelled by a wave of weapons liberated from Qaddafi’s armoires. Though this is hardly the first clash between the African Tebu and the Arab Zawiya tribe that took control of the oasis from the Tebu in 1840, it is certainly the first to be fought with heavy weapons such as RPGs and anti-aircraft guns, an innovation that is reflected in the various estimates of heavy casualties in the fighting. Fighting began on February 12 and has continued to the present [22nd February]. Well over 100 people have been killed in less than two weeks; with many hundreds more wounded.”

OIL AND WATER
There are two other reasons why the Zawiya is important in Libya today. The first has to do with water. From 1,116 wells which tap into the ancient Nubian Sandstone Aquifer system below the Sahara a network of pre-stressed concrete pipes, known as the ‘Great Man Made River’, brings the pure ‘fossil’ water to the Libyan coastal cities of Tripoli, Misurata, Sirte and Benghazi for irrigation, industry and domestic use. Much of the water comes from the 126 wells in the Sarir field, 108 wells in the Tazerbo field and the 300 wells in the Kufra field, all in the homeland of the Zawiya tribe. The potential threat to the government of Libya should the Zawaya tribe sabotage the power supply to the wells and pumping stations is patiently obvious.
The second reason for taking note of the Zawiya tribe is oil. The Sarir oilfield, which falls squarely within Zawaya tribal land, is one of the biggest in Libya and produces around 11% of its total output of crude oil. It flows through a 400 km pipeline to an oil terminal at Marsa Hariga near Tobruk on the Mediterranean coast of Libya. The Zawiya tribal leader, Sheik Faraj al Zwai, has been known to threaten to interrupt oil exports from the Sarir field and some believe he may have threatened the other major Arabian Gulf Company fields of Messla and Nafoora-Aquila. Taken together the capacity of these three fields is believed to amount to over 1 million barrels per day or around two thirds of Libya’s output.

TRIBAL VALUES
At the time of writing sectarian violence has broken out yet again in Belfast, a part of the United Kingdom. The lesson is that tribal values that are seen as anachronistic are still unresolved in Belfast, as they are in Kufra.
A few words about the Zawiya might be helpful. Its tribal homeland coincides in the northwest with that of the al Magharba tribe which occupies a swath of the shore and hinterland of the Gulf of Sidra, including some of the important oil ports such as Marsa Brega. The Magharba also has holdings in the oasis town of Jalo which it shares with the Awajila tribe and the Zawiya. The al Magharba is one of nine Sa’adi tribes of Eastern Libya which trace their ancestry to the true Arab Bedouin tribes from the Nejd which migrated belligerently into Libya in 1050, pushing the indigenous Berbers into the Jebel Nefusa. The Sa’adi tribes, therefore, own their homeland by right of conquest. Their people are ‘Hurr’ or free.
The Zawiay’s neighbours to the north east are the Fawaqiur, a landlocked client tribe with ties to the Awaqiur tribe around Benghazi. Like the Zawiya the Fawaqiur is a client tribe or ‘Marabtin al sadqan’. Theoretically both these tribes occupy their homeland in return for ‘sadaqa’. Sadaqa is a fee payable to a free tribe for using its earth and water and for its protection. In effect the Zawiya no longer pay the fee but the relationship between it and the Magharba still retains remnants of class distinction.
The Libyan civil war left the Sothern borders with Egypt, Darfur and Chad undefended. Arms from Gaddafi’s looted armoires have been smuggled across the boarder and have done much to destabilise regimes in the Sahel. The new Libyan government has declared Sothern Libya a military zone and intends to restore a semblance of order there. Its relations with the Zawiya will be of some importance.

Update 8th January 2013
The trial of a member of the Zawiya tribe has recently commenced in Tripoli and will be worthy of attention in the future.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/07/court-cases-adjourned/

Update 9th January 2013
Inter-tribal killing still!
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/08/new-fatal-clashes-in-kufra/

Update 11th January 2013

A member of the Zawiya appointed Deputy Minister of the Interior:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/11/new-deputy-ministers-appointed/

Update 14th February 2013

News of efforts to reconcile the Zawiya and the Tebu in Kufra. The mutual attachment to the Senussi sect is invoked:

http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2013/02/12/feature-02

MISURATANS AND THE BLACK TRIBE OF TAWERGHA. (A fourth in the Libyan Tribes series).UPDATE 27th January 2018

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(News from Libya today, 27th January 2018, states that ‘trucks and diggers have begun clearing the roads leading to and inside the town of Tawergha in preparation for the long awaited return of locals on the 1 February.’)

In Libya today Tawergha is a ghost town 38 kilometres from Misurata on the road to Sirte. In August of 2011, Misuratan militias broke out of the brutal siege of their city by Colonel Gaddafi’s forces and attacked their neighbours in Tawergha on whom the late dictator had once lavished money and favour. Accused of crimes against Misuratan civilians during the siege, all 35,000 or so residents of Tawergha fled and their town was systematically looted and destroyed by vengeful Misuratans. (Gadaffi’s forces had laagered in Tawergha whilst conducting the siege of Misurata and some of the young men of the town joined them in the fighting. Accusations of rape have been levied at them, though not yet substantiated.)

Tawergha was mostly populated with black Libyans, a legacy of its 19th-century origins as a transit town in the trans-Saharan slave trade. Now, on the gates of many their deserted and vandalized homes Misuratans have scrawled the words “slaves” and “negroes.” (John Wright in his book, The Trans Saharan Slave Trade, suggests that Misurata may have survived as a quiet, unmolested, slaving centre until the very end of the 19th century, though how the descendents of slaves came to form a community 38 kilometers southeast of Misurata and survive as a clan or tribe for so many years is a mystery.)

There are disturbing allegations circulating in the media. For example, Sam Dagher of the Wall Street Journal reported on 18th September 2011 that Mahmoud Jibril, the Libyan National Transitional Council Prime Minister, made this statement at a public meeting at the Misurata town hall: “Regarding Tawergha, my own viewpoint is that nobody has the right to interfere in this matter except the people of Misurata.”…..“This matter can’t be tackled through theories and textbook examples of national reconciliation like those in South Africa, Ireland and Eastern Europe.” Sam Dagher himself witnessed the burning of more than a dozen homes in the town.

Temporary sites for displaced Tawergha have grown up and still remain in Libya. The UNHCR reports that some 20,000 of them have been registered in sites in Tripoli, Benghazi, Tarhouna and other smaller towns across the country. Another 7,000 or so were discovered in the south, near the town of Sebha. There must be some who remain unaccounted for – either staying with relatives or friends or hiding in the desert, afraid to emerge.
According to a report in the Libya Herald dated 8th November 2012 about eleven thousand displaced Tawergha people are currently in seven unsatisfactory camps in Benghazi where the unsanitary conditions are aggravated by rain and cold. Concern is growing that Tawergha children are the victims of discrimination as schools and universities are refusing to accept them.

The Libyan Herald report also states that Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the former president of the National Transitional council, and interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib told the Tawerghans that it is still not the right time for them to return to their town since the authorities are not yet in a position to guarantee their safety. Their future is bleak. Today the vandalised town of Tawergha is surrounded by armed militiamen from Misurata. They are tasked to ensure that no one returns. For them Tawergha no longer exists.

(This disconcerting report dated 3rd November 2017 in the British newspaper, the Guardian, is strongly recommended to readers of this post but I ask you to note that there are some acts of appalling brutality described therein.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/03/revealed-male-used-systematically-in-libya-as-instrument-of-war )

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 28th January 2013
It seems that Misurata is still largely in the hands of militias.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/28/misrata-clamps-down-weapons-ban/

Update 20th March 2013
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT TAWERGHANS AND ADDS: “Foreign governments that intervened militarily in Libya under a UN Security Council resolution to protect civilians forcefully condemned violations by the Gaddafi government but have failed to challenge effectively the ongoing abuses against Tawerghans and others”.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/03/20/hwr-calls-on-libya-to-stop-revenge-crimes-against-tawerghans-wants-un-sanctions-against-those-involved%e2%80%a8/

Update 18th May 2013
A mass grave has been discovered in Tawergha.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/05/17/vigil-in-misrata-after-discovery-of-mass-grave/

Update 21st June 2013

Libyan PM tells Tawerghans not to take unilateral action and return to their home town until issues are settled concerning their perceived support for Gaddafi when Misurata was under siege. It is world refugee week!:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/20/dont-go-back-to-tawergha-yet-zeidan-tells-its-people/

Update 24th June 2013

Tawergans agree to postpone their return to their home town:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/24/crisis-difused-as-tawergha-return-delayed/

Update 2nd October 2013

This – about Tawerghans today is definitely worth your attention:

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2013/10/road-tawergha-201310191859343221.html

Update 30th January 2015

This out today and hopeful

An UNSMIL statement reads as follows:
“In line with the positive environment that prevailed at the meeting [in Geneva], the UN facilitated an agreement between the municipalities of Misrata and Tawergha on the following points:

Establishment of a committee from the local council of Tawergha and whoever they call upon to help in visiting the prisons in the City of Misrata and to receive assurances about their conditions, and to review with the responsible authorities the charges against them and their legal status.
The right of the people of Tawergha to return to their land through the establishment of a committee to discuss the mechanism to achieve that on the ground and to remove all obstacles and prepare all the appropriate conditions.

There was agreement that UNSMIL will follow up this process in cooperation with the two sides.”

Update 20th June 2017

This in the Libya Herald today:

Tripoli, 19 June 2017:

A new Presidency Council-approved agreement on the right of Tawerghans to return to their deserted hometown has been signed by Misratan and Tawerghan civic leaders, including  Misrata-Tawergha Reconciliation Committee chairman Yousef Zarzah, Tawergha local council leader Abdulrahman Shakshak, and Misrata mayor Mohamed. The agreement was signed in Tripoli at the Prime Ministry office in the presence of Presidency Council (PC) head Faiez Serraj and his deputy Ahmed Maetig, himself from Misrata, and the minister for displaced persons, Yousef Jalalah.

In a brief speech, Serraj has promised to provide all required infrastructure services to Tawergha.

From his side, Maetig said that PC would supervise the return of residents so that they were safe and secure.

“The agreement has bough to an end long sessions of talks which been taken a great deal of time. Now we are looking ahead for better future,” he said.

However, the reconciliation agreement, while speaking of the Tawerghans returning as well as of compensation for both communities for damages suffered, makes no mention of a date when they can go home.

It follows a statement last week by Tawerghan civil society activists that they intend to return to the town this Thursday and from there issue a call to the rest of the more than 40,000 Tawerghans living in camps across Libya to come back to their hometown.

There are suggestions that, far from making that happen, today’s signing in the presence of Serraj is an attempt to again delay such a return. There is still, in Misrata, a minority opposed to it ever happening.

For his part, though, State Council president Abdulrahman Sewehli, also from Misrata, has given his full backing to the Tawerghans’ right to return, saying that it was high time they did so, and yesterday announced on his Twitter feed that “key steps” to bring it about were “coming soon” – a clear reference to today’s agreement.

“Kudos to Libyan patriots who genuinely care about reconciliation through healing the nation’s wounds”, he tweeted.

While commending today’s agreement, Human Rights Watch has called for it  to be implements quickly.