Tag Archives: Ali Zeidan

Forces loyal to rogue general storm Libya’s parliament, demand suspension

Armed men aim their weapons from a vehicle as smoke rises in the background near the General National Congress in Tripoli May 18, 2014.

Armed gunmen loyal to rogue General Khalifa Haftar attacked Libya’s parliament on Sunday, announcing its suspension. Forces loyal to Haftar claim to be purging the nation of Islamist militias while authorities accuse them of staging a coup.

Two people were killed and 55 others injured in the clashes in Tripoli’s city center following the attack on parliament, Reuters quoted the country’s justice minister, Saleh Mergani, as saying. The minister also called on all parties to put down their weapons and begin dialogue, according to his televised news conference.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the health ministry said up to 66 people were wounded in the fighting.

A Libyan colonel loyal to Haftar denied the move was a coup and stated that parliament has no legitimacy and should hand over power to the 60-member body that was recently elected to rewrite Libya’s constitution.

“We, members of the army and revolutionaries (former rebels), announce the suspension of the General National Congress,” Mokhtar Fernana said in a statement broadcast on two private TV channels, according to AFP.

The justice minister condemned the attack on parliament, as well as the claim that parliament’s operations had been suspended. Marghani said that Libya “condemns expression of political opinion with armed force,” adding that Haftar’s Sunday attack was not connected to his Friday assaults in Benghazi.

Details of the Sunday attack are unclear, but Haftar’s spokesman said the general’s forces were responsible, adding that the assault was part of their ‘Dignity of Libya’ campaign to rid the country of all Islamist militants.

“These are members of the Libyan National Army,” Mohamed al-Hejazi said. The Libyan National Army is the name of the irregular forces loyal to Haftar.

The Libyan National Army also rejected recently appointed Ahmed Maiteeq as the country’s new prime minister on Sunday, according to AFP.

General Khalifa Haftar attends a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi on May 17, 2014.

Meanwhile, unknown attackers fired Grad rockets at Benghazi’s Benina Airport as clashes broke out in Libya’s second largest city early Monday, Reuters reported, citing army and security sources. Fighting was also reported in two other areas in Benghazi.

At least 70 people have been killed and 141 injured over the weekend in Benghazi in clashes between Islamist militias and army troops loyal to Haftar. The country’s authorities called the military offensive a “coup.”

Military aircraft and helicopters fighting for General Khalifa Haftar were involved in the clashes and were spotted flying over Benghazi, Libyan security officials said, as quoted by AP.

Haftar was an army commander under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi until the 1980s, when he defected. Following Gaddafi’s ouster, Haftar was appointed to rebuild the Libyan military, but was removed shortly after.

Following the ouster of Gaddafi in 2011, militias expanded in numbers, filling in the gap while Libya struggled with weak military and police forces.

Meanwhile, Libya’s parliament remains split by rivalries, with little democratic reforms made since 2011. The country is now under the rule of its third prime minister since March, and a new constitution is still not ready.

On May 5, Libya’s parliament confirmed Ahmed Maiteeq as the country’s new prime minister. Deputy speaker Ezzedin al-Awami called the election invalid, but parliamentary president Nouri Abu Sahmain recognized the choice.

The new prime minister was elected after Abdullah al-Thinni resigned in April following an attack by gunmen on his family just one month into his term.

The prime minister before that, Ali Zeidan, escaped the country after being fired because he was unable to stop rebels from capturing oil fields.

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Former Libyan PM in Malta for brief stop; Zeidan leaves country despite ban

Libya‘s ousted PM Ali Zidan

Former Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zaidan was in Malta for some time is the past few hours, on his way to another European country following a vote of confidence he lost in the Libyan congress.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed that Zaidan was in Malta on a refuelling stop and the two met briefly.

Dr Muscat did not say where the Libyan PM was headed and the meeting between the two was more of a sign of personal friendship.

The PM said that Malta is following closely what is happening in Libya.

The Associated Press reported that Libya’s ousted prime minister has left the country despite a ban on travel, hours after parliament removed him from office in a no-confidence vote.

Officials in Tripoli on Wednesday could not confirm the departure of Ali Zeidan, Libya’s first democratically chosen leader who had struggled for 15 months to stem the country’s spiraling descent into chaos.

But Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told state-owned television that Zidan had made a brief stop-over on the Mediterranean island late on Tuesday, before travelling on.

The Western-backed Zeidan was ousted in a parliament vote on Tuesday as Libya faces a series of crises, including an escalation over oil ports seized by an eastern militia.

Soon after parliament voted, Libya’s general prosecutor banned Zeidan from travel pending an investigation into corruption allegations.

via Former Libyan PM in Malta for brief stop; Zeidan leaves country despite ban – The Malta Independent.

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Libyan rebels warn of ‘war’ if navy attacks oil tanker

Rebels under Ibrahim Jathran, a former anti-Gaddafi rebel who seized the port and two others with thousands of his men in August, stand guard at the entrance of the Es Sider export terminal where a North Korean-flagged tanker has docked in Ras Lanuf March 8, 2014.

Rebels under Ibrahim Jathran, a former anti-Gaddafi rebel who seized the port and two others with thousands of his men in August, stand guard at the entrance of the Es Sider export terminal where a North Korean-flagged tanker has docked in Ras Lanuf March 8, 2014.

(Reuters) – Armed protesters in eastern Libya traded threats with the government on Sunday in a tense stand-off over the unauthorized sale of oil from a rebel-held port.

A North Korean-flagged tanker, the Morning Glory, docked on Saturday at the port of Es Sider and local daily al-Wasat said it had loaded $36 million of crude oil. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has said the military will bomb the 37,000-tonne vessel if it tries to leave.

Officials said on Sunday that the navy and pro-government militias had dispatched boats to stop it from getting out. The rebels said any attack on the tanker would be “a declaration of war.”

The escalating conflict over the country’s oil wealth is a sign of mounting chaos in Libya, where the government has failed to rein in fighters who helped oust veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and who now defy state authority.

The protesters, who also include former soldiers and ex-oil guards led by a former anti-Gaddafi commander, Ibrahim Jathran, have seized three eastern ports in the OPEC member country.

The Defence Ministry issued orders to the chief of staff, air force and navy to deal with the tanker. “The order authorizes the use of force and puts the responsibility for any resulting damage on the ship owner,” it said in a statement.

“Several navy boats have been dispatched. Now the tanker’s movements are under complete control and nobody can move it,” said Culture Minister Habib al-Amin, who acts as informal government spokesman. “The tanker will stay where it is.”

“All efforts are being undertaken to stop and seize the tanker, if necessary by a (military) strike, if it does not follow orders,” he said, adding that state prosecutors would treat the loading of the crude as smuggling.

There was no sign of any immediate military action, but Libyan news websites showed some small boats close to a tanker which they said was the Morning Glory.

Libya has been trying to rebuild its army since Gaddafi’s overthrow, but analysts say it is not yet a match for battle-hardened militias that fought in the eight-month uprising that toppled him.

WAR OF WORDS

Abb-Rabbo al-Barassi, self-declared prime minister of the rebel movement, warned against “harming any tanker or sending navy ships into the waters of Cyrenaica,” according to a statement.

The entrance of the Es Sider export terminal where a North Korean-flagged tanker has docked is seen in Ras Lanuf March 8, 2014.

The entrance of the Es Sider export terminal where a North Korean-flagged tanker has docked is seen in Ras Lanuf March 8, 2014.

He was referring to the historic name of eastern Libya under King Idris, whom Gaddafi deposed in a 1969 coup. The protesters want a return to the Idris-era system under which oil revenues were shared between Libya’s regions.

If the tanker was harmed, the statement said, “the response from Cyrenaica’s defense forces, oil guards and revolutionaries will be decisive. Such a move would be a declaration of war.”

In Tripoli, workers at a state oil firm that runs Es Sider port went on strike, urging the government to intervene because their colleagues were under duress from armed protesters.

“We are very angry at what is happening at Es Sider,” said Salah Madari, an oil worker in the capital. “The port’s control officer is being held at gunpoint,” he said, adding that gunmen had also forced a pilot to guide the tanker into dock.

Jathran once led a brigade paid by the state to protect oil facilities. He turned against the government and seized Es Sider and two other ports with thousands of his men in August.

Tripoli has held indirect talks with Jathran, but fears his demand for a greater share of oil revenue for eastern Libya might lead to secession.

In January, the Libyan navy fired on a Maltese-flagged tanker that it said had tried to load oil from the protesters in Es Sider, successfully chasing it away.

It is very unusual for an oil tanker flagged in secretive North Korea to operate in the Mediterranean, shipping sources said. NOC says the tanker is owned by a Saudi company. It has changed ownership in the past few weeks and had previously been called Gulf Glory, according to a shipping source.

Libya’s government has tried to end a wave of protests at oil ports and fields that have slashed oil output to 230,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 1.4 million bpd in July.

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100 rockets rain on Libyan power plant as militias battle

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(Reuters) – More than 100 rockets fired in clashes between rival government-paid militia have knocked out a power plant in southern Libya, heightening the risk of summer blackouts, the electricity minister said on Tuesday.

“This is the chaos Libya lives in,” the visibly-annoyed minister, Ali Mohammed Muhairiq, told a televised news conference. “The plant was hit by dozens of rockets, by 120 rockets. I don’t know whether we will be able to repair it before summer and Ramadan.”

The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan begins at the end of June this year. Libya, an OPEC oil producer, suffers frequent blackouts in summer due to heavy use of air-conditioners.

Muhairiq said the power station in Sarir, in the remote south, had been put out of action by days of fighting between militias on the payroll of the defense and interior ministries.

He said parliament had approved a loan for the repairs, since the government had no budget to meet the bill of up to 300 million Libyan dinars ($242 million), but gave no details.

Libya’s official news agency LANA said the central bank would lend the state electricity company 1 billion dinars “to help solve the difficulties it faces”.

Budget worries are mounting in Libya, where protests and blockades at oil fields and ports have choked state revenue.

The government has sought to co-opt unruly militias that helped topple Muammar Gaddafi three years ago by putting them on the payroll of the security forces, but they remain loyal to their own commanders who often have business interests such as smuggling and who vie with other groups for local power.

Some are heavily armed with rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns obtained from military depots during the NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

Muhairiq said militia fighting had also damaged oil facilities and power stations on which hospitals and water supplies in the eastern city of Benghazi depend.

In separate violence, gunmen stole equipment from a power station in Khoms, east of Tripoli, which supplies the capital and western Libya, Muhairiq said.

“I warn the gunmen against damaging it,” he said, reading out names of those he believed were behind the robbery.

Libya’s oil output has fallen to 230,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 1.4 million bpd last year when various groups began disrupting facilities to back political and financial demands.

The government said on Sunday it had curbed spending at several ministries because the 2014 budget had been delayed.

“We face a very big danger,” Mohammed Abdallah, head of the parliamentary budget committee, told LANA, saying the government had already incurred a deficit of 3.785 billion dinars in the first two months of 2014. No comparative figures were available.

He said the budget planned for spending of 68.6 billion dinars in the next six months, around 2 billion more than last year, with 27.1 billion going on public sector wages, 6 billion more than in 2013.

The government increased salaries for oil workers by 67 percent in January in what has so far proved a futile attempt to placate them and discourage them from joining protests.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said the government had submitted a budget proposal for six months instead of the whole year because it only had a temporary mandate. A parliamentary election is expected this year.

 

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Car bomb kills six, wounds up to 15 outside Libya’s Benghazi -sources

(Reuters) – A suicide bomb attack at an army base outside Benghazi in eastern Libya killed at least six people and wounded up to 15 on Sunday, medical and security sources said.

The attacker blew himself up in a car in front of the base in Barsis, some 50 km (30 miles) outside Benghazi, a security source said.

All those killed were soldiers, medical sources said, but the security source said the attacker was among those killed.

The security situation has sharply deteriorated in Libya’s second-largest city in the past few months where car bombs and assassinations of army and police officers happen regularly.

Most countries closed their consulates in Benghazi after a series of attacks and some foreign airlines have stopped flying there. The U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in September 2012 during an Islamist assault on the consulate.

Separately, tribesmen in Jalo in the southeast brought the bodies of five soldiers to a local hospital, state news agency Lana said. The soldiers had been killed in clashes two days ago, the agency said without giving details.

Western diplomats worry the violence in Benghazi will spill over to the capital Tripoli which last month saw the worst fighting in months between militias.

Much of Libya’s oil wealth is located in the east where many demand autonomy from the Tripoli government, adding to turmoil in the North African country.

The government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is struggling to control militias and tribesmen which helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 but kept their guns.

Oil exports, Libya’s lifeline, have fallen to 110,000 barrels a day, a fraction of the more than 1 million bpd in July as armed militias, tribesmen and minorities have seized oilfields and ports to press for political and financial demands.

Zeidan has warned the government will be unable to pay public salaries if the protests continue.

Car bomb kills six, wounds up to 15 outside Libya’s Benghazi -sources | Reuters.

27 killed, 235 wounded in clashes between militias and armed residents in Tripoli .

6780Libyan Prime Minister has demanded all armed militias “without exception” leave Tripoli after militiamen opened fire on peaceful protesters in the capital killing at least 27 people and wounding 235.

“The existence of weapons outside the army and police is dangerous,” Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said in a speech delivered shortly after the clashes. “All armed militias need to leave Tripoli, without exception.”

The death toll was reported by Reuters citing PM Ali Zeidan. However, Al Arabiya reports different figures, stating that at least 31 people were killed and 285 others wounded.

Libyan Defense Minister Abdullah Al-Thani cut short his visit to Jordan and is returning to his home country, LANA reported.

The Misrata militia reportedly opened fire with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at protesters as they approached its headquarters in the Gharghour district.

Thousands of protesters gathered in the Libyan capital, calling to intensify the security presence and end the militias’ rule established in 2011, after the uprising that ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.

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David Ignatius: U.S. inattention to Libya breeds chaos – The Washington Post

54343For a case study of why America’s influence has receded in the Middle East, consider the example of Libya. Some simple steps over the past two years might have limited the country’s descent toward anarchy. But Libya became so toxic after the Benghazi attack that the United States has been slow to provide help.

When Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan visited Washington in March, he made a straightforward request: He needed U.S. help in training a “general-purpose force” that could protect officials of the democratically elected government and safeguard Libya’s basic services. He explained that, without such protection, government officials couldn’t move safely around the country to do their work.

Helping Libya should be a no-brainer. The United States and its NATO allies spent billions toppling the regime of Col. Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, and they have a big investment in creating a secure state. Instead, Libya has become a nation of lawless militias. Zeidan’s government can’t even hold meetings safely. The United States should have begun training security forces immediately after Gaddafi was toppled. Every day of delay is a mistake.

The Obama administration has approved, in principle, a plan to train 6,000 to 8,000 Libyans outside the country. But the situation in Tripoli is so chaotic that Libyans haven’t yet made a formal request for this assistance. U.S. officials said it won’t start until the spring, at the earliest.

President Obama is said to have decided at a Cabinet meeting this month that “we have not been doing enough” as the chaos grew in Libya and that he wants to “accelerate” assistance, according to a senior administration official. That’s good — better late than never — but it’s an open question whether Congress will let Obama do what’s needed.

Congressional Republicans deserve much of the blame. The GOP has staged more than a year of near-hysterical attacks about alleged failures and coverups involving the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. compound in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. The relentless GOP sniping and second-guessing had the inevitable consequence: Nobody wanted to risk another Benghazi; U.S. diplomats hunkered down at the embassy in Tripoli; and Libya policy went in the deep freeze.

85Here’s how bad the Libya phobia has become: When the Department of Homeland Security recently began drafting a rule that would allow Libyan students and workers to come to the United States for education and training, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) thundered that “it is shocking that the Obama administration is turning a blind eye to real terrorist threats that exist in Libya today.” And Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) denounced the move as “unbelievable.”

What continued in the Libya vacuum were secret U.S. counterterrorism operations. These culminated in the Oct. 5 raid that snatched al-Qaeda militant Anas al-Libi in Tripoli and brought him to New York for trial on charges stemming from the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. This was a laudable operation, but counterterrorism is not America’s only interest in Libya.

The raid produced an embarrassing backlash: Zeidan, the pro-American prime minister, was kidnapped by angry militiamen from his hotel in Tripoli and held for hours. The gunmen released him partly because they didn’t want to fight other armed gangs for control of the hostage. Zeidan said he hadn’t approved the U.S. mission, but his cover of deniability was frayed when Secretary of State John Kerry insisted the operation was “legal and appropriate,” implying it had Libyan approval.

My perceptions of Libya are shaped by Duncan Pickard, a student of mine at the Harvard Kennedy School in 2012 who has spent the last year in Tripoli studying constitutional reform for a German nongovernmental organization. He warned in December that the imperative was U.S. training of Libyan security forces to protect government institutions. Nearly a year later, we’re still waiting.

“We are seeing a defenseless government,” says Karim Mezran, a Libyan political scientist and senior fellow of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. Mezran says the situation in his country is so fragile now that NATO may have to send in its own security forces to keep order until the long-delayed training program is ready.

U.S. influence in the Middle East has been declining for many reasons. Some of them, like America’s weariness after a decade of war, or the difficulty in stopping sectarian killing in Syria, don’t have a quick fix. But with Libya, it’s inexcusable to keep sitting on our hands, bickering about Benghazi, while the country goes down the drain.

David Ignatius: U.S. inattention to Libya breeds chaos – The Washington Post.