Tag Archives: Associated Press

Iran plans large-scale military drill near Strait of Hormuz

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Iran is set to hold a wide scale military drill near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, Iranian state television said on Thursday.

The drill will last a week, starting December 25, and span 850,000 square miles across the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Iranian naval and air forces, ground units, and the Revolutionary Guard will all participate. A fifth of the entire world’s supply of oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

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Congressional critics ready to block Obama push to normalize Cuban relations

7689The historic plan announced by President Obama on Wednesday to normalize relations with Cuba was met with heavy bipartisan resistance on Capitol Hill, raising questions of whether Congress will even consider easing a more than 50-year trade embargo against the communist state — let alone end it.

Obama said the United States will cease what he called an “outdated approach” with Cuba, and take steps to normalize diplomatic relations — including opening an embassy in Havana — after American Alan Gross was released from the country following five years in prison as part of an agreement that also included the release of three Cubans jailed in the U.S.

Obama also called on Congress to have an “honest and serious debate” about lifting the trade embargo, which has been in place since 1962.

But Republicans, and even some Democrats, pushed back strongly, with some GOP heavy hitters calling Obama’s plan “another concession to tyranny.”

“These changes will lead to legitimacy for a government that shamelessly continuously abuses human rights but it will not lead to assistance for those whose rights are being abused,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Wednesday.

“It’s absurd and it’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants,” Rubio told Fox News, claiming the administration is “constantly giving away unilateral concessions … in exchange for nothing.” Rubio called Obama the “worst negotiator” the U.S. has had as president “since at least Jimmy Carter.” He also said Congress would not support lifting the embargo.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also criticized the administration’s plan to change the current U.S. relationship with Cuba. McConnell said he defers to Rubio on the matter.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who, like Rubio, is a Cuban-American lawmaker, said this is a moment of “profound relief” for Gross and his family. But he voiced concerns that this constituted a “swap of convicted spies for an innocent American.”

“President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government,” he said in a statement. “Trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent. It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips.”

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a joint statement that the move damages American values.

“Unfortunately, we fear the most damaging chapter to America’s national security is still being written. We dread the day President Obama takes to the podium to announce a nuclear deal with the Iranian ayatollahs which does little, if anything, to deter their nuclear ambitions, placing our nation and our closest allies in even deeper peril,” the said in a joint written statement.

Other U.S. lawmakers hailed the agreement, and some even joined Gross on the plane ride to the U.S. — Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., were on that flight.

U.S. officials said Pope Francis was personally engaged in the process as well and sent separate letters to Obama and Castro this summer urging them to restart relations.

Senior administration officials said Obama spoke with Cuban leader Raul Castro for more than 45 minutes on Tuesday, the first substantive presidential-level discussion between the U.S. and Cuba since 1961.

Obama also plans to take several executive actions, including expanding travel and economic ties to the island. According to a White House document, the U.S. government would raise remittance levels and authorize certain travel to Cuba, as well as start a review of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Obama also has formally directed the State Department to launch talks with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations, which were cut in 1961. The embassy in Havana would be opened “in the coming months,” according to the White House.

Officials said the Cuban government was releasing 53 political prisoners. The announcement comes after Gross was freed, as part of an agreement that included the release of three Cubans jailed in the U.S.

Gross landed in the U.S. shortly before noon on Wednesday.

A senior Obama administration official told Fox News that Gross left Cuba on a U.S. government plane Wednesday morning, and was “released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the United States.”

The three Cubans released are part of the so-called Cuban Five — a group of men who were part of the “Wasp Network” sent by Cuba’s then-President Fidel Castro to spy in South Florida. The men, who are hailed as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S.

Two of the Cuban Five were previously released after finishing their sentences.

Cuba was also releasing a non-American intelligence “asset” along with Gross, according to a U.S. official. Administration officials claimed that Gross was not technically traded for the three Cubans, and that his release was humanitarian.

Obama administration officials had considered Gross’ imprisonment an impediment to improving relations with Cuba, and the surprise deal was quickly making way for rapid changes in U.S. policy.

The president has taken some steps to ease U.S. restrictions on Cuba after Raul Castro took over as president in 2010 from his ailing brother. He has sought to ease travel and financial restrictions on Americans with family in Cuba, but had resisted calls to drop the embargo. Obama raised eyebrows when he shook hands with Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service last year.

Gross was detained in December 2009 while working to set up Internet access as a subcontractor for the U.S. government’s U.S. Agency for International Development, which does work promoting democracy in the communist country. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on setting up Internet access that bypassed local censorship.

Qatar hires ‘$8 fake fans’ to fill empty stadiums

Jassim Bin Hamad stadium in Doha, Qatar

Migrant workers in Qatar get one dollar an hour for sitting in the stadiums and pretending to have fun, to applaud and to do the wave, AP reports. Sometimes they even were asked to dress like Qataris in white robes and head-scarves.

“Qatar has a true passion for sports. Everything in our country revolves around sport,” Aphrodite Moschoudi, Qatar presenter in 2019 world championships host selection, said in November.

However, Qataris do not attend matches so often. A poll published this year by Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics says two-thirds of Qataris surveyed did not attend any football matches during the previous season, while two-thirds of respondents said fake fans were one of the reasons to keep them away from a stadium.

That is why Qatari officials need someone to fill the empty places in stadiums, according to the Associated Press. 30 Qatari riyals, equivalent to eight American dollars for migrant workers, though, is good money and some of them even enjoy their “work.”

“Shaking my body all over … being in the crowd and shouting and dancing,” Adu, a worker from Ghana told the agency. “Being there and getting paid is a plus for me.”

Besides, some stadiums are equipped with free WiFi networks and workers may send e-mails to relatives and get news from home.

The sportsmen say it is a “bizarre” situation.

“Bizarre, but we prefer that to playing in front of nobody,” French volleyballer Edouard Rowlandson. Officials at FIVB, an international volleyball governing body, said it was news for them.

This is not the first controversial issue concerning 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Earlier this year it was reported that 185 Nepalese workers died in 2013 while building infrastructure for the World Cup and almost 1,000 died since the country was proclaimed the host of championship.

Numerous human rights campaigners denounce the labor conditions currently in the country as being a kind of servitude and say the country’s legislation requires an urgent overhaul.

“Qatar is a modern day slave state,” International Trade Union Confederation’s General Secretary Sharan Burrow told RT.

Qatar uses the Kafala system to govern its domestic migrant workers. The system requires that foreign workers be sponsored by an employer who is responsible for their visa and legal status. Human Rights groups have found evidence that the Kafala system is being manipulated, with employers denying migrants’ wages and refusing to grant them an exit visa to leave the country.

Islamic State militants fight for Iraq’s two biggest dams

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Militants from the Islamic State are battling ferociously to control one of Iraq’s most vital resources: water.

Fighters with the group launched a three-pronged attack over the weekend in a drive to capture Haditha Dam, in western Iraq, a complex with six power generators located alongside Iraq’s second-largest reservoir. At the same time, they are fighting to capture Iraq’s largest dam, Mosul Dam, in the north of the country.

Seizing the dams and the large reservoirs they hold would give the militants control over water and electricity that they could use to help build support in the territory they now rule by providing the scarce resources to residents. Or they could sell the resources as a lucrative source of revenue.

They could also use the dams as a weapon of war by flooding terrain downstream to slow Iraq’s military or disrupt life. They have done that with a smaller dam they hold closer to Baghdad. But with the larger dams, there are limits on this tactic since it would also flood areas that the insurgents hold.

On Friday, the fighters unleashed a powerful attack from three sides on the town of Haditha in western Anbar province. Suicide attackers tried but failed to detonate an oil tanker and several trucks packed with explosives. The aim was to obliterate the final line of defense between the militants and Haditha Dam on the Euphrates River, Lt. Gen. Rasheed Fleih, the commander of Anbar Operations Command, told The Associated Press.

For a brief moment, it seemed all was lost. The Sunni militants seized the army command headquarters in town, with very little stopping them from reaching the dam. But some local Sunni tribes who oppose the militants and feared for their livelihoods if the dam were captured sent fighters to reinforce the 2,000 soldiers guarding the town, allowing for a narrow victory. At least 35 militants and 10 soldiers were killed in clashes on Friday, Fleih said.

But the militants have been fighting every day since trying to take the town, according to four senior military sources in Anbar province. They spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak with the media.

Only 10 kilometers (6 miles) remain between the militants and the dam.

The jihadis are also closing in on the Mosul Dam — or Saddam Dam as it was once known — located north of Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, which fell to the militants on June 10. Fighting intensified in the region Sunday after the nearby towns of Zumar and Sinjar fell to the militants.

Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, have managed to hold the fighters off for now, but the growing strength and savvy of these Islamic militants is raising grave concerns.

The peshmerga are “under a great deal of pressure now” as they defend a 150-kilometer (80-mile) frontline against the Islamic State group along the edges of the Kurdish autonomous zone in the north,” Maj. Gen. Jabar Yawer, the official spokesman of the Kurdistan Region Guard Forces, told The Associated Press.

He said late Sunday there were fierce battles ongoing in towns and villages near the dam on the Tigris River. Fearing the worst, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki commanded his air force to reinforce the peshmerga Monday in a rare show of cooperation despite deep political divisions between al-Maliki and the Kurds.

“God forbid, if something happens that results in the destruction of the dam, it will be very, very dangerous,” Yawer said.

Earlier this year, the group’s fighters captured the smaller Fallujah Dam on the Euphrates when they seized the nearby city of Fallujah. Repeatedly, the militants have used it as a weapon, opening it to flood downriver when government forces move in on the city.

Worst hit has been the area of Abu Ghraib on the outskirts of Baghdad. In May, some 12,000 families lost crops and many fled their homes, worsening Iraq’s growing crisis of internal displacement. The Special Representative for the U.N. Secretary General in Iraq called the incident a “water war,” and called on Iraqi forces and local tribes to team up and take back Iraqi waterways.

Doing that with Hadith and Mosul Dams is more problematic, since militant-controlled lie downstream. But damage to either could be disastrous, particularly in the case of the Mosul Dam. It has millions of cubic meters of water pent up behind it on the Tigris River, which — some 370 kilometers (220 miles) downstream — runs through the heart of Baghdad.

“Everything under it will be under five to 10 meters (yards) of water… including Baghdad itself,” said Ali Khedery, head of the Dubai-based consultancy Dragoman Partners and a longtime adviser to the U.S. military, government and companies in Iraq. “It would be catastrophic.”

Dams are critical in Iraq for generating electricity, regulating river flow and providing irrigation. Water is a precious commodity in this largely desert country of 32.5 million people. The decline of water levels in the Euphrates over recent years has led to electricity shortages in towns south of Baghdad, where steam-powered generators depend entirely on water levels.

Water has been used as a weapon in the past. After Shiite Muslims rose up against then-President Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War, he retaliated by drying out parts of wetlands in the south of the country that had once generated farming revenues for its Shiite inhabitants.

Water is not the first resource the Islamic State group has narrowed in on as it swept over much of northern and western Iraq and parts of neighboring Syria the past months. The group has captured oilfields and pipelines in Syria and has sold off crude oil, helping fund its drive across both countries.

If it captures the dams, the militants are likely to try to use its electricity and water resources to build up support in nearby areas it controls, where residents often complain of shortages. Or it could try to snarl electricity service elsewhere.

Any disruption to the Mosul Dam “would destabilize the electricity system of northern Iraq,” added Paul Sullivan, an economist and Middle East expert at National Defense University in Washington. “This station is an integral part of the entire electricity grid of Iraq.”

Whistleblower: U.S. Satellite Images Show Ukrainian Troops Shooting Down MH17

Source tells award winning reporter Washington lying about responsibility for tragedy

by Paul Joseph Watson | July 21, 2014

Award winning former Associated Press reporter Robert Parry has been told by an intelligence source that the United States is in possession of satellite imagery which shows that Ukrainian troops were responsible for the shoot down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.

In the absence of any proper investigation, media rhetoric over the last few days has firmly pointed the finger of blame for the downing of the aircraft on Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels, but Parry’s source tells a different story.

What I’ve been told by one source, who has provided accurate information on similar matters in the past, is that U.S. intelligence agencies do have detailed satellite images of the likely missile battery that launched the fateful missile, but the battery appears to have been under the control of Ukrainian government troops dressed in what look like Ukrainian uniforms.

The source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops were actually eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers. There also was the suggestion that the soldiers involved were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site, the source said.

Although the establishment press has attempted to deride any questioning of the official narrative that Ukrainian rebels were responsible for the incident by invoking the tired “conspiracy theory” pejorative, Parry can hardly be dismissed as a crank given his key role in covering the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press and Newsweek. Indeed, Parry’s investigative work on intelligence matters, for which he was awarded the George Polk Award, suggests that the information provided by his source is worthy of serious attention.

U.S. and Ukrainian authorities continue to insist that Moscow-backed separatists were responsible for the tragedy, asserting that a BUK missile system was used to bring down the airliner. However, this was contradicted by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Vitaliy Yarema, who stated, “The military told the president after the passenger plane had been shot down that the terrorists did not possess our Buk missile systems.”

In a related development, audio experts who conducted a study into the authenticity of a recording released by Ukrainian authorities which implicated Russian-backed rebels as being responsible for the missile attack on MH17 concluded that the tape was fabricated.

“The tape’s second fragment consists of three pieces but was presented as a single audio recording. However, a spectral and time analysis has showed that the dialog was cut into pieces and then assembled. Short pauses in the tape are very indicative: the audio file has preserved time marks which show that the dialog was assembled from various episodes, the expert said,” reports ITAR-TASS.

Libya Militias Resume Battle For Control Of Tripoli’s International Airport

A damaged plane at Libya’s main airport, following clashes between rival militias

CAIRO (AP) — Clashes between rival Libyan militias fighting for control of the capital’s international airport killed 47 people over the last week, Libya‘s Health Ministry said, as violence in an eastern city killed five.

The weeklong battle in Tripoli began when Islamist-led militias — mostly from the western city of Misrata — launched a surprise assault on the airport, under control of rival militias from the western mountain town of Zintan.

The clashes resumed Sunday after cease-fire efforts failed. On Monday, the burned-out shell of an Airbus A330 sat on the tarmac, a $113 million passenger jet for Libya’s state-owned Afriqiyah Airways destroyed in the fighting.

“This was the pride of the Libyan fleet,” Abdelkader Mohammed Ahmed, Libya’s transportation minister, told journalists at the airport. “This airplane used to fly to South Africa, Bangladesh and China.”

Inside the airport, closed since last Monday, the fighting left holes in the ceiling and scattered bits of its roof strewn across the floor.

The ministry said on its website late Sunday that the fighting killed 47 people and wounded 120. It also said it had not yet received the full casualty report.

Libya is witnessing one of its worst spasms of violence since the ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. All the militias fighting around the airport are on the government’s payroll since successive transitional authorities have depended on them to restore order.

The rival militias, made up largely of former rebels, have forced a weeklong closure of gas stations and government offices.

In recent days, armed men have attacked vehicles carrying money from the Central Bank to local banks, forcing their closure.

Libyan government officials and activists have increasingly been targeted in the violence. Gunmen kidnapped two lawmakers in the western suburbs of Tripoli on Sunday, a parliament statement said.

In Libya’s second-largest city of Benghazi, five troops were killed in an attack by Islamist militias on a barrack occupied by forces allied with Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a renegade general who has vowed to crush Islamic militias, a security official said. The assault early Monday wounded 29, the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

In the past two days in Benghazi, the birthplace of anti-Gadhafi uprising, gunmen killed an army officer while he was driving home and a former special forces officer.

Meanwhile, a helicopter crashed in Benghazi while transporting cash to the eastern city of Bayda because of technical failure, according to a Joint Security Committee of Benghazi statement, posted on its official website. One person killed in the crash, it said, offering no other details.

The deteriorating security conditions prompted the U.N. Support Mission in Libya last week to say it was temporarily withdrawing its staff. On Monday, Libya’s official news agency reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross announced its withdrawal from Libya as well.

No airstrikes for now : US lacks intel to carry out attack in Iraq

American officials confirmed on Wednesday that the Iraqi government has explicitly asked the Pentagon to conduct airstrikes against insurgents taking their country by storm, but the United States is reportedly ill-prepared to wage suck attacks.

Intelligence gaps have left the White House uncertain about when or where to strike the militants, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday, worsening the likelihood that any aerial attack would prove to be successful.

“We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told US lawmakers during a Senate hearing early Wednesday.

Dempsey added, however, that the results of a strike would be unknown “until we can clarify this intelligence picture” in Iraq.

“It’s not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then striking it,” the chairman told a Senate appropriations subcommittee, the AP reported.

Confirmation of the request from Baghdad comes less than two days after President Barack Obama announced that 275 US trooped would be deployed to America’s embassy there to protect diplomats in the midst of escalating violence.

In recent day, militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Syria group affiliated with Al-Qaeda have escalated a campaign that as of mid-week has led to the capture of two major cities and put Baghdad on high alert.

Following nearly a decade-long war on the heels of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Pres. Obama last week said that America will not “allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation” similar to what happened after that campaign.

“The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together,” he said.

That refusal to strike ISIS insurgents has since proven to be a dividing concept in the US, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are split with regards of what role, if any, American troops should have in the escalating crisis.

“I think most important is that we take direct action now against ISIS, marching down to Baghdad, and prevent them from getting into Baghdad,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) told reporters this week.

Pres. Obama was expected to meet at the White House on Wednesday with key congressional leaders, and the AP reported that Feinstein’s democratic colleague, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), expressed a difference of opinion before meeting with the commander-in-chief.

“It’s time for the Iraqis to resolve it themselves,” Reid told the AP. “Those who attack President Obama for bringing our troops home from Iraq are wrong and out of step with the American people. After a decade of war, the American people have had enough.”

If the US has clearer intelligence to rely on, however, then military officials believe a successful strike would be easy to undertake.

“I’m very confident that if the order comes down … our Air Force would be ready,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told the Defense Writers Group at a breakfast in Washington this week.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Dempsey added that the US has mobilized “a great deal of manned and unmanned ISR to gain clarity” in the region, according to the Guardian, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes and other aircraft.

Présidentielle égyptienne : Al-Sissi officiellement élu avec 96,91% des voix

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L’ancien chef de l’armée égyptienne, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, a officiellement remporté l’élection présidentielle avec 96,91 % des voix, selon les chiffres de la commission électorale.

Les chiffres sont désormais officiels. Sans surprise, la Commission électorale égyptienne a confirmé, mardi 3 juin, l’écrasante victoire d’Abdel Fattah al-Sissi à l’élection présidentielle du 28 mai dernier. L’ancien chef de l’armée a récolté 96,91 % des suffrages,

Le maréchal  a recueilli 23 780 104 suffrages contre 757 511 pour son unique rival, le leader de la gauche Hamdine Sabahi.

Le taux de participation, qui était la seule inconnue de ce scrutin, est proche de 47 % des 54 millions d’inscrits.

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Thailand army declares martial law, insists move ‘is not a coup’

Thai soldiers take their positions in the middle of a main intersection in Bangkok‘s shopping district May 20, 2014.

Thailand’s military leaders declared martial law Tuesday in a surprise move which they say aims to restore peace and order after months of anti-government demonstrations and unrest have left the nation teetering.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha made the announcement on military television at 3:00 a.m. local time and assured the public that even though soldiers will now be in command of public security, order will rule the day. Dozens of people have been killed as a result of the protests since the demonstrations began in November 2013.

“We are concerned this violence could harm the country’s security in general. Then, in order to restore law and order to the country, we have declared martial law,” Prayuth said, as quoted by Reuters. “I’m asking all those activist groups to stop all activities and cooperate with us in seeking a way out of this crisis.”

A decades-long dispute over power has culminated within the past six months with large demonstrations and unrest. The situation escalated earlier in May, when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was forced from office. Her ouster made way for sitting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, who said Monday that his administration would not step down.

The opposition demands that the government give way to an unelected administration that would then rewrite the constitution.

Thai soldiers take up a position on a main road in Bangkok May 20, 2014.

An army official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that “this is definitely not a coup. This is only to provide safety to the people and the people can still carry on their lives as normal.”

A decree put out by the country’s armed forces has enacted media censorship that “prohibits all media outlets from reporting or distribution of any news or still photographs detrimental to national security,” said a statement by General Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

Almost immediately following that declaration, satellite stations went off-air. AFP reported that broadcasts by television channels have been suspended, while an army statement read that the stations were taken off the air “in order that people will get the correct information and not distort information to deepen the conflict.”

Thailand’s armed forces have either launched or attempted 18 coups in the country’s 81 years of parliamentary democracy.

Despite the army’s claims, many analysts remain unconvinced that the action is not a move towards a full-blown coup.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University, told AFP that he believes martial law was simply a prelude to the military taking full control.

I think what we are looking at is a prelude to a coup,” he said. “It is all part of a plot to create a situation of ungovernability to legitimise this move by the army. I would not be surprised if the next step is a military coup or the military taking charge with the advice of the senate and leading to the appointment of a new prime minister. But certainly the military is trying to take power from the government.”

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24 killed in Libya clashes, authorities close Benghazi airport

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Twenty-four people were killed in Friday clashes between two militias and army troops loyal to a rogue general in Libya. The country’s authorities called the military offensive a “coup” and closed Benghazi‘s airport.

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.

At least 24 people have been killed and 124 wounded, AP reported, citing several health officials. However, Reuters reported that 19 people died in the unrest.

“We have closed the airport for the safety of passengers as there were clashes in the city. The airport will be reopened depending on the security situation,” Reuters quoted Ibrahim Farkash, director of Benghazi’s Benina Airport, as saying.

Haftar’s troops surrounded the bases of Islamist militia Rafallah al-Sahati and a militant group known as February 17, according to officials.

According to Haftar’s spokesman Mohammed al-Hegazi, some Libyan military units have joined the fight against the Islamist militias in an operation he called “Dignity of Libya.”

Meanwhile, the commander of the Rafallah al-Sahati brigade, Ismail al-Salabi, referred to the attack as a coup. Another commander, Fathi al-Obeidi, said Haftar’s attack is “a rebellion against revolutionaries, the state and the legitimate revolt.”

Libya’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Abdel-Salam Gadallah al-Obeidi, said he will ban any military forces from entering Benghazi to join Haftar, AP reported. He described the unfolding events as a “coup.”

Meanwhile, special forces spokesman Milad al-Zowi has denied that his troops were involved, LANA news agency reported.

In the wake of the recent unrest, Algeria has sent a team of special forces to evacuate its ambassador to Libya and embassy staff in a military plane after a militant threat to its embassy, Reuters reported, citing officials and a security source.

Robert Naiman from think-tank Just Foreign Policy told RT that these types of clashes could plunge Libya into a new civil war.

“It is already the case that one part of the military is apparently not following orders from the central government. It is already the case that the central government does not control the country…that there are rival centers of military power,” Naiman said. “Until now, the central government has been tolerated by these militias, but now apparently there is a faction of the government that wants to restore central control of the country. That is sure to provoke more fighting.”

Former Libyan commander Major General Khalifa Haftar

Naiman also suggested that the troops attacking the militias might be making a power play in order to gain support from the West.

“We don’t know all the causes that are behind this, but it certainly is a striking confluence of events that the US military has announced that it positioned new forces in the region. It is also a striking confluence of events who is being attacked – militias in Benghazi. At the time when the Obama administration is under pressure to go after the groups that it judges responsible for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi,” Naiman said.

“With some people calling for new authorization of military force in Libya, which the Obama administration is resisting, it certainly would be convenient from the point of view of the Obama administration if some other group of people would go after militias in Benghazi. So it may be the case, I am speculating, that in part, this group that is attacking these militias is making a play for external support.”

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

Just over a year ago, Libya lost US$1 billion due to a disruption in oil production. Violent incidents involving rival armed groups fighting over who gets to guard Libyan oil and gas facilities have become more frequent in post-Gaddafi Libya. Heavily armed militias have seized oil facilities, and local tribes have demanded revenue or jobs while blockading oil fields and sea terminals.

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

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 not able to stop rebels from capturing oil fields.

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