Tag Archives: Muammar Gaddafi

Libya’s new parliament calls for unity as rival militias clash

Smoke filled the sky over Tripoli on Sunday after rockets fired by one of Libya’s militias struck a tank in the main fuel depot.

Smoke filled the sky over Tripoli on Sunday after rockets fired by one of Libya’s militias struck a tank in the main fuel depot.

(Reuters) – Libya’s new parliament appealed for national unity at its first formal session on Monday as rival armed factions battled for dominance of a country struggling to hold itself together three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Hours before parliament met in the eastern city of Tobruk, heavy artillery and rocket fire bombarded southern and western Tripoli, where Islamist-leaning Misrata brigades have fought for three weeks with rival militias allied with the town of Zintan.

Lawmakers gathered in a heavily guarded hotel in Tobruk because three weeks of fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi had made Libya’s two main cities unsafe for the parliamentary session.

Western nations, which have mostly pulled their diplomats out of the North African country due to the fighting, hope that the new assembly can nudge the warring factions toward a ceasefire and negotiations to end a political deadlock.

Elected in June, the House of Representatives replaces the General National Congress (GNC) after a vote which, analysts said, eroded the political dominance that Islamist factions linked to the Muslim Brotherhood had in the legislature.

In a sign of Libya’s deepening polarization, the Islamist former GNC president and a group of current and ex-GNC lawmakers rejected the Tobruk session as unconstitutional, setting the stage for more political infighting.

“A swift transition from the GNC to the new parliament is vital because the country is in turmoil,” Azzedine al-Awami, the former deputy GNC chief, said at the first session.

“We hope all Libyans stand together to put our country’s best interests first.”

Justice Minister Saleh al-Marghani, standing in for the prime minister, who was attending a summit of African and U.S. leaders in Washington urged lawmakers to form a unity government.

Out of 188 elected lawmakers, 158 were sworn in during the session in Tobruk. They then elected Aguila Saleh Iissa as the House’s president. Saleh is seen as a jurist and had occupied many judicial positions during the time of Gaddafi.

DIVISIONS

The United States, Britain, France, Italy and Germany quickly issued a joint call for parties to accept a ceasefire and a dialogue supported by the United Nations, and to recognize the authority of the parliament’s elected representatives.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni during the summit in Washington, said it was a “critical time” for Libya.

“Libya’s challenges can really only be solved by Libyans themselves, but we are committed to stand by them as they engage in the difficult work of doing so,” Kerry said.

He said the United States was committed to returning diplomats to its embassy in Tripoli “as soon as the security situation allows.”

But, underscoring the divisions over the legitimacy of the new assembly, in Tripoli outgoing GNC President Nouri Abusahmain, an Islamist leader, rejected the Tobruk meeting because of the way it had been held and the location of the session.

It was not immediately clear how much support his statement would generate or its impact on armed factions allied with the Islamist political leadership. Most Islamist-leaning lawmakers and ex-GNC members had stayed away from Tobruk.

More than 200 people have been killed in the recent fighting in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi. Clashes have closed off most international flights, damaged Tripoli’s main airport and sent foreign diplomats and workers fleeing abroad.

The battle for the airport is part of a wider political struggle between two loose factions of ex-rebels and their political allies who once fought together against Gaddafi, but whose rivalries exploded over the spoils of postwar Libya.

On one side are the Zintan brigades – based in the city some 130 km (80 miles) southwest of Tripoli – with their anti-Islamist Qaaqaa and Al-Sawaiq fighters, including some ex-Gaddafi forces, and political allies who say they are a bulwark against Islamist extremists taking over Libya.

Against them are fighters loyal to the western port of Misrata who are allied with the Islamist Justice and Construction party, an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, who say they are fighting to purge ex-Gaddafi elements.

OIL OUTPUT DROPS

In a worrying development for Libya’s budget, the country’s lifeline oil production has slipped to 450,000 barrels per day (bpd)from 500,000 bpd a week ago, the National Oil Corp said on Monday, without explaining why output had fallen.

Even the previous figure is well below the 1.4 million bpd Libya produced a year ago, before strikes and blockades cut output and exports from the OPEC state.

Britain was closing its embassy operations on Monday, one of the last foreign governments to pull out its diplomatic staff, following the evacuation of the United States and the United Nations after the fighting erupted in Tripoli.

A Royal Navy ship on Sunday evacuated more than 100 British citizens, Libyan families and some foreign nationals. Some diplomats crossed by road into neighboring Tunisia.

With its national army still in formation, Libya’s fragile government has long struggled against the power of the militias, which have skirmished in parts of the capital since 2011.

Many of the militia brigades are on the government payroll, approved by competing factions in ministries and the parliament, but are often more loyal to commanders, political allies or regions than to the Libyan state.

The General National Congress was stormed numerous times by different militia brigades trying to pressure lawmakers on political decisions or to demand that it dissolve.

Most of Tripoli has stayed largely calm, with fighting mainly restricted to the de facto front lines in the south and parts of the west of the city. Fuel prices have soared on the black market as fighting has caused shortages.

In Benghazi, an alliance of Islamist fighters and ex-rebels have joined together to battle Libyan armed forces, seizing a special forces military base last week and pushing the army outside the city.

Those Islamists, from the Ansar al-Sharia group, are branded a terrorist organization by Washington and have been blamed for a 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans died.

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​Libya is now officially a failed state

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It is failed in the sense that it does not have a cohesive central government whose writ runs to every part of the country.

And of course it is failed due to the complete absence of the rule of law, and failed most of all by the West whose decision to embark on a disastrous military intervention in 2011, which led directly to the ousting and murder of former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was the catalyst for the disaster that has unfolded in the country since.

Recall the alacrity with which the West jumped aboard the Arab Spring after initially being completely wrong-footed by it when it first broke in Tunisia in late 2010 and immediately thereafter hit Egypt, resulting in the toppling of the Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Both the Ben Ali dictatorship in Tunisia and the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt had been Western clients, lavished with investment, aid, and trade deals even though their prisons were filled with pro-democracy activists and political dissidents. The hypocrisy involved here, you might think, would have shamed those same Western governments – the US, France, and the UK in particular – into non-interference in the face of what appeared to be a region-wide revolutionary movement from below.

But shame is not something that troubles policymakers in Western capitals. When another of their regional allies, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, found his government under pressure as the so-called Arab Spring arrived in Libya next, France, Britain, Italy, and the US performed a complete volte face and backed NATO airstrikes against Libyan military forces on the spurious grounds of protecting civilians.

In truth, Gaddafi was sacrificed on the altar of realpolitik, learning a harsh lesson when it comes to trusting states that had lavished his country with trade deals, oil contracts, and political rehabilitation after decades spent as a pariah. For all their rhetoric about supporting democracy and those struggling for democracy, in truth the only test of a government’s legitimacy in the eyes of the West is its willingness and ability to advance their economic and strategic interests.

Smoke billows from an area near Tripoli’s international airport as fighting between rival factions around the capital’s airport continues on July 24, 2014.

The key lesson to emerge from the Arab Spring, in fact, has been how adept the Western powers are when it comes to adapting to shifting conditions on the ground. The notion of Washington, London, or Paris being concerned with the protection of innocent human life and upholding the human and democratic rights of the people of the Arab world should by now have been so comprehensively refuted by their actions since the end of the First World War that only those drawing their arguments from a deep well of mendacity or ignorance would dare suggest otherwise.

Libya in 2014 has descended into an abyss of lawlessness of chaos and violence as a direct consequence of NATO’s intervention back in 2011. With the recent announcement by the British Foreign Office warning all British citizens in Libya to leave the country immediately due to the ramping up of violence between the various factions that have emerged from the chaos, the truth in this regard cannot longer be denied.

Libya’s value – the real reason it came in for intervention – is of course its considerable oil reserves, the largest in Africa estimated at around 47 billion barrels’ worth. Its proximity to European markets and the quality of its oil making it easier to refine only enhances its attraction to Western oil companies.

Most of Libya’s oil deposits are located in the east of the country, where opposition against the Gaddafi regime began and was strongest. The former Libyan leader had signed oil exploration contracts with a number of Western oil companies, part of the process of him opening Libya up to the West, and prior to mounting the NATO intervention that brought his government down guarantees were given by the rebels that those contracts would continue post-Gaddafi.

Three years later the country is in complete turmoil, riven with factionalism, gang violence, and the absence of a strong central government. This is the consequence of NATO’s military intervention, yet another staged by the West that can be categorized as disastrous.

Western colonialism and imperialism has never been more exposed as they have when it comes to Libya.

A leader who could once boast of a phone book containing the numbers of world leaders and royalty, who’d opened up his country for business with Western corporations and governments, Gaddafi was left to be slaughtered like an animal by an armed mob as he tried to flee his home town of Sirte during the fighting, the motorcade he was travelling in stopped by a NATO airstrike.

The Libya that once boasted the highest level of development of any African nation, where the standard of education, housing, infrastructure, and health stood as a beacon in a region that has long labored under the depredations and ravages of free market capitalism; the Libya that helped set up the African Union and invested billions in development projects throughout the African continent, working tirelessly for African unity – this Libya has been destroyed.

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.

Security Tops Agenda in Algeria During Egypt Leader’s First Foreign Trip

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, and Algerian Speaker of the Senate Abdelkader Bensalah, center, listen to their national anthems as el-Sissi arrives for a visit in Algiers, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, and Algerian Speaker of the Senate Abdelkader Bensalah, center, listen to their national anthems as el-Sissi arrives for a visit in Algiers, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for coordinated efforts to fight “terrorism” during a visit to Algiers on Wednesday, his first trip abroad since his election in May.

“The purpose of my visit to Algeria is to reach a shared vision of common interests and challenges facing the two countries and the region,” Algerian official media quoted the ex-army chief as saying.

“The two countries need to work together on a number of issues,” he added, citing the problem of “terrorism… (which requires) a coordination of positions.”

Sisi was met by Algerian premier Abdelmalek Sellal and Senate speaker Abdelkader Bensalah, and was later received by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose chronic health problems have severely limited his movements.

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Algeria and Egypt both share long borders with Libya, which has been gripped by deadly violence since the NATO-backed ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 that scattered weapons across the Sahara region and has provided refuge for jihadists.

Despite a decline in deadly unrest under Bouteflika, jihadists still operate in Algeria, and since the 2011 uprisings toppled dictators across the region, Algeria has been increasingly vulnerable to attacks from neighbouring Mali and Libya.

After Algeria, Al-Sisi will head to Equatorial Guinean capital Malabo for the 23rd African Union (AU) Summit. He is expected to address the summit, as is tradition for a newly elected president of a member state.

UPDATE : ALGIERS/CAIRO, June 26

(Reuters) – Algeria agreed to ship five cargoes of liquefied natural gas to Egypt before the end of the year, a source at Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach said, helping its north African neighbour with its worst energy crunch in years.

The offer of five 145,000 cubic metre cargoes was made after a visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Algiers, his first trip abroad since taking office. Sisi was seeking Algeria’s support to counter Islamist militancy and cooperation on the chaos in neighbouring Libya.

“We did not reach a deal on pricing yet, but it is almost a deal,” the source said of the agreement, which is part of talks over supplying Algerian gas for Egyptian power stations.

Egypt’s oil ministry spokesman Hamdy Abdel-Aziz said he did not have any information on the status of the negotiations between the two countries, which began early this year.

The two north African countries both have long borders with Libya where, three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, a weak central government is struggling to contain Islamist militants and brigades of former rebels and militias.

Egypt’s steadily declining gas production and foreign firms’ wariness about any increasing investment have combined with price subsidies and rising consumption to create the country’s worst energy crisis in decades.

The country of 85 million relies heavily on gas to generate power for households and industry. Previously unheard of winter power cuts this year emphasised the extent of the crisis.

Egypt has been scrambling to secure natural gas supplies, which its mainly oil-producing Gulf Arab allies cannot provide. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait have given $6 billion in petroleum products since the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last summer.

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At least 20 killed, dozens wounded in clashes in Libya’s Benghazi: medics

General Khalifa Haftar (C) holds a news conference in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi.

General Khalifa Haftar (C) holds a news conference in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi.

(Reuters) – At least 20 people were killed and almost 70 wounded when the Libyan army and forces of a renegade general fought Islamist militants in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday, medical sources said.

Combat helicopters belonging to forces loyal to former army general Khalifa Haftar – who wants to purge the North African state of Islamist militants he says a weak government has failed to control – supported the army in the worst fighting in months.

At least 20 people were killed and 67 wounded in Benghazi alone, hospital doctors said. Some 18 wounded were reported in al-Marj, a town east of Benghazi, where fighting also broke out, medical sources said.

Libya is in protracted turmoil three years after the NATO-backed war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, with Islamist, anti-Islamist, regional and political factions locked in conflict.

The Ansar al-Sharia militant group attacked a camp on Monday belonging to army special forces, residents there said. Haftar’s forces joined the battle taking place in residential areas with frightened families staying indoors. Schools and universities were closed.

Special army troops were also seen moving reinforcements to the area of fighting in the west of Libya’s second-largest city.

Haftar started a campaign to battle Islamists two weeks ago. Since then, public life has come almost to a standstill in the city, home to several oil companies. Its airport is closed.

On Sunday, a warplane belonging to Haftar bombed a university faculty while trying to attack a nearby Islamist camp. Two people were wounded.

The government, rival militia brigades and political factions rejected Haftar’s offensive against militants as an attempted coup after his forces also stormed parliament a week ago.

Ansar al-Sharia, listed as a terrorist group by Washington, warned the United States last week against interfering in Libya’s crisis and accused Washington of backing Haftar.

Gaddafi’s one-man rule, followed by three years of unrest, have left Libya with few functioning institutions and no real national army to impose authority on the competing militias and brigades of former rebels who have become power-brokers.

The acting prime minister, Abdullah Al-Thinni, refused on Wednesday to hand over power to a newly elected premier. The OPEC oil producer now has two prime ministers and a parliament deadlocked by splits between factions.

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Libyan special forces commander says his forces join renegade general

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(Reuters) – The commander of Libyan army special forces said on Monday he had allied with renegade general Khalifa Haftar in his campaign against militant Islamists, highlighting the failure of central government in Tripoli to assert its authority.

The announcement gives a major boost to a campaign by Haftar, who has been denounced by the Tripoli government as attempting to stage a coup in the oil producer.

It remains unclear how many troops support Haftar, whose forces launched an attack on Islamist militants in Benghazi on Friday in which more than 70 people died. Militiamen apparently allied to Haftar also stormed parliament in Tripoli on Sunday.

The violence has compounded government’s apparent weakness in combating militias which helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority.

“We are with Haftar,” Special Forces Commander Wanis Bukhamada told Reuters in the eastern city of Benghazi. On live television he had earlier announced his forces would join “Operation Dignity”, as Haftar calls his campaign.

The special forces are the best trained troops of Libya‘s nascent army. They have been deployed since last year in Benghazi to help stem a wave of car bombs and assassinations, but struggled to curb the activities of heavily-armed Islamist militias roaming the city.

An air base in Tobruk in Libya’s far east also declared alliance with Haftar’s force to fight “extremists”.

“The Tobruk air force base will join … the army under the command of General Khalifa Qassim Haftar,” the statement said.

Staff at the air base confirmed its authenticity.

UNCERTAINTY OVER PRIME MINISTER

Since the end of Gaddafi’s one-man rule, the main rival militias of ex-rebels have become powerbrokers in Libya’s political vacuum, carving out fiefdoms.

Compounding the anarchy, Libya’s outgoing government demanded parliament to go into recess after the forthcoming vote on the 2014 budget until the next election later this year, according to a statement issued after a cabinet meeting.

Haftar and other militias have demanded that a parliament, paralyzed by infighting step down.

The government demanded that parliament repeat a vote on a new prime minister. Business Ahmed Maiteeq was named as new premier two weeks ago in a chaotic vote disputed by many lawmakers.

“This government submits a national initiative to the General National Congress (GNC) to reach a national consensus during this decisive phase,” the statement of the cabinet of outgoing premier Abdullah al-Thinni said.

Should the GNC fail to agree on a new premier then Thinni’s cabinet should stay, it said. There was no immediate reaction from the GNC which is unlikely to give up power without a fight.

Haftar, once a Gaddafi ally who turned against him over a 1980s war in Chad, fueled rumors of a coup in February when he appeared on television in uniform calling for a caretaker government to end the crisis in Libya.

 

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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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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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Benghazi attack resulted from US ‘allowing arms deliveries’ to militants

A vehicle (R) and the surrounding buildings burn after they were set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012.

The deadly attack on US diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, could have been prevented if Washington had not allowed arms shipment to reach al-Qaeda-linked militants, said a group launched to unearth truth behind the 2012 ordeal.

“The White House and senior Congressional members deliberately and knowingly pursued a policy that provided material support to terrorist organizations in order to topple a ruler [Muammar Gaddafi] who had been working closely with the West actively to suppress al-Qaeda,” the Citizens Commission on Benghazi (CCB) said in an interim report released Tuesday.

As a result of such policy, there has been “utter chaos” in Libya, across North Africa and beyond, “the spread of dangerous weapons (including surface-to-air missiles), and the empowerment of jihadist organizations like al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood,” the group said in the document, entitled “How America Switched Sides in the War on Terror.”

The commission, set up last year by US center-right press watchdog Accuracy in Media (AIM), is comprised of retired senior military officers and CIA insiders and experts. Its goal is to answer the remaining questions about the September 11, 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Following a seven-month review of the bloody incident, the Commission blamed the Obama administration for failing to prevent a multi-million dollar United Arab Emirates weapons shipment from getting into hands of al-Qaeda-linked militants.

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames.

The United States switched sides in the war on terror with what we did in Libya, knowingly facilitating the provision of weapons to known al-Qaeda militias and figures,” Clare Lopez, a member of the commission and a former CIA officer, told the MailOnline.

Lopez claimed that the weapons that came into the city of Benghazi “were permitted to enter” by American armed forces who were blockading the approaches from air and sea.

They were permitted to come in. … [They] knew these weapons were coming in, and that was allowed,” she said. “The intelligence community was part of that, the Department of State was part of that, and certainly that means that the top leadership of the United States, our national security leadership, and potentially Congress – if they were briefed on this – also knew about this.”

Now all those arms are in Syria, according to another commission member, Retired Rear Admiral Chuck Kubic.

Talking to journalists on Tuesday, he noted that Gaddafi, Libya’s overthrown and killed leader, “was not a good guy, but he was being marginalized.”

According to the commission findings, shortly after the beginning of the Libyan uprising in February 2011, Gaddafi “offered to abdicate.” However, Washington, “ignored his calls for a truce,” the group wrote, which led to extensive loss of life – including the four Americans – chaos, and detrimental outcomes for U.S. national security objectives across the region.

We had a leader who had won the Nobel Peace Prize,” Kubic said, “but who was unwilling to give peace a chance for 72 hours.”

On March 21, 2011, the US Army General Carter Ham, who was leading the American forces enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, said that attacking Gaddafi was not part of the mission.

That, Kubic noted, was a signal to the Libyan leader that there was a chance for a deal.

By 22 March 2011, Qaddafi verifiably had begun to pull his forces back from key rebel-held cities such as Benghazi and Misrata. Word was passed that he wanted a way out of the crisis and was willing to step down and permit a transition government to take power in his stead,” the report said.

In exchange for the stepping down, Gaddafi reportedly wanted permission to continue fighting al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – the north-African wing of the terrorist organization. The second condition was the lifting of the sanctions against Gaddafi himself, his family members and people loyal to him.

However, the CCB said, despite the willingness of both the US Army General and the Libyan leader to pursue the possibility of truce talks, “permission was not given to Gen. Ham from his chain of command in the Pentagon and the window of opportunity closed.”

The Obama Administration and the National Security Staff did not immediately respond to questions about the commission’s findings, the Daily Mail reported.

We don’t claim to have all the answers here,” Roger Aronoff, AIM’s editor told journalists. “We hope you will, please, pursue this. Check it out. Challenge us,” he added.

The Commission’s findings are based on information they got from interviews with “several knowledgeable sources,” they said. As part of the investigation, the CCB along with AIM have also filed 85 document requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The requests were addressed to the Department of State, Department of Defense, CIA and FBI.

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US Navy SEALs board tanker hijacked in Libya

navy seals board ship

navy seals board ship

TRIPOLI, Libya: The Libyan government on Monday thanked the United States for a Navy SEALs operation that stopped a North Korean-flagged oil tanker from exporting crude loaded onto it by an autonomy-seeking eastern militia.

The SEALs took control of the Morning Glory late Sunday while it was in international waters near Cyprus, the Pentagon said in a statement. Rear Adm. John Kirby said no one was injured in the operation, which was approved by President Barack Obama.

It said that the tanker will return to Libya under the control of sailors from the USS Stout. It was not clear which Libyan port the vessel was sailing for. North Korea says it has nothing to do with the ship.

The vessel, whose ownership remains a mystery, sparked political tension in the country after it sailed away with a cargo worth more than 30 million dollars from the port of al-Sidra, in eastern Libya, despite government attempts to seize it. The parliament, which had a long rivalry with then-Prime Minister Ali Zidan, used the crisis to vote him out, saying it had underlined his weakness.

The port is among three of the country’s largest oil terminals, which since last summer have been seized by rebels who demand greater autonomy and equal distribution of oil revenues among the country’s three historic regions.

Cyprus is monitoring the tanker, which had been anchored some 18 nautical miles off its southern coastal town of Limassol when U.S. special forces took control, its Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Adding that the ship was now sailing “in a westward direction” with a U.S. Navy escort.

Libya’s interim government said in a statement Monday that the oil cargo will be unloaded when it arrives in Libya. The crew is safe and will be dealt with in accordance with international law, it added.

“The interim government thanks and appreciates all who contributed to this work … especially international partners, above all the governments of the United States and the Republic of Cyprus,” the government said in a statement, adding: “the oil is the backbone of the national economy and tampering with it … is unacceptable.”

On her Twitter account, US Ambassador to Libya Deborah K. Jones wrote, “glad we were able to respond positively to Libya’s request for help in preventing illegal sale of its oil on stateless ship.”

Since the downfall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has struggled to rein in unruly militias, most of which stem from the rebellion that overthrew him.

The attempt to sell oil from the seized terminals was a first, a daring move made by an eastern militia led by former rebel fighter named Ibrahim Jedran, who controls the most vital terminals for the country’s so-called Oil Crescent. He is a founding member of a body known as the Cyrenaica Political Bureau, named after Libya’s eastern region, which aims to replace the state oil company and distribute revenues more equitably itself.

Bureau member Essam al-Jihani on Monday said the tanker incident had drawn international attention to the region’s cause. Speaking by telephone from Ajdabiya, close to al-Sidra port, he said his group is preparing to load a second tanker for export, although it was not possible to verify his claims.

As the tanker crisis appeared to come to an end, a car bomb struck just outside the gates of a military technical school in the eastern city of Benghazi, killing nine soldiers and wounding at least others, Libya’s state news agency and officials said. Hours later, a second blast from a car bomb rocked a central district in the city, killing one person, a security official said.

The first car bomb, which was loaded with explosives, went off as cadets were leaving after an inauguration ceremony, the LANA news agency reported. It said the explosion tore the facade off shops and destroyed several cars in the area.

Bodies of the slain officers and the wounded were taken to the Benghazi Medical Center, security and medical officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Initial reports had said that 14 people were wounded in the bombing, but disparate figures are common in the immediate aftermath of large attacks.

Benghazi, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that led to Gadhafi’s downfall, has seen a sharp rise in attacks and assassinations targeting military and police troops. The city was the scene of a brazen militant attack on the U.S. Consulate on Sept. 11, 2012 which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Assassins kill former officers, judges, and activists on a near daily basis in Libya’s east, which includes Benghazi and the Islamist-stronghold of Darna.

 

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