Tag Archives: Tripoli

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 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.

Benghazi women’s rights activist Salwa Bughagis murdered

Salwa Bughaigis voting in today’s elections (Photo: her Facebook page)

Benghazi women’s rights activist and lawyer Salwa Bughagis was murdered this evening by five gunmen who broke into her home in the city’s Hawari district and shot her in the head.

She was rushed to Benghazi Medical Centre but died shortly afterwards. She is also said to have stabbed several times.

A gardener was also said to have been shot in the attack; he is recovering. Her husband, Essam Al-Ghariani, is missing, presumed kidnapped.

She had earlier returned home after voting in today’s elections and put pictures on her Facebook page of herself casting her vote today. She was then on Al-Nabaa TV for a few minutes at around 6pm speaking about clashes in the city which she said she could see from her house between security forces and an Islamist brigade. She urged people to go out and vote

The killing has shocked Benghazi where she and her sister Iman were prominent supporters and activists in the revolution from its very beginning. However, her support for women’s rights made her a vocal opponent of not only Islamic extremists but also of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Grand Mufti. She was against the hijab, insisting it was not Islamic, and would not even wear a headscarf.

She had received a number of death threats which she ignored but after a reported attempt to kill her son earlier this year went abroad with the entire family. Nonetheless, she said at the time that nothing would stop her speaking out about women’s rights.

It is not known who killed her, but militant Islamists are being blamed. She had just returned to Libya with her husband to vote in the elections. It is thought that her TV appearance may have alerted her killers to the fact that she was back in Benghazi.

Libya evacuation decision ‘minute by minute,’ U.S. official says

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Tripoli, Libya (CNN) — The U.S. military has doubled the number of aircraft standing by in Italy if needed to evacuate Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, CNN has learned.

A decision to evacuate as violence in the Libyan capital grows is “minute by minute, hour by hour,” a defense official told CNN on Monday.

Fierce fighting swept across the city Sunday after armed men stormed the country’s interim Parliament. Sporadic bursts of gunfire and blasts could still be heard on the outskirts of the capital Monday evening.

The violence appeared to be some of the worst since the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

In a move that could further inflame an already tense situation, the speaker of the interim parliament, Nuri Abu Sahmain, who is backed by Islamist forces, ordered troops known as the “Central Libya Shield Forces” to deploy to the capital Monday, the Libyan state news agency LANA reported.

The forces, mostly from the city of Misrata, east of Tripoli, are considered to be among the most powerful Islamist-affiliated militias. They have had long-running rivalries with the heavily armed Zintan militias when both groups were based in the capital.

Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to Libya announced that his country’s embassy and consulate in Tripoli closed Monday because of the violence, and the staff has left Tripoli, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The sites will reopen when the situation stabilizes, Ambassador Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Ali said, according to the report.

Turkey took similar measures, shutting down its consulate in Benghazi, Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu news agency reported.

U.S. aircraft arrive in Italy

Four additional U.S. V-22 Osprey aircraft “arrived overnight” at the naval base in Sigonella, Italy, to join four V-22s and 200 Marines that had been moved there last week, a U.S. defense source said.

The V-22 Ospreys, which can take off and land vertically with at least two dozen passengers, are ready to be in the air on six hours notice, the official said. The additional aircraft should give the military the capability to evacuate more than 200 people from the embassy.

The aircraft and Marines are part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response team, stationed in Moron, Spain. The force was formed after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi in 2012 to provide closer standby military capability in a crisis.

4 killed, dozens more injured in violence

At least four people were killed and 90 injured Sunday in Tripoli, according to the Health Ministry.

Fighters armed with heavy weapons moved in on the General National Congress as Sunday’s session was adjourned. The attackers stormed the building as members were evacuated. Fighting then spread to other parts of the city.

Libya’s main political forces have been slowly dividing along Islamist and liberal lines.

The more liberal parties, backed by the heavily armed militias from the western mountain city of Zintan, have accused the Islamists of hijacking power and controlling the government and parliament.

The GNC attack involved the al-Qaaqaa brigade, a Zintan militia based in Tripoli, which said in a statement that it had “heeded the call of the homeland to save it from the abusing politicians.”

Libya’s political process has stalled as a result of infighting among the Islamist and liberal forces in the GNC, and elections for a new parliament to replace it have not yet taken place. Many Libyans view the GNC as having lost legitimacy.

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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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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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Libya MPs shot and wounded as congress stormed

(CNN) — At least two members of Libya’s General National Congress were shot and wounded after protesters stormed its headquarters in Tripoli on Sunday evening, according to congress members.

One of the congressmen, Abdul Rahman Sweihli, was shot in the leg after protesters opened fire on him inside the building.

As his security detail rushed him out, gunmen opened fire on their cars as they were trying to flee, his son Bashir Sweihli told CNN.

No information about the second lawmaker was available.

A GNC member speaking on Libyan TV said lawmakers continued their evening session despite dozens of protesters surrounding the building and pouring gasoline on the walls before they stormed the building.

Workers walk past the wall of the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) in the capital Tripoli on March 2, 2014, in front of which gunmen dispersed a sit-in protest and detained demonstrators the previous day.

Workers walk past the wall of the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) in the capital Tripoli on March 2, 2014, in front of which gunmen dispersed a sit-in protest and detained demonstrators the previous day.

Other members of the GNC, the country’s interim parliament, were assaulted, and some of the women members harassed, lawmakers said.

Young men ransacked the building, and parts of it were set on fire, according to witnesses.

Videos posted to social media sites showed a chaotic scene, with young men setting cars and furniture outside the building ablaze.

Protesters accused a GNC-backed rebel group of attacking its camp outside parliament

Protesters accused a GNC-backed rebel group of attacking its camp outside parliament

Public anger has been mounting against the GNC, especially after members voted last December to extend their term in office until the end of this year.

For almost a month, thousands of Libyans have taken to the streets across the country in peaceful demonstrations demanding an end to the GNC’s term.

In response to the rising tensions, lawmakers announced last month that early elections would be held, but a date has not yet been set.

Earlier in the day, anti-GNC protesters blocked off roads close to the building and set tires on fire after reports spread of an attack Saturday night on anti-GNC protesters. That attack included burning down their tent and reportedly kidnapping some protesters.

More than two years after the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime, Libyans have become increasingly frustrated with the state of their country and the performance of their elected officials.

Separately on Sunday, gunmen shot dead a French national in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Local authorities condemned the killing and said the man was an employee of a private French company that was doing expansion work on the Benghazi Medical Center.

The French Foreign Ministry condemned the killing of the man identified as Patrice Real and said the perpetrators must be pursued and punished.

A Libyan soldier was also killed in Benghazi on Sunday when an improvised explosive device detonated under his car, according to the state news agency LANA.

Four unidentified bodies of young men with gunshots to the head were found in a forest east of Benghazi, LANA reported.

Separately, a fifth unidentified body was discovered in al-Jarutha, west of the city.

Violence levels in the city have spiked over recent weeks with assassinations, kidnappings and bombings becoming near daily occurrences in the city that was the cradle of Libya’s revolution.

While no group has claimed responsibility for the rising violence in Benghazi, residents and officials blame the violence on Islamist extremist groups.

Last week security forces found the bodies of seven Egyptian Christians dumped west of the city.

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تعزيزات عسكرية لاستعادة الرمادي والفلوجة – سكاي نيوز

الخميس  02 يناير, 2014 – 01:54  بتوقیت أبوظبي – بغداد – سكاي نيوز عربية

أفاد مراسلنا في بغداد بوصول تعزيزات عسكرية إضافية إلى محافظة الأنبار، في وقت سيطر مسلحو العشائر على مدينتي الفلوجة والرمادي وشهدت المدينتان اشتباكات بين الشرطة ومسلحين مرتبطين بالقاعدة

ونقل مراسلنا عن مصدر في قيادة عمليات الأنبار وصول ثلاثة أفواج مدرعة تتألف من 160 آلية عسكرية بين دبابة ومدرعة إلى مقر قيادة العمليات في الرمادي قادمة من بغداد

وأضاف المصدر أن هذه الآليات ستنشر ابتداء من ليلة الخميس في مدينة الرمادي لاستعادة السيطرة عليها وطرد المسلحين منها

في هذه الأثناء أفاد مصدر في شرطة الرمادي بأن اشتباكات عنيفة اندلعت بين الشرطة ومسلحي القاعدة في قضاء كبيسة غربي محافظة الأنبار

يأتي ذلك في وقت انتشر فيه مسلحون من أبناء العشائر في شوارع الرمادي مدججين بالسلاح لفرض السيطرة على المدينة وحماية الدوائر الأمنية والحكومية

كما قامت اللجان الشعبية بقيادة علماء الدين وشيوخ العشائر في مدينة الفلوجة بتشيكل لجان مسلحة بقيادة أحد الضباط الكبار من المدينة لحماية الدوائر الحكومية والمحال التجارية وتمنع أي مظاهر مسلحة من خارج هذه اللجان داخل المدينة

وشهدت كل من الرمادي والفلوجة اشتباكات بين أبناء العشائر ومسلحي القاعدة اللذين تسللوا إلى المدينتين عقب الانفلات الأمني الذي تلا تدخل الجيش العراقي وقوات “سوات” لفض اعتصام الرمادي.

هذه التطورات دفعت رئيس الوزراء العراقي نوري المالكي إلى التراجع عن قرار سحب الجيش من مدن الأنبار، معلنا عن إرسال قوات إضافية إلى هذه المحافظة التي تشهد مدينتاها الرئيسيتان، الفلوجة والرمادي، مواجهات بين مسلحين والقوى الأمنية

وقال المالكي حسبما جاء في خبر عاجل على تلفزيون “العراقية” الحكومي: “لن نسحب الجيش بل سندفع بقوات إضافية استجابة لمناشدات أهالي الأنبار وحكومتها

Libya releases 4 U.S. military personnel; Obama updated in Hawaii – Washington Times

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WASHINGTON — Four U.S. military personnel investigating potential evacuation routes in Libya were taken into custody at a checkpoint and then detained briefly by the Libyan government before being released, U.S. officials said Friday night.

These four military personnel were operating in an area near the coastal city of Sabratha in northwestern Libya as part of security preparedness efforts when they were taken into custody, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. Sabathra, about 40 miles west of Tripoli, is a popular tourist area with its ancient Roman ruins.

No one was injured. The military personnel were taken to the U.S. Embassy after their release, a Defense Department official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the incident by name and requested anonymity.

The four were supporting U.S. Marine security forces protecting the American Embassy, the official said. They were likely U.S. special operations forces, which have been deployed to Libya.

An altercation apparently took place at the checkpoint, the Defense Department official said. Reports of gunfire could not be confirmed.

After they were detained at the checkpoint, the Americans were transferred to the Ministry of the Interior and held for a few hours, the official said. Psaki said U.S. officials were still trying to confirm details of the incident.

“We value our relationship with the new Libya,” Psaki said. “We have a strategic partnership based on shared interests and our strong support for Libya’s historic democratic transition.”

The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli includes a security detail. The embassy’s personnel are restricted in their movements in Libya.

Libya has been marked by unrest since the ouster in 2011 of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Armed groups that fought Gadhafi’s army turned themselves into militias that exploited the weakness of the weak central government in Tripoli and operate independently of the police and the military.

In September 2012, terrorists attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission at Benghazi, Libya, killing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

President Obama, who was vacationing in Hawaii, was updated about the incident by staff from the White House’s National Security Council, officials said.

Libya releases 4 U.S. military personnel; Obama updated in Hawaii – Washington Times.

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.