Tag Archives: Tripoli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastern Libyans Declare Autonomous Government – ABC News

5346787The leaders of a movement for self-rule in oil-rich eastern Libyan unilaterally announced Thursday the formation of a shadow government, the latest challenge to the weakened central authority.

The announcement came several months after the movement, backed by some militias and local tribes, declared the eastern half of Libya to be an autonomous state, named Barqa, claiming broad self-rule powers and control over resources.

The central government in Tripoli had rejected the declaration. It had no immediate comments on Thursday.

Advocates of the self-rule in the east, who long has complained about discrimination by the government in the capital Tripoli, have been pushing for the reviving the system maintained under King Idris in 1951. Libya then was divided into three states, with Cyrenaica — or Barqa, as it was called in Arabic — encompassing the eastern half of the country.

Opponents fear a declaration of autonomy could be the first step toward the outright division of the country, particularly with the turmoil that struck in the aftermath of the fall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The tension between the central government and eastern militias and tribal leaders has already disrupted the exports of oil. Eastern militias earlier seized control of oil exporting terminals, sending production plunging from 1.4 million barrels a day to around 600,000, robbing the country of its main revenue source.

Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi, the head of the newly declared Barqa government, said the aim is to improve distribution of resources and undermine the hold of the centralized system that has discriminated against their region.

“The aim of the regional government is to share resources in a better fashion, and to end the centralized system adopted by the authorities in Tripoli,” al-Barassi said at a news conference in the northeastern town of Ajdabiya.

He dismissed accusations that the movement’s leaders are only seeking to take control of the region’s oil resources. “We only want Barqa’s share according to the 1951 constitution,” he said.

The new government is made up of 24 posts, which don’t include the defense or foreign affairs portfolios, he said. Al-Barassi said the region will encompass four provinces, including Benghazi, Tobruk, Ajdabiya and Jebel Akhdar.

Since Gadhafi’s ouster following months of civil war, Libya has been beset by lawlessness as the numerous armed men who fought against the longtime leader’s forces formed into independent militias now vying for power and allying with competing politicians.

“The security file will be priority,” Al-Barassi said. “It is a thorny issue leading to the chaos of illegitimate militias.”

It is not clear how much support the new autonomous government will have in the country’s east, though the movement’s leaders have seized control of important resources. Officials in the central government have threatened to use military action against any illegal or unauthorized shipment of oils.

Meanwhile, a Libyan court on Thursday referred Gadhafi’s son and more than 30 others to trial before a higher tribunal on charges ranging from murder to treason during the 2011 uprising, a senior prosecutor said.

Prosecutor Al-Seddik al-Sur said the Tripoli court also decided to appoint defense lawyers for Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, and the late dictator’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi. He did not announce a date for the trial before the Criminal Court.

Al-Senoussi and al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, Gadhafi’s last prime minister, were among about 10 of the 38 Gadhafi-era officials to attend the hearing. Seif al-Islam, held by a militia group that captured him as he attempted to flee to neighboring Niger in 2011, was not present.

Also underscoring Libya’s lawlessness since the ouster of the Gadhafi regime, gunmen shot dead an air force colonel Thursday as he left his home in the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the 2011 revolt.

Eastern Libyans Declare Autonomous Government – ABC News.