In eastern Libya there are a lot of Islamic radical militias, while in the west the militias are more tribal, ethnic (Berber or Arab), and mercenary. Many of the militias have taken over control of towns and neighborhoods and are unwilling to give up their power and the ability to “tax” the civilians they control. Most Libyans oppose the continued existence of the militias and even demonstrate against these warlords. But for now the government is not strong enough to take on the militias. But eventually there will be a showdown. The government continues to increase the size and capabilities of the security forces and the more astute militia leaders know that hard times are coming.
The government disputes Western intelligence agency warnings of more violence by Libyan Islamic radical groups or those from Mali. The warnings have caused several nations to evacuate most of their diplomats and warn their citizens to get out of eastern Libya. There is also fear that al Qaeda groups based in Mali will make an attack on Libyan oil and gas fields, similar to the attack recently made in neighboring Algeria. That attack failed, leaving 29 Islamic terrorists and over 40 workers dead. The Libyan oil fields are heavily guarded and even the Islamic radical groups in Libya realize that any attack on these facilities (which benefit all Libyans) would cause a backlash against all Islamic radical groups. For this reason the government doubts there is any Islamic radical threat in the country. But Western intelligence agencies point out that Islamic radicals often do not act in their own best interest. After all, these guys are on a Mission From God and do what they think Allah (God) wants them to do. Moreover, al Qaeda has been openly urging its members and admirers to seize Westerners and hold them for ransom. That is easier to do now that al Qaeda has a sanctuary in northern Mali. The Libyan goverment is also reluctant to admit how little control it has throughout the country, especially in areas where Islamic radical militias are the local “government.” The government has managed to pressure some of the worst Islamic radicals to flee the country. These terrorists can sneak back in but there is more pressure on Islamic radicals to behave or leave.
January 24, 2013: Algeria announced that interrogation of the three surviving Islamic terrorists from the January 16 gas field attack revealed that the 32 Islamic terrorists had driven through Libya and been sold weapons and other supplies by the Zintan militia, which operates throughout western Libya. This was one of first rebel militias to enter Tripoli two years ago. Last April the government finally persuaded the Zintan militia to leave the main airport outside Tripoli. The government had been trying to take control of the airport for months. The Zintan militia held the airport for eight months, often demanding bribes for access and causing all sorts of trouble. The Zintan militia contains a lot of Berbers and is not known to be particularly religious. They are out to make as much money as they can and are suspected of selling many of the weapons they seized in captured military camps. The Zintan militia denied they helped the Islamic radicals who attacked the Algerian gas facility on the 16th, but it is doubtful that the Zintan gang does background checks when someone offers cash for weapons. It’s just business. The 29 dead Islamic terrorists in Algeria were found using Libyan military weapons and uniforms provided to the Libyan rebels two years ago.
Germany, Britain, Australia, the United States, and the Netherlands warned their citizens to get out of Benghazi because of intelligence indicating major Islamic attacks in the city and a Libyan oil facility and against Westerners. France followed suit the next day.
January 23, 2013: The U.S. Secretary of State testified about her role in the deaths of the U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi last September. She refused to take responsibility or explain what led to the debacle. The State Department, after an independent study of the incident, said it had fired several lower ranking officials it considered responsible. It was later discovered that no one was fired, they were just removed from their current jobs and were waiting for new assignments. None of the Islamic terrorists known to be responsible for the attack have been captured or killed. Some were arrested in Turkey, Tunisia, and Egypt but were released by the police before they could be extradited to the United States. In Libya there is no strong police presence, and witnesses to the attack on the American ambassador, who talked to reporters last September, now say they fear reprisals from Islamic radical groups and will not talk to American government investigators.
January 20, 2013: The Defense Minister accused one of his former aides of organizing the assassination attempt against him yesterday. Someone fired on the minister’s convoy but the minister was not hurt. Government security officials believe the minister’s convoy got caught in the middle of a tribal feud, which involved a lot of gunfire.
January 16, 2013: In Benghazi a policeman was killed by a bomb planted in his vehicle. This is the second such attack in the last two days. Someone is trying to intimidate the police into inactivity, and it’s unclear if militias (Islamic or otherwise) or criminal gangs are responsible. Some militias have turned into criminal gangs.
January 15, 2013: Italy has temporarily shut its consulate in Benghazi after someone fired on the Italian ambassador in Benghazi on the 12th. In response to that attack the government said it was going to improve security around embassies and foreign diplomats and hunt down those responsible for these attacks. This is more rhetoric than reality and the foreigners know it.
January 8, 2013: More fighting between black African and Arab tribes around the southeastern town of Kufra has left at least four dead in the last few days. This violence has been going on for over a year and has left nearly 400 dead so far. The fighting was a lot worse last year but government efforts (negotiators and police) have calmed things down a bit. The disputes are largely about control of water and land and are part of the centuries old animosity between the Arabs and black Africans. The two tribes involved have a long history of conflict.
January 6, 2013: In Benghazi a bomb being planted under the car of the leader of an Islamic radical militia went off prematurely. One of the bomb planters died and the other got away. The bombing attempt was apparently related to a feud the car owner had with a rival militia.
January 5, 2013: Outside Benghazi a policeman was found shot dead by an unknown assailant.
January 2, 2013: The chief of the Benghazi criminal investigation (detectives) unit (Abdel-Salam al Mahdawi) was kidnapped. Despite a widespread search effort, he remains missing. Mahdawi was apparently close to identifying who was behind the murder of the Benghazi police chief last November.
December 31, 2012: A bomb went off outside the home of the chief prosecutor of Benghazi. There were no injuries but a message was sent.
December 29, 2012: In the coastal town of Dafniyah (east of Misarata) a bomb went off in a Christian church, killing two Egyptian worshipers. This was the first attack on non-Moslems since the Kaddafi government fell two years ago.
The Zueitina oil terminal (180 kilometers southwest of Benghazi) was shut down because demonstrators (demanding more money from the government) blocked access.
December 26, 2012: A government intelligence agent was killed 50 kilometers outside Benghazi.
December 18, 2012: In Benghazi four people died when an armed mob sought to free two militia men held prisoner in a government compound.