The government has arrested
four people believed to be involved in the September 11, attack in Benghazi that left
the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead. The government says it has
the names of fifty people involved in the attack and is searching for them. The
attack force involved foreign as well as Libyan Islamic radicals. Some of the
suspects are believed to have already fled the country and some are believed to
be hiding in Egypt. The government believes that the attack was planned in
advance to commemorate the 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. and avenge the deaths
of Osama bin Laden last year and the current number two al Qaeda leader (Sheikh
Abu Yahya al Libi) in Pakistan three months ago. Clips from a new film critical
of Islam appearing on the Internet was coincidental and had nothing to do with
the attack except to make it easier to stage a demonstration to distract the
guards around the house where the four American victims were staying in Benghazi.
officials had warned American embassy personnel on September 8th
about the increasing danger from Islamic radical groups in Benghazi. Since the
attack the U.S. has sent 50 marines and more intelligence personnel to Libya. Finding
qualified intel personnel for this was difficult because so many Arab speaking
intel specialists are working on the Syria situation (mainly in Turkey and
Jordan). Meanwhile, American intel analysts back in the U.S. are going over
video (from satellites and UAVs) and electronic intercepts from Libya. American
UAVs have been seen over Benghazi since the 11th. All this is being
coordinated with Libya’s new intelligence service, which is only a year old and
spread thin by the need to track all the militias and Islamic radical groups
inside Libya. An FBI investigation team has also arrived and is helping the
Libyan police collect and analyze evidence.
the known presence of al Qaeda affiliated groups in Libya, and Benghazi, the
ambassador did not request U.S. Maine Corps embassy guards and preferred to
travel around with light security. There were plenty of pro-U.S. Libyan
militias around but apparently no effective security plan for dealing with a
well-coordinated attack. Several dozen heavily armed (with assault rifles, RPGs, and heavy machine-guns) terrorists attacked the compound the U.S. ambassador
was staying in on the 11th.
basic security problem in Libya is the presence of over a hundred local
militias, formed over a year ago to overthrow, and then replace, the Kaddafi
government. Unimpressed with the competence, or intentions, of the new
government most militias kept their guns, their organization, and an attitude
that they could make rules as they saw fit. This has not led to general chaos,
but it has led to a lot of tense situations as the new government tries to deal
with all these new warlords. Bribes are preferred over bullets and since the
government has control over the oil income, there is cash available for buying
peace. The major task is turning these temporary peace deals into long-term
arrangements. That means disarming the militias and persuading them to turn
into political parties, rather than remaining private armies. This approach
does not work with the hard-core Islamic militias, who are angry that they did
not get many votes in the July elections and are still determined to turn Libya
into an Islamic dictatorship. The government does not want to go to war with
the Islamic radical groups, at least not yet. Until the September 11th
attack in Benghazi the government thought it had an unwritten agreement for the
Islamic radicals to leave foreign diplomats alone. Now the government has to
worry about the Islamic radical groups uniting to oppose any government effort
to capture and punish those responsible for killing the American ambassador
(which is being hailed by Islamic radicals everywhere as a great victory).
production is running at 1.4 million barrels a day and oil income for the first
seven months of the year was $30.5 billion. This is near pre-revolution levels
(1.6 million barrels a day). So there is plenty of money but there is also
lots of corruption and a widespread dependency on oil income. Kaddafi ran a
low-budget welfare state that diverted a lot of the oil money to the Kaddafi family
and closest associates. Libyans want a more equitable distribution of the oil
money but the rampant corruption is getting in the way.
15, 2012: Al Qaeda took credit for the September 11 attack in Benghazi and
called for more American diplomats to be attacked wherever possible. No Islamic
radical group in Libya has taken credit for the recent attack, apparently
because it is obvious that most Libyans are angry about killing the U.S.
ambassador and the Americans are determined to find and punish the killers. The
Islamic terrorists in general are very afraid of UAV attacks, which have killed
hundreds of key terrorist leaders and technicians (bomb builders, publicists,
14, 2012: The airport in Benghazi was closed for a few hours until police could
get Islamic radical groups to stop firing into the air, trying to hit American
UAVs (which are flying out of range of the heavy machine-guns used) circling
the city in support of the search for those responsible for killing the U.S.
ambassador on the 11th.
13, 2012: Police in Benghazi arrested four men and charged them with
involvement in the killing of four Americans on the 11th.
11, 2012: In Benghazi Islamic radicals attacked a U.S. State Department compound,
killing the American ambassador to Libya, another diplomat, and two former SEALs
acting as bodyguards.
7, 2012: The government informed Lebanon that it has arrested, and will
prosecute, ten former Kaddafi officials believed involved in the kidnapping and
murder of a senior Shia cleric (Musa Sadr) during an official visit to Libya in
1978. The mysterious death of this senior Lebanese Shia cleric has long been a
source of friction between Lebanon and Libya. It is believed that Sadr was
killed by Kaddafi at the request of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, as the
Sunni Palestinians were then fighting Shia militias in Lebanon (which was in
the midst of a civil war that did not end until 1990).
6, 2012: Sunni Islamic radicals fought with Sufi villagers 50 kilometers
southeast of Benghazi as the Sunni gunmen attempted to destroy a Sufi shrine in
the village of Rajma. There were about ten casualties and the Islamic radicals
retreated. The villagers called on the national government for help. But the
government has been reluctant to confront the Islamic radicals, despite the
growing number of attacks on Sufi shrines, schools, and mosques in the last two
weeks. For a year now Islamic radical militis have been attacking Sufi shrines,
first in Tripoli and now in eastern Libya. The Sufi, like the Shia (and many
similar groups) are minority Islamic sects that conservative factions among the
majority Sunni consider heretical. This often leads to violence, as it has for
decades in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda, and similar groups, are
particularly active in going after "heretical" Moslems. The heretics
often fight back, and most Moslems do not back the radicals. The government is
trying to avoid a battle between Islamic radicals and the rest of the
population, lest Libya suffer what Iraq, Pakistan, and Iran are going through.
5, 2012: Mauritania finally agreed to turn over Kaddafi’s secret police chief, Abdullah
al Senussi. The government has been negotiating this for six months. While Mauritania
had arrested Senussi for entering the country (from Morocco) on a false
passport last March, they said they were under no obligation to honor a Libyan
extradition request. Senussi sought to muster enough cash and friends so that
he could escape to whichever sanctuary he was headed for. That effort
apparently failed. Libya and many Western and Arab intelligence agencies want
to talk to Senussi, who was the keeper of Kaddafis most embarrassing and
explosive secrets (involving torture, terror, and dirty deeds in general).
Mauritania was under pressure from many nations to turn over Senussi. One of
the things foreigners want to discuss with Senussi was a recently discovered
Kaddafi program to store weapons and bomb making materials at many Libyan embassies
around the world. These weapons were to be used to kill Libyan expatriates who
were causing Kaddafi problems and support local terrorists who were working
for Kaddafi. Senussi is believed to have been involved with this embassy
terrorism support program, which has been in place for decades.
2, 2012: In Benghazi a car bombing killed one army intelligence commander and
wounded another. There have been a growing number of such attacks, which appear
to be carried out by Islamic terror groups seeking to cripple government
efforts to obtain information about exactly who the Islamic radicals are and
what their plans are.
28, 2012: The interior minister admitted that the government would not confront
Sunni Islamic terror groups that are attacking and increasingly destroying
Sufi facilities and holy places. The government justified this policy by
pointing out the risk of widespread violence if the Islamic radicals were held
accountable for their actions.
27, 2012: The United States resumed full services at its embassy in Tripoli but
warned Americans to avoid travel to Libya because of the uncertain security
situation. The national police force is still being rebuilt and dozens of the
hundred plus armed militias are considered dangerous. This is especially true
of the Islamic radical groups, who are often very hostile to non-Moslems.