Libya: The Slow Motion War On Terrorism

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April 29, 2013: The government admits security remains a major problem in the country. Progress is being made but it is slow because the government wants to disarm or otherwise disable militias without triggering another civil war. The dozens of major militias know they are unpopular and are under government and popular pressure to disband. Most of these militias don’t agree with other groups but are united by the desire to stay in business (be it just stealing or Islamic terrorism). If the government comes on too strong many of these militias could unite and put up some serious resistance. More civil war is very unpopular among nearly all Libyans, especially now that the economy is reviving.

The government has given the new government of Egypt two billion dollars. As far as anyone can tell, this is something of a gift, to a government desperate for cash because their economy has sharply declined since the Mubarak dictatorship was overthrown. It is believed the gift was intended to ensure that the Egyptian government remained cooperative. This includes making it difficult for weapons to be smuggled out of Libya and for opponents of the new Libyan government to set up shop in Egypt. 

Weapons stolen from government warehouses two years ago are still being smuggled out of Libya and have shown up in at least twelve other countries so far. Most of the stuff gets out to the east (Egypt) or the south (the lightly guarded borders with Niger, Chad, and Sudan). A lot of these weapons remain hidden inside Libya, where they are considered a valuable commodity that can be used for family defense or sold to other Libyans or smugglers to raise quick cash. Illegal weapons are common and the security forces won’t come after you about it unless you are using those weapons to commit another crime.

April 28, 2013: Several hundred armed militiamen surrounded the foreign ministry compound in Tripoli and demanded that a law be passed barring anyone who worked for Kaddafi from holding a long list of government jobs. Such a law was proposed last December but has been stalled over the issue of what to do about Kaddafi officials who changed sides during the civil war and people who worked for Kaddafi but were not supporters of Kaddafi. The foreign ministry, like many other ministries, has some senior officials who changed sides during the war. There is an element of class, family, and tribal envy here since during decades of Kaddafi rule educated or ambitious Libyans could either go into exile (which many did) or work for the government. Some supported Kaddafi’s ideas about a benevolent (in theory) dictatorship, most did not. Now Libyans are split on the issue of barring everyone who ever worked for Kaddafi (including those who quit and fled the country) from government employment. For many Libyans it’s all black and white and no compromise will be tolerated. But many Libyans who could be banned are just the sort of educated and skilled people the country needs in government right now.

April 27, 2013: In the east (Benghazi) a bomb went off next to a police station, but there were no injuries. 

April 26, 2013: In the east (Derna, 200 kilometers east of Benghazi) Islamic radicals attacked the headquarters of a pro-government militia, killing one man. A car bomb was found nearby and defused.

April 23, 2013: In the capital a car bomb went off near the French embassy and three people were injured. This was the first such attack since the assault on American diplomats in Benghazi last September.

April 20, 2013: After months of effort, negotiators got two feuding tribes in the deep south to agree on and sign a peace deal. This may end the fighting down there but will not end ancient animosities. Kaddafi used tribal loyalties to maintain power and favored certain tribes, and some of the pro-Kaddafi tribes kept fighting after Kaddafi died in 2011. The violence is not so much about putting Kaddafi followers back into power but holding on to Kaddafi era privileges and avoiding punishment for crimes committed to support Kaddafi’s rule. In this case, violence continued on the southern border where the pro-rebel Tabu tribesmen were put in charge of the border (with Sudan, Chad, and Niger) security. There they constantly skirmished with the pro-Kaddafi Zwai. Another element of this rivalry was that the Tabu are black African while the Zwai are Arab. Kaddafi supported Arab domination over black African Arabs, something many Arabs still support.

April 17, 2013: A B-737 passenger jet was hit by gunfire (in the forward lavatory) as it landed in the Tripoli airport. There were no injuries and it was later determined that the incident was accidental, as it is customary to fire rifles in the air when celebrating something and the aircraft was over a neighborhood where there is a lot of that when the incident occurred.

April 15, 2013: In the east (near Derna, 200 kilometers east of Benghazi) the convoy of the leader of a local Islamic radical militia was ambushed. The militia leader was wounded. The Islamic radical militias in the area are under pressure from most of the locals to disband or get out.

April 3, 2013: An explosion in an oil pipeline in the east was apparently sabotaged and was quickly repaired. The culprit is still being sought. 

April 2, 2013: Ten armed men stormed into a police station in the capital, tied up the five policemen on duty, and freed three prisoners. The attackers were members of a local gang out to free three of their number who had been arrested. Criminal gangs like this are a growing problem that will have to be addressed after the militias are dealt with.

April 1, 2013: An aide to the prime minister was kidnapped outside the capital. He was released eight days later and little has been revealed about the who and why.

 

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