Libya: Egypt Declares War

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February 16, 2015:  Egypt is now openly bombing ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) targets in Libya, in reaction to the ISIL mass murder of 21 Egyptian Christians. Earlier today the Egyptian Air Force announced that it had hit ISIL targets in the city of Darna, which has been controlled by Islamic terrorists since 2014 and that those groups have recently declared allegiance to ISIL.

Egypt recently pointed out that it is still working with its Arab and Western allies in the anti-ISIL coalition to determine longer-term Egyptian military operations against ISIL. This might include other members of the coalition sending warplanes or special operations troops to operate against ISIL in Libya. Egypt has long declared that outside force would eventually be needed and saw Libyan peace talks as futile and counterproductive because the Islamic terrorist factions really have no interest in compromising. This was before ISIL showed up in 2014. ISIL is the most violent and uncompromising Islamic terror group out there. Despite the appearance of ISIL in Libya Algeria and most Western nations (especially the EU) still see a negotiated settlement as the best way to deal with the Libya civil war. The Tobruk (officially recognized by the UN) government goes along with this, mainly because they cannot afford to annoy the UN and risk losing the international recognition as the legitimate government.

Until the latest ISIL mass murder in Libya Egypt insisted it would not intervene militarily. But Egypt was providing substantial, and secret, support to the Tobruk government. This came in the form of air support (occasional air raids), weapons and other military supplies and even some Egyptian special operations troops. Algeria, the United States and the UN kept trying to persuade Egypt, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Qatar to drop their support for more secular (and non-terrorist) pro-Tobruk factions fighting in Libya. Egypt felt it could not afford to do nothing in large part because their border with Libya was easy for smugglers (and Islamic terrorists) to cross. Egypt had been negotiating directly with Libyan tribes who live near the Egyptian border to make arrangements (cash payments and other traditional favors) to obtain cooperation in keeping smugglers under control. These arrangements are even more important now because most of the Libyan tribal leaders want ISIL gone from Libya.

In Libya the Tobruk government has international recognition and won the 2014 national elections. The Tobruk government is backed by many tribal organizations (and their militias) and most of the more secular Libyans (who tend to live in cities or along the coast). The rival Tripoli government is the older national assembly the 2014 elections was to replace but that assembly, based in Tripoli, refused to step down. The Tripoli group also represents tribes and cities in the west that feel they deserve to run the country as they long did under Kaddafi. The old assembly was also dominated by Islamic conservative and Islamic terror groups that had fallen from favor since 2011 but refused to admit that and give up any power.

The only thing the two governments will sometimes agree on is the use of oil income, which the Tobruk government largely controls. This money buys essentials (like food) that are, when possible, distributed to all Libyans. This is what always mattered most because the oil money pays for everything. Unfortunately the two governments have been unable to cooperate on getting oil out and essential supplies delivered to most Libyans. It is the international community that controls the ability of Libya to buy essentials (most of the food and everything else) needed to keep Libyans alive and the international community recognizes the Tobruk government. Because of the violent response to the 2014 elections by Tripoli based Islamic terrorist militias, the legitimate government set up shop in the small port city of Tobruk (1,600 kilometers east of Tripoli) after encountering hostility from militias loyal to the pre-June 2014 government that refused to recognize the results of the June elections. Many other government offices moved to Tobruk but many stayed or could not get out in time.

The violence throughout the country has gotten worse since mid-2014 and the number of refugees from the fighting is approaching ten percent of the population. Since 2011 over a third of the population has fled Libya, most of them to neighboring Tunisia. That was easy to do because about 85 percent of Libya's six million people live along the coast. Some five percent are still nomadic. Other minorities comprise about six percent of the population. Nearly 100 percent of the population speaks at least some Arabic and 97 percent are Sunni Moslems. The Berber are Sunni but were never big on Islamic radicalism. Kaddafi saw the Berbers as a threat because they were not Arab and had, for over a thousand years, resisted Arab domination. The Berber nationalists have also been holding demonstrations outside oil facilities in the West, interfering with oil production. The fighting and chaos at key coastal ports has stopped most oil exports and a growing number of essential imports (especially food and medical supplies). There are growing shortages of both items especially in cities (like Benghazi) where there is still a lot of fighting. Now convoys of ISIL gunmen are driving around making lots of surprise attacks. Many of these attacks are repulsed but some succeed and often cause disruption in oil production or the distribution of essential items (like food). Libya imports nearly all its food and the stuff has to keep coming into the ports and trucked to where people live. Most of the population is on the coast, but those living deep in the south are particularly vulnerable to truck traffic being interrupted.

February 15, 2015: The rival Tripoli government announced it was now at war with ISIL and would cooperate with the Tobruk government to defeat ISIL. The Tripoli government never did actually control all the Islamic terrorist groups technically under its command but that is changing because all Islamic terror groups in Libya know what happened in Syria when ISIL showed up and told all other Islamic terror groups to submit to ISIL leadership or die. This change of attitude came shortly after a video appeared on the Internet showing ISIL beheading Egyptians on a Libyan beach. These were reported as Egyptian Christians and ISIL is known to have kidnapped 21 Copts in December and January. ISIL is also believed to be holding 20 Egyptian fishermen and several other Egyptians they recently seized in eastern Libya. It is expected that ISIL will have more mass beheadings, of both Libyans and foreigners. This is what ISIL does to attract attention and inspire its armed followers.

February 14, 2015: Soldiers regained control of the al Mabrouk and al Bahi oil fields in Central Libya after about 24 hours of fighting. These two places were seized by ISIL gunmen earlier in the month by two unexpected attacks. Meanwhile someone had damaged a pipeline from the El Sadir oil field. It will take three days to repair the damage. This pipeline goes to the port of Hariga, which recently reopened after yet another strike (over money and benefits) by its security force. Two other oil export ports are still closed for similar reasons and the country is only able to export about 300,000 barrels a day, which is 20 percent of capacity.

February 12, 2015: In the west (Sirte, 500 kilometers east of Tripoli) ISIL gunmen seized a radio station because it was broadcasting music, which is considered un-Islamic by most Islamic terror groups.

February 11, 2015: With the appearance of ISIL in Libya and growing violence against Egyptians in Libya, Egypt has agreed to join the coalition fighting ISIL.

The head of the Tobruk government suspended his Minister of the Interior for criticizing general Hiftar. In January the Tobruk government revealed that in December it had Hiftar officially recalled to active duty. Some officials in the government were opposed to this. Another 108 Kaddafi era officers, all of them anti-Kaddafi, were also recalled. Hiftar, a former Kaddafi general and long-time Kaddafi opponent created a coalition of tribal militias and army units in late 2013 and it is now officially part of the Tobruk government armed forces because he proved very effective fighting the Islamic terrorists. This official recognition of Hiftar is seen as part of an effort to seek more active assistance from Egypt and other Arab countries. Hiftar has over the last year managed to get most of the post-Kaddafi armed forces under his control and backs Tobruk pleas for foreign assistance in obtaining more weapons and other military supplies. Hiftar is a career military man and speaks with experience in these matters. So far the West and Arab countries refuse to provide this aid but some Arab countries are believed to be providing some weapons and military supplies covertly and in small quantities. The Tobruk government points out that the lack of foreign assistance puts them at a disadvantage since Islamic terrorists are moving to Libya in large numbers and weapons for them are being smuggled in. Some military supplies for Islamic terrorists are being blatantly flown in from Sudan and no one is trying to stop that. One side effect of this is a stalemate in Benghazi, where months of fighting had slowly pushed many Islamic terrorists out of the city.

February 10, 2015: The Tobruk and Tripoli governments resumed UN sponsored peace talks. The Tripoli government is now more willing to made a deal because more of its supporters have joined ISIL and that has caused more tribes to side with the Tobruk government.

There have been several violent incidents at the two main Tunisian border crossings. Both Libyans and Tunisians are protesting efforts by the Tunisian government to collect import taxes and to curb smuggling. The locals see smuggling as a right and the taxes as unfair.

February 9, 2015:  In the east (Benghazi) troops loyal to general Hiftar captured an old army base outside the city. Islamic terrorists had been trying to hold onto this base since late 2014. The fighting throughout Benghazi has killed over 700 since September 2014. Ansar al Sharia, the largest Islamic terrorist group in Benghazi has suffered several defeats recently. In late January the group admitted that its leader had indeed been killed. He apparently died from wounds suffered back in September. Ansar al Sharia was responsible for the 2012 attack that killed the American ambassador and has most of its strength in the east (around Benghazi). The fighting in Benghazi has cost Ansar al Sharia a lot of people and hurt the groups’ reputation because of territory lost in the city. Ansar al Sharia long supported the Tripoli government but in the last few months a growing number of Ansar al Sharia factions have joined ISIL.

February 8, 2015: In the eastsecurity guards shut down the oil export facilities at the port of Hariga because of a pay dispute. No more oil tankers will be loaded until back pay is delivered.

February 7, 2015: Tunisia revealed that it had arrested 32 Islamic terrorists from Tunisia, Syria and Libya a week earlier before they could carry out a dozen suicide vehicle bomb attacks on February 3rd. Those arrested were taken in several locations around the country. Captured documents and interrogations indicated that the suspects were working for ISIL and several related Islamic terrorist organizations in Libya and Syria.

February 6, 2015: In the east (Benghazi) Islamic terrorists used a suicide car bomb against army troops. Fire from soldiers hit the vehicle as it approached causing it to detonate killing the driver as well as two nearby civilians.

February 5, 2015: Libyan Air Force bombers hit Islamic terrorist targets in the city of Sirte.

February 3, 2015: Fighting broke out again at Es Sider. Islamic terrorist militias loyal to Tripoli continue trying to take the oil export port of Es Sider. Soldiers guarding the port repulsed a major attack, losing five troops and killing 19 attackers. The attackers retreated but appear ready to try again. This has been going on since December 13th. Troops and militias loyal to the Tobruk government have so far kept Es Sider from falling under Tripoli control. Es Sider and other port under attack can ship 300,000 barrels a day but have been closed since December and will remain shut down until the Tripoli force is defeated. The Tripoli group apparently wants to take control of oil resources and thus have something to bargain with.

ISIL gunmen took control of the al Mabrouk oilfield (south of the eastern city of Sirte). At least 13 were killed during the attack including several foreign workers. This oil field normally produces 40,000 barrels a day.

 

 

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