Libyan women hold pictures of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli on March 19, 2011 during a protest against the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which authorise all necessary measures to establish a no-fly zone which resulted in regime-change., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
US-backed Occupied Libya Under Increasing Tensions, More Killed in Armed Clashes
Libya: Dealing With the Enemy?
by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook
June 13, 2012
Karim Mezran, weighs in with a guest post today on an under-reported meeting between a prominent Libyan Islamist and members of Qaddafi’s entourage in Cairo. What is going on Libya?
The recent meeting in Cairo between Ali Sallabi, an important figure of the Libyan Islamist circles, and Ahmed Qaddafi Eddam, cousin of the late Muammar al-Qaddafi and one of the most relevant members of the former strongman’s entourage, has provoked widespread controversy and criticism. The meeting threatens to become another divisive issue for the Libyan people. Addressing this issue should be taken quite seriously, however, as it appears to highlight one of the largest problems facing the transition to democracy in Libya: the National Transitional Council (NTC).
According to Sallabi, the President of the NTC, Mustafa Abd el Jalil, became worried by reports of armed and well-trained Qaddafi supporters infiltrating Libya to provoke unrest and stir up popular support in order to reclaim power for the old regime. As far-fetched as this plan appears, recent developments have given Abd el Jalil cause for concern.
Large parts of Libya have regressed into anarchy or are revolting, particularly in the south, and some cities such as Sirt and Bani Ulid still retain large numbers of active Qaddafi supporters. The leadership of the former regime is based in Cairo and is represented by Ahmed Qaddafi Eddam, the ex-coordinator of Libyan tribes and representative of the Qaddhafa tribe, Ali el Ahwal from Bani Ulid, and Abd el Hamid Bezzine, from Tripoli, another prominent member of Qaddafi’s entourage.
Abd el Jalil, cognizant that even the threat of Qaddafi loyalists intervening in Libyan reform could be disastrous for the country, instructed Sallabi to meet with the Qaddafists in Cairo in order to inform them of the folly in their plan. We do not know officially what Sallabi was allowed to offer in exchange for this renunciation, but in the course of an interview in Tripoli the day after the meeting he said that the bargain would allow the families of all former members of the regime to go free and would provide them with safe return to Libya.
The possibility of amnesty was never mentioned; indeed, on the contrary Sallabi made clear that subjection to a legal trial would be the only possibility for the deposed regime officials to return to Libya. Although the proposal was received, no decision was taken, and Sallabi went back to Tripoli the following day.
Where is the scandal? Most have asked why Sallabi, an Islamist leader, was chosen to negotiate with these discredited figures. The answer is simple: Sallabi has much experience and interaction with the old regime because he was involved in the negotiations with Saif al-Islam Qaddafi that led to the release of imprisoned Islamists.
In addition, Sallabi is a political figure in Libya and his interest is clearly in saving whatever nascent democracy is currently in place as well as preventing Libya from spiraling into civil war and anarchy once again. Based on this, no scandal is readily apparent.
Political pundits and those decrying the meeting have also criticized the state for legitimizing the Qaddafists’ cause and condoning their crimes. The first objection makes no sense. The NTC is negotiating with the Qaddafists even if they are illegal in order to reintegrate them into the framework of the state and bring stability to the system (the successful transitions in Chile, Argentina and many others were carried out this way by means of negotiated settlements).
Moreover, the terms of the negotiation do not provide evidence of the state abdicating power for exacting justice on the crimes of the regime since no amnesty or impunity was offered. Therefore, even the second objection is inconsistent since no crime would be condoned.
The real problem should not center on Sallabi himself, the holding of negotiations, or more in general, justice, but rather on the leader of the NTC. The scandal is that an issue as delicate as national reconciliation was dealt with arbitrarily and in secret by the non-elected leader (Abd el Jalil) of a self-appointed institution (the NTC).
This is the scandal against which the protests should be centered. The NTC continues to govern Libya, secretively and arbitrarily, with the same procedures, mentality and attitudes as the previous regime did.
The only hope is that the elections scheduled for July 7 are held regularly and result in the creation of an Assembly that rules with transparency and inclusiveness, and relegate the NTC to its historic role and position.
Fourteen killed in west Libya militia clashes
By Ali Shuaib
Wed Jun 13, 2012
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Rival Libyan militias armed with heavy weapons clashed for the third straight day on Wednesday in fighting that has killed 14 people, underscoring the country's volatility months after Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow.
The clashes southwest of the capital pitted fighters from the town of Zintan, who played a big role in ousting Gaddafi, against members of the El-Mashashia tribe, who chose not to join the rebellion, security officials said.
Resentment between the two groups spilled over into fighting in December last year, when at least four people were killed, and erupted again this week when a Zintan fighter was shot dead.
Zintan's militias blamed the El-Mashashia tribe and retaliated, leading to the current flareup that started on Monday, several members of the tribe said.
Government spokesman Nasser El-Manee said 14 people had been killed in the fighting and 89 injured. He said there was a national army force in area to try to restore calm.
"Creating stability is the responsibility of all," El-Manee told a news conference on Wednesday.
Gaddafi's revolutionary rule kept in check the deep-running animosities in Libyan society, which often pitted villages, cities or tribes against their neighbors.
When Gaddafi was forced from power and later killed last year, old feuds re-surfaced. The flare-ups of violence, mostly in the southern Sahara and in the mountainous west, have shown how little authority the interim government has over a myriad of armed groups.
Libya's ruling National Transitional Council, and its Western backers, hope the tribal violence will not jeopardize a July 7 election to choose a national assembly.
Khaled Ahmed Albdelkarim, from Zintan, said two people from the Zintan side had been killed on Tuesday. "The clashes are continuing today," he said by phone.
Eleven people on the El-Mashashia side were killed on Tuesday, and one on Wednesday, said Taher Salim, a member of the tribe.
Ali Mohammed Bilgazim, a member of the local council of Mizdah, which is close to the fighting, said Grad rockets could be heard from the area.
Another bout of violence last week flared up in southern town of Al Kufra near the borders with Chad and Sudan. El-Manee said 19 people were killed there and 75 injured.
(Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)
June 13, 2012
Death Illustrates Issues With Loose Weapons Stockpiles in Libya
By C. J. CHIVERS
New York Times
The death of an Estonian explosive ordnance disposal technician in Libya this spring illustrates the continuing problem of loose weapons stockpiles almost a year after Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was driven from power.
The technician, Kaido Keerdo, died in March while examining unexploded munitions scattered near a police compound and checkpoint in Ad Dafniyah as part of his work for the nongovernmental group Danish Church Aid.
The checkpoint had been fought over by rival Libyan militias three nights before. The groups were quarreling over access to 22 shipping containers of Qaddafi-era munitions, according to the aid group’s investigation, the findings of which were described this week to The New York Times.
One of the containers was struck during the fighting and caught fire. The explosion that followed ruptured at least 11 containers, heaving into the air a poorly stored collection of grenades, rockets and mortar rounds, some of which landed almost 500 yards away.
The munitions, once seen by Libya’s armed groups as instruments for breaking free from internal repression and making the country safe, were then scattered near houses, a mosque and a school along Libya’s main coastal road. The inadequately trained militias and ad hoc police officers had stored rockets and shells with fuses inserted, a configuration that compounded their dangers.
Among this refuse were 122-millimeter rockets containing Type 84 land mines, one of the most volatile weapons in Libya’s prewar stocks. Mr. Keerdo, a demining team leader, was surveying the police compound and apparently knelt near one of these rockets. At least one mine exploded, killing him instantly.
The accident was among the latest to underscore the problems related to Libya’s huge stockpiles of weapons.
Such accidents are not the only risk. The loose weapons are fuel for crime and violence between competing militias and against foreigners. In recent days, an American consulate and a British diplomatic car have been attacked. And persistent reports of smuggling — to dealers, insurgents or terrorists in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Lebanon, Mali, Syria, Tunisia, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere — have circulated since last year.
The weapons and ordnance — poorly secured, unsecured or already smuggled out of the country — were among the many confounding inheritances of Libya’s new authorities, who have yet to coalesce into a central government. Libya is also dotted with minefields remaining from World War II and as many as 303 large, high-explosive duds from NATO’s air-to-ground campaign.
The problems are so extensive, according to the United Nations, that they have not been quantified.
No one yet knows how much modern ordnance Libya acquired from the 1950s, when King Idris began expanding what was then the country’s tiny military, or in the decades afterward, as Colonel Qaddafi’s security structure swelled in size and shopped for arms throughout the world. And no one knows how much remains, how much is scattered next to bunkers that NATO bombed, and how much found its way into makeshift depots, like the one in Ad Dafniyah.
“There just haven’t been enough people and assets to go everywhere and look at everything,” said Max Dyck, the program manager for the United Nations Mine Action Service in Libya.
Several nongovernmental organizations, working with the United Nations, have been destroying mines and ordnance since last year. In all, they have cleared 82 schools and nearly 3,000 houses and removed or destroyed more than 233,000 mines and pieces of ordnance through late May.
They have also been holding public awareness workshops, training Libyan deminers and hoping to begin work on the 303 confirmed or possible duds that NATO informed the United Nations this year that its warplanes had dropped.
With these many dangers still present, international aid groups have documented 109 accidents related to mines and unexploded ordnance since the war began last year. The accidents wounded 204 people, at least a quarter of them fatally, according to the United Nations’ data. But the data probably significantly understate the number of accidents, Mr. Dyck said.
Knut Furunes, who manages Danish Church Aid’s ordnance-clearance effort in Libya and released details of Mr. Keerdo’s death, said the chain of events that killed Mr. Keerdo, 31, underscored many problems.
Mr. Keerdo, he said, “was a reflective and mature man” who had encountered Type 84 mines in Libya before and understood their special dangers.
Mr. Furunes also suggested that for all of Libya’s dangers, the country, because of its oil wealth, had better prospects than many postconflict countries for cleaning up the most dangerous areas.
If a valid government forms, it should have the money to underwrite efforts to clean up and destroy excess stocks, he said.
For these reasons, he said, aid groups should concentrate on training Libyan explosive ordnance disposal teams and developing standards for their work.