Category: Rebellious Land of Libya


February 12, 2018

The Commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, has been on a visit to Egypt over the last couple of days as part of as what has been referred to as “joint coordination between Egypt and the army leadership in the fight against terrorism”.

According to an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Haftar arrived in Cairo late on Wednesday and held a series of meetings with senior Egyptian officials to discuss the political and military developments in Libya, pointing out that the talks touched on the issue of coordination in the fight against terrorist groups.

“There is coordination at the highest level between the Libyan National Army and the Egyptian authorities in this regard,” he said.

In the meantime, an official source said that “the National Army is in the process of large-scale military operation in the next few days to begin the liberation of the city of Derna,” which is the main stronghold of terrorist groups in eastern Libya, and added that “preparations [for the operation] are nearing completion”.

Haftar’s eastern-based LNA, one of a number of factions that have vied for power in Libya since a 2011 uprising ended Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule, is waging a military campaign against a coalition of militants and ex-rebels known as the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC) that controls Derna.

Attention has shifted to the coastal city after Haftar announced victory in a three-year military campaign against a similar coalition in Benghazi, 350 kilometers to the west, in July last year.

In May, the city was also a target of Egyptian air strikes. Egypt said it was responding to an attack against Coptic Christians on its territory, though that attack was claimed by Daesh.

Haftar, a figure many believe is seeking national power in Libya, has enjoyed strong backing from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, as well as the United Arab Emirates.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180212-libyas-haftar-visits-egypt-ahead-of-planned-attack-on-derna/.

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2018-01-24

BENGHAZI – More than 30 people were dead and dozens wounded after two car bombings outside a mosque frequented by jihadist opponents in Libya’s second city Benghazi, medical officials said Wednesday.

The attack after evening prayers on Tuesday underlined the continued chaos in Libya, which has been wracked by violence and divisions since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.

Benghazi has been relatively calm since military strongman Khalifa Haftar announced the eastern city’s “liberation” from jihadists in July last year after a three-year campaign, but sporadic violence has continued.

The bombers blew up two cars 30 minutes apart outside the mosque in the central neighborhood of Al-Sleimani, according to security officials.

Emergency and security workers who had rushed to the scene were among those killed in the second blast.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the mosque is known to be a base for Salafist groups which fought the jihadists alongside Haftar’s forces.

Mourners gathered outside the mosque on Wednesday, walking through puddles of water stained red with blood. Vehicles in a parking lot outside the mosque were burnt-out and mangled, their windows shattered.

The city’s Al-Jala hospital received 25 dead and 51 wounded, its spokeswoman Fadia al-Barghathi said. The Benghazi Medical Center received nine dead and 36 wounded, spokesman Khalil Gider said.

Ahmad al-Fituri, a security official for Haftar’s forces, was among those killed, military spokesman Milud al-Zwei said.

Medical officials said many of the wounded were in critical condition and the death toll was likely to rise.

– Political turmoil –

Haftar supports an administration based in the east of the country. It declared three days of mourning following the attack.

A UN-backed unity government based in the capital Tripoli, the Government of National Accord (GNA), has struggled to assert its authority outside the west.

The GNA condemned the attack as a “terrorist and cowardly act”.

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) denounced the bombings as “horrific” and warned that “direct or indiscriminate attacks against civilians… constitute war crimes”.

UN efforts to reconcile the rival administrations have produced no concrete result.

Haftar said in late December he would support elections in 2018 to bring the country out of chaos, but suggested he could take measures if efforts for “a peaceful power transition via free and democratic elections were exhausted”.

Haftar’s opponents accuse him of wanting to seize power and establish a military dictatorship, while his supporters have called for him to take control by “popular mandate”.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame presented a plan to the Security Council in September to hold parliamentary and presidential elections this year, but analysts are skeptical they will take place.

Clashes between rival militias are common, with fighting at Tripoli’s airport last week leaving 20 dead and forcing the cancellation of all flights for five days.

The turmoil has stifled efforts to restore oil-rich Libya’s economy and made the country fertile ground for extremists.

The Islamic State group has a significant presence and was in control of coastal city Sirte from late 2014 to late 2016, when the jihadists were pushed out by pro-GNA forces.

People-smugglers have also taken advantage of the chaos to turn the country into a major gateway for migrants heading to Europe.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86906.

Monday 18 December 2017

Khalifa Haftar said he will listen to the will of the “free Libyan people” on Sunday, in the strongest indication that he might run in elections expected next year.

The military commander, who controls vast areas of territory in eastern Libya, made his comments during a military graduation ceremony.

Haftar styles himself as a strongman capable of ending the chaos that has gripped Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

His comments are reminiscent of remarks made by Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he was testing the ground before becoming a presidential candidate. Sisi was eventually elected in 2014.

Just as Sisi built up wide support after toppling Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, supporters of Haftar speak of a similar situation developing in Libya, with rallies held in some eastern cities calling on him to run.

“We declare clearly and unequivocally our full compliance with the orders of the free Libyan people, which is its own guardian and the master of its land,” Haftar said in a speech.

He spoke in the eastern city of Benghazi, from where his forces managed to expel rival armed groups in Benghazi after a three-year campaign for control of Libya’s second city.

Haftar, a general from the Gaddafi era, also dismissed a series of UN-led talks to bridge differences between Libya’s two rival administrations, one linked to him in the east and one backed by the United Nations in the capital Tripoli.

“All the dialogues starting from Ghadames [in northwest Libya] and ending in Tunis and going through Geneva and Skhirat [in Morocco] was just ink on paper,” he said, listing host cities of UN talks.

Obstacles

The United Nations launched a new round of talks in September in Tunis between the rival factions to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018, but they broke off after one month without any deal.

A major obstacle to progress was the issue of Haftar’s own rule. He remains popular among some Libyans in the east weary of the chaos but faces opposition from many in western Libya.

In his speech, Haftar said his forces, known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), could be only placed under an authority that had been elected by the Libyan people, in a further indication that he might take part in the election.

Haftar’s supporters had set Sunday as a deadline for a UN deal or calling on the general to take over for several years. The UN has rejected this.

Haftar insisted on Sunday that the mandate of the country’s UN-backed government has run out after what he said was the expiration of a tattered 2015 political deal.

The UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco on 17 December 2015 established Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) for a one-year period, renewable only once.

Turning point

In a televised speech, Haftar, who has never recognized the GNA’s authority, said the “expiry of the Libyan political accord” marked a “historic and dangerous turning point”.

“All bodies resulting from this agreement automatically lose their legitimacy, which has been contested from the first day they took office,” he said.

The large North African country has been in turmoil since Gaddafi’s downfall gave space to militants and smuggling networks that have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Haftar is just one of many players in Libya, which is controlled by armed groups divided along political, religious, regional and business lines.

The president of the eastern House of Representatives backing Haftar, Aguila Saleh, said it was time to start preparing for elections, according to a video posted on social media.

“I urge to join preparing parliamentary and presidential elections,” he said.

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/haftar-shows-signs-he-will-run-elections-next-year-393525306.

Monday 18 December 2017

Saif al-Islam, the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who is wanted for alleged crimes against humanity, is to stand in his country’s next presidential election, it was reported on Monday.

Spokesman Basem al-Hashimi al-Soul told the Egypt Today newspaper that Saif al-Islam had the support of “major tribes” in his home country and would run on a promise to provide “security and stability”.

“Saif al-Islam will run for the upcoming presidential elections which may take place in mid-2018,” Soul was quoted as saying.

“Saif al-Islam plans to impose more security and stability in accordance with the Libyan geography and in coordination with all Libyan factions.

“He enjoys the support of major tribes in Libya, so he can run.”

The UN-backed Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli, announced last week it hoped to run presidential elections next year in an effort to push forward with the country’s national reconciliation program.

Wanted for crimes against humanity

Islam, the second of eight Gaddafi sons, would however face significant hurdles before his nomination is cleared.

He was arrested after his father’s death in 2011 and held by the Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade in Zintan until his release this June under an amnesty law passed by a rump parliament based in Tobruk, in the east of the country.

The UK-educated 44-year-old faces investigations by the International Criminal Court for his role in the repression of the 2011 revolt against his father.

He was separately sentenced to death in July 2015 by a Tripoli court, which was controlled by a now-defunct government that rivaled the Tobruk parliament.

However his support in Libya, and the fractious nature of the country post-Gaddafi, was such that the Zintan militias refused to comply with the court.

The claim of his spokesman, Soul, of tribal support is also significant. In September 2015, the self-proclaimed “Supreme Council of the Libyan Tribes” chose Saif al-Islam as the legitimate representative of the country.

This council essentially brings together those tribes who remained faithful to Gaddafi and, while it lacks institutional power, its unity is significant in a country torn between competing factions and shifting alliances.

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/gadaffis-son-saif-al-islam-run-libyan-presidency-518043043.

October 28, 2017

The commander of the so-called Libyan Army Khalifa Haftar is scheduled to arrive in Egypt ‘s Cairo Saturday to discuss possible Egyptian airstrikes on Derna and other cities like Ajdabiya, The New Arab reported Egyptian sources as saying.

The New Arab added that a meeting between Haftar and his accompanying delegation and the Head of the Egyptian committee on Libyan affairs as well as Chief of Staff Ahmad Hijazy will take place Saturday and several issues will be reviewed.

As Egyptian fingers were pointed lately at the claim that the individuals who conducted the last attack in Wahat in Egypt came through the border with Libya, the sources added that cooperation on border security with Haftar’s forces will also be discussed, in addition to the results of Al-Sisi and French President’s talks on the Libyan crisis, the UK-based newspaper added.

It indicated that a relative alteration in Egyptian vision for the solution of Libya’s crisis has surfaced as Cairo will be pushing forth the military solution led by Haftar regardless of the ongoing UN action plan implementation that had already started in Tunisia talks last month.

This push of Egypt sees eye to eye with Haftar‘s efforts to seize Libya including the capital’s control, which belongs until now to the UN-brokered government led by Fayez Al-Sirraj, the newspaper reports.

“Cairo has a calmer and more gradual strategy than Haftar has. While the whole world would be watching how Al-Sirraj government would lose control of the government, there will be no way to reject the real situation that will see Haftar controlling the capital and we will welcome it.” It explained.

A couple of days ago, the mouthpiece of Haftar Ahmad Al-Mismari claimed that their forces will receive a warm welcome in Tripoli as they advance militarily on the capital to “attack terrorist militias,” vowing to coordinate with Egypt in border security operations.

Source: Libya Observer.

Link: https://www.libyaobserver.ly/news/libyan-warlord-cairo-enlist-egyptian-airstrikes-derna-and-other-cities.

October 28, 2017

The information office of the Derna branch of the Libyan Red Crescent Society, confirmed the arrival of medical aid to the city’s medical supply stores from the Ministry of Health of the Interim Government of Abdullah Thini.

The shipment included vaccinations and supplies for the national vaccination campaign against polio and measles, dialysis medication and supplies for medical surgeries.

The director of Derna General Hospital stated that the materials that arrived does not cover the current shortfall of medicines and medical supplies as a direct result of the city being besieged, causing a difficult situation in the city.

Source: Libya Observer.

Link: https://www.libyaobserver.ly/inbrief/medical-supplies-sent-derna-not-nearly-enough-says-head-local-hospital.

Alexandria, 25 October 2017:

The Tripoli special deterrence force Rada, headed by Abdul Raouf Kara, is reported to have arrested at least three members of the Derna Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council (DRSC) who have been staying recently in the city.

The most prominent is Khaled Saad Al-Kilani, a senior DRSC commander who has been living in Tripoli since last year. He is reported to have been arrested earlier this week. At the weekend, two others were also said to have been arrested at an hotel on Omar al-Mukhtar Street. They have been named as Khaled al-Hsadi and Adel al-Karghali.

A former mechanic, Kilani, aged 50 and from the Bab Tobruk area of Derna, was imprisoned as an Islamist by the Qaddafi regime. He was released in 2011 and is said to have then joined Ansar Al-Sharia, fighting in 2014 and 2015 in Benghazi where he lost a leg. After returning to Derna, he was again reportedly wounded, going to Tripoli for treatment.

Two of his daughters are alleged to have married two other prominent Ansar members, Hisham Aneesh and Abdulaali Al-Maghrabi who was killed in Benghazi in 2015.

Kilani’s 23-year-son, Saad, is also reported to have been arrested by Rada.

The two others arrested, Hasadi and Karghali are believe to have been  dealing with the affairs of other wounded DRSC members being treated in Tripoli.

Source: Libya Herald.

Link: https://www.libyaherald.com/2017/10/25/rada-arrests-members-of-derna-shoura-council-visiting-tripoli/.

Tunis, 25 October 2017:

A conference of Libyan monarchists due to take place in Gharyan next week is to call for the restoration of the Senussi monarchy as the only workable solution to the Libyan crisis and on Prince Mohamed El-Senussi, the son of the late Crown Prince Hassan Al-Rida, to return to the country to lead it .

As part of this, the National Conference for the Activation of the Constitution of Independence will also call for the restoration of the constitution as existed in 1969 before Qaddafi’s September coup and on the international community and specifically UNSMIL to take the monarchist option seriously. It will also call on Libyans to back it as well.

“We believe that the only solution [to Libya’s crisis] is to return to the constitution and the monarchy”, said Ashraf Boudaoura, chairman of the committee organizing the Gharyan conference on 31 October. Everything else, he told the Libya Herald, had failed or was destined to fail.

“It’s time to recognize reality and give the monarchy a chance.”

The constitution he and his colleagues want to return to is that of 1951, amended in 1963. “We have a constitution. We don’t need another,” he said.

There had been previous pro-Senussi meetings, Boudaoura explained, with groups in Beida, Tobruk, Tripoli and elsewhere. But this was the start of a national movement. Some 600 supporters were expected to attend from across the country, he added. These would include tribal as well as other community representatives.

Prince Mohamed and other members of the royal family had not been invited and so would not be in Gharyan next week, he added. Rather, the meeting would be a call on the prince to assume his responsibilities return to Libya and lead it forward.

Source: Libya Herald.

Link: https://www.libyaherald.com/2017/10/25/libyan-monarchists-to-call-on-prince-mohamed-to-return-to-libya/.

October 11, 2017

Libya’s Mufti, Al-Sadiq Al-Gharyani, has said that Skhirat-signed Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) is not a luxurious privilege for Libyans.

“That agreement has not even brought stability or accord to Libya.” the Mufti remarked.

In an article posted on the Fatwa House website and titled “Does the UN really want stability in Libya?” the Mufti indicated Tuesday that Libya has gone through tough times after it gave up its own fate to the hands of the UN, adding that the experience was a lesson to all those who believe that the UN’s project was aimed to stabilize Libya.

“The UN’s project fueled conflicts in Libya and did not aim to bring about accord.” The Mufi adds.

Sheikh Al-Gharyani also referred to the fact that Derna has a population of over 120.000, yet it is still deprived of necessary living items while the international community and the UN are watching, according to his article.

“Being the first city to defeat terrorism on its own without support did not help Derna much, but rather it was awarded by a siege that led to the starvation of the civilians.” He indicated, pointing out that the same strategy had been adopted in Ganfouda, Benghazi, before Derna.

The Mufti also lashed out at the parties that selected the dialogue committees, asking himself and the Libyans if those parties still believe the lie of fighting terrorism, which he said had been scandalized in Sabratha and in Benghazi.

“The international community knows very clearly that Haftar had never fought terrorist before, yet no action.” The Mufti added.

Source: Libya Observer.

Link: https://www.libyaobserver.ly/news/libyas-mufti-libyan-political-agreement-lie-luxury-truth-misery.

Monday 25 September 2017

European leaders are embracing a Libyan general who has ordered his soldiers to commit war crimes, according to new evidence that has been analysed by senior legal experts.

The allegation of human rights abuses by Gen Khalifa Haftar, a former CIA asset who controls nearly half of Libya from his base in the east, comes as the general is due to arrive in Rome on Tuesday, where he will be received by Italian officials. The visit is a radical departure for Italy, who had previously shunned Haftar and seen him as a major obstacle to stability in the region because of his refusal to recognize the UN-backed government in the west.

The two experts – a former top Pentagon attorney and a former official at the international criminal court – said that newly unearthed video evidence suggests that Haftar has been complicit in calling for extrajudicial killings and the unlawful siege of the eastern port city of Derna. In one case, he is believed to have called for the “choking” of Derna just a day after he met Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, in Benghazi.

The new assessment, published on the Just Security blog, follows the recent issuing of an arrest warrant by the ICC for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, a member of Haftar’s Libyan National Army. Werfalli stands accused of executing prisoners himself, as well as commanding others to carry out extrajudicial killings. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also condemned alleged war crimes by the LNA.

The legal questions, and longstanding doubts among officials in the west about Haftar’s trustworthiness, have not dissuaded European leaders from seeking to forge an alliance with him.

The analysis by Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel to the general counsel of the Pentagon, and Alex Whiting, a former international criminal prosecutor at the ICC, paints a troubling picture of Haftar’s record.

The two experts point to a video that was posted on YouTube on 10 October 2015, recording a speech that Haftar gave to his LNA fighters on 18 September. In the speech, Haftar calls on his men to take no prisoners, which in legal parlance is called a “denial of quarter” and is a violation of the rules of war. “Never mind consideration of bringing a prisoner here. There is no prison here. The field is the field, end of the story,” he said in the video.

In another video, a spokesman for Haftar, Beleed al-Sheikhy, is heard saying in connection to fighting in Ganfouda, a district of Benghazi, that “who is above 14 years of age will never get out alive”. The video is believed to have been recorded in August 2016.

Haftar is a dual Libyan-US citizen who was once loyal to Muammar Gaddafi but then rebelled against the dictator. He was provided protection by the CIA around 1990 and was granted US citizenship. He lived in Virginia for two decades, where he reportedly trained in anticipation of a coup against Gaddafi. He later returned to Libya, where he has an unbreakable hold on the eastern bloc of the country, including a string of towns known as the oil crescent.

Even as experts who closely study the region say that Haftar is considered an untrustworthy and unreliable partner in Libya, diplomats increasingly see him as part of the country’s future.

On a trip to Benghazi this summer, Johnson met the Libyan general and said Haftar had a “role to play in the political process”. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who hosted Haftar and his rival, the UN-backed Libyan prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, also praised him, saying he and Sarraj had shown historic courage in agreeing to a ceasefire.

The UN envoy to Libya last week set out a new a plan under which Libya could hold elections within a year, and Haftar is widely seen as a candidate who would stand for president.

A former US official said it was believed that Haftar’s true goal was to run the country under a military dictatorship. The ex-official said European attempts to bring Haftar “into the tent” were understandable and pragmatic, because the creation of a stable government would not now be possible without his support.

Haftar has expanded his foothold militarily in part due to the support of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, the former official added. He also has contacts within the Kremlin, and visited Russia for the third time in August this year.

The ICC issued its warrant for Werfalli, a member of the al-Saiqa brigade of the LNA, based on the “reasonable belief” that he had ordered the execution of 33 detainees in seven incidents from June 2016 to July 2017.

The Just Security article also pointed to a speech that Haftar gave in August 2017, a day after his meeting with Johnson, in which he appeared to be discussing the need to tighten the siege of Derna. Haftar said that ordering a blockade was tantamount to choking, and ought to involve a block on medicine, medical care, petrol and cooking oil.

Brig Gen Ahmad Mismari, a spokesman for the LNA, said he could not comment on the ICC warrant because the matter was under investigation. He also declined to comment on the allegations raised in the Just Security blog.

In an interview with the Guardian, Goodman said Haftar’s status as a US citizen made him subject to federal laws that criminalised violations of laws of war and risked criminal liability for any “aiders and abetters” who supported him in the US. Given his status, any decision to provide financial or other support to Haftar – including intelligence – by the US would first have to be cleared by a justice department office to ensure it was legal under US laws.

Mattia Toaldo, a Libya expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that the more Haftar was legitimised, the less likely it was that he would ever be prosecuted. “It is up to the Europeans and the Americans to decide whether such a regime is stable, because what we have seen with the Arab spring is that repressive regimes are unstable,” he said.

“He cannot be trusted, much like most Libyan warlords, on the fight against terror, on migration, and I think also his military capacity is not as big as some people think,” he added.

Source: The Guardian.

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/25/khalifa-haftar-libyan-general-accused-of-human-rights-abuses.