Thursday, February 13, 2014

Libya updates February 13 , 2014 -- In reply to a question from the media about the statement by the GNC official spokesperson that the GNC had come to an agreement in principle on replacing the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said that he did not accept that Hamaidan was speaking for Congress , Defence Minister threatens action after calls for military rule in Libya ........ Security issues of the day - Sharara oil pipeline again blockaded in Jebel Nafusa , Power cut warning of Tripoli after gas pipeline blockaded , Intelligence services take time to rebuild – Zeidan

Political intrigue.....

Anti-GNC protesters joined by coup supporters

By Noora Ibrahim and Tom Westcott.
Protesters gathering in Martyrs Square this afternoon (Photo: Tom Westcott)
Protesters gathering in Martyrs Square this afternoon (Photo: Tom Westcott)
Benghazi/Tripoli, 14 February 2014:
Protesters continuing to demonstrate against the extension of the General National Congress (GNC) were today joined by those supporting the idea of a military coup d’etat.
In Benghazi, hundreds flocked onto the streets and headed for the Tibesti Hotel. Placards denouncing the GNC mingled with those declaring support for a military coup, which was promoted by General Khalifa Hafter on Al-Arabiya channel this morning.
When claims of troops in Tripoli and cut communications were proven to be false, the idea was widely described, including by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, as laughable.
Some, however, especially in the East, have viewed it as a welcome alternative to what they see as the ineffective and failing institutions of the government and the GNC. “We support the initiative of Khalifa Hafter,” one banner outside the Tibesti read.
“Nothing could be worse that what we have already,” a Benghazi protester told the Libya Herald. “There are killings every day and the Libyan people are afraid.” He added that everyone in Benghazi who tried to do something good became a target. Some protesters carried posters of young anti-GNC activist Abdulla Mohammed Al-Senussi Al-Gharyiani, who survived an attempt on his life last week.
“When will this end?” the protester asked. “Today, a soldier is killed, tomorrow a girl and one day people will be too scared to leave their homes.”
Other protesters continued to denounce the extension of the GNC, with banners reading: “Democracy is just a word – we do not have democracy.”
In Tripoli, Martyrs’ Square was the scene of a modest anti-GNC protest. Some 200 people this afternoon gathered to listen to speeches railing against the GNC which, speakers said, had no legitimacy after its original mandate expired, they claimed, on 7 February. Today’s protest was noticeably smaller than that held last week in Martyrs’ Square although, as dusk fell, many more cars were seen heading towards the square.
Further protests were reported elsewhere in Libya, including in Beida, Zawia, Ajdabiya and Wershafana. Demonstrations were also staged in the southern towns of Obari and Murzuk, although none were held in Sebha, where the security situation remains unstable.
Since protests began last Friday, six members of Congress have resigned.

General Hafter announces coup; politicians react with scorn, order his arrest

By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab and Ahmed Elumami.
General Khalifa Hafter on Al-Arabiya TV
General Khalifa Hafter on Al-Arabiya TV
Tripoli, 14 February 2014
General Khalifa Hafter, who is nominally in charge of land forces but in reality without any military power, announced a coup d’etat on TV this morning. Speaking to Al-Arabiya channel in the name of what he said was the Libyan Republican Alliance, he announced that he had suspended the General National Congress, the government and the Constitutional Declaration, and that his forces were in Tripoli.
He later said that it was not a coup d’etat as such but “a correction to the path of the revolution’.
The Saudi-backed TV station added that communications and the internet had been cut in the capital.  
Neither statements were remotely true. The internet were working with its usual slowness  and other communications were normal. Libya Herald reporters went to the Congress buildings and the Prime Minister’s office and found no unusual activity. There were no checkpoints and no extra security guards. The only people in action at Congress were the cleaners. There was no sign of any military activity elsewhere in the capital, either. It is a normal quiet Friday.  
The government has responded to Hafter’s declaration with scorn, ordering Hafter’s arrest. 
The Defence Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni said that that the claim of Hafter forces being in the capital was a lie. He did not have any troops. He challenged him to show them to the people of Tripoli. Hafter had no legitimacy, Thinni added, saying the Commander-in-Chief had ordered his arrest and that of other military officers for plotting a coup. 
Denouncing Hafter and warning people not to believe in rumours, the Prime Minister said that Congress and the government were still in place. Ali Zeidan added that Hafter had already been ordered to retire and that the coup announcement was laughable.
Hafter was one of a number of largely former leading officers at a series of secret meetings held recently, disclosed by Thinni on Tuesday, which discussed plans for the removal of Congress and the government and their replacement by a military council. Also reported in attendance was Air Commodore Saqr Adam Geroushi, the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force who was disbarred from office by the Integrity Commission a year ago.  
The government and Congress were alerted to the fact and Nuri Abu Sahmain, who was given temporary powers as Commander-in-Chief by Congress three weeks ago, ordered the Military Police to arrest those attending the meetings.  However, the Libya Herald has been told that they refused, claiming that Congress’ legitimacy had expired on 7 February.
Hafter led Libyan forces during the Chad war which finally ended in 1987. After its failure, he had a falling-out with Qaddafi and left Libya for the US when he lived in Virginia for the next two decades, reportedly financed by the CIA. He returned with the 17 February Revolution and early on was briefly reported to have been appointed the National Transitional Council’s Chief of Staff. However, the post was then given to the late General Abdul Fattah Younis. Hafter has been been largely powerless since, but still a top military official.
A year and a half ago, there was an attempt to murder him in Benghazi.

Omar Hamaidan did not speak for the GNC – Zeidan

By Sami Zaptia.
Ali Zeidan press conference yesterday held at the Islamic Call Society (Photo: Libyan Government  Facebook page).
Ali Zeidan at his press conference yesterday held at the Islamic Call Society (Photo: Libyan Government Facebook page).
Tripoli, 13 February 2014:
In reply to a question from the media about the statement by the GNC official spokesperson that the GNC had come to an agreement in principle on replacing the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said that he did not accept that Hamaidan was speaking for Congress.
The Prime Minister, speaking at yesterday’s press conference, publicly rebuked the GNC’s official spokesperson, saying that he had spoken to him personally regarding the comment, adding that Hamaidan may have been expressing his opinion or his wishes.
Zeidan admitted that there were members of the GNC who wanted to replace the government, just as there were members who supported the government.
There has been a concerted attempt over the last two months by opponents of Zeidan to remove his government. However, this attempt has repeatedly failed to obtain a majority within the GNC, leading to his main opponents, the Islamist Justice and Construction party, withdrawal of their five government ministers in protest.
As a result, Prime Minister Zeidan has put forward proposed replacements for the resigned, and other vacant, ministerial positions.
Yesterday’s press conference, which was quite shorter than usual, lasting for just over 30 minutes, was held at the Islamic Call Society, rather than the recently used Ministry of Electricity just up the road.
It is notable that in the lead up to the 7 February call for mass protests to eject the GNC and Zeidan government, the Prime Minister has been using the more defendable and secure Islamic Call Society HQ off Swani road as his base, rather than his town centre office on Sikka Road.

Another congressman resigns in protest at GNC extension

By Ashraf Abdul Wahab.

Tripoli, 13 February 2014:

Another Congress member has resigned in response to the extension of the General National Congress (GNC) beyond 7 February – the sixth resignation on these grounds.
National Forces Alliance member for Tobruk, Tawfik Ibrayik Shuhaibi, said his departure was in accordance with the wishes of the Libyan people.
Ghat Congressman, Mohamed Safi Al-Ansari, and Murzuk Congressman Abdulraziq Zwaiy submitted their resignations two days ago. Two independent congressmen from Zintan, Abdusalam Nassiyah and Mohamed Bitru, and independent Warshefana representative, Juma Al-Sayah resigned on 7 February.
All of them cited the extension of Congress’s mandate beyond its original date, as set out in the constitutional declaration, as the reason for standing down.

Defence Minister threatens action after calls for military rule in Libya

By Ashraf Abdul Wahab.
Tripoli, 12 February 2014:
Defence Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni said yesterday that the names of a number of officers who had discussed proposals for military rule had been passed on to the military prosecutor.
Speaking in a live television interview on Libya Al-Ahrar, Thinni said military intelligence had been alerted to a secret meeting in the former Qaddafi Hall of the People in Tripoli where military officials discussed the creation of a Egyptian-style military council to replace Congress and the government. The Military Police had been sent, he said, and although none of the individuals had been detained, their identities were known and they would be charged.
However, a source linked to the Military Police told the Libya Herald that it had refused orders yesterday by Nuri Abu Sahmain, the President of the General National Congress, to break up the meeting. According to the source, a top Military Police official had done so saying he no longer accepted the legitimacy of Congress because it had expired on 7 February.
Abu Sahmain was given powers three weeks ago by Congress as Commander-in-Chief for a month.

An awareness that some members of the armed forces were wanting action similar to what happened in Egypt have been circulating for some days. On Sunday, Congress itself instructed the Chief of Staff to take necessary action against military figures who were becoming involved in political activities contrary to military regulations.
Meanwhile, spokesman for the Chief of Staff, Ali Shaikhi, said that the Military Prosecutor would be investigating military personnel who had given unsanctioned interviews to the press. He said that such interviews directly contravened orders and that prosecutions would begin shortly.

Security or the lack thereof.....

Mass breakout from Zliten prison

By Ashraf Abdul Wahab.
Tripoli, 15 February 2014:
Some 90 inmates are on the run after escaping from Mager Prison in southern Zliten.
The authorities are now trying to round up the convicts, a local resident told the Libya Herald. He said many people in the area suspected prison guards of colluding in the mass breakout.
This is the latest in a growing list of jailbreaks over the last 12 months, which have seen at least 1,700 prisoners let loose with a low rate of recapture.
Just over two weeks ago, 55 prisoners escaped from the Bawabat Al-Jibs prison in Tripoli, when they managed to overpower prison guards. There were two jailbreaks in Ajdabiya and four in Sebha last year and, in July, 1,200 inmates escaped from Benghazi’s Kuwaifiya Prison during a riot.

Strikes over security concerns close two Benghazi hospitals

By Noora Ibrahim.
Benghazi, 14 February 2014:
The closure of another public hospital could spell disaster for Benghazi residents as strikes over safety fears leave the city’s two main health centres partially closed.
Both Al-Jalaa Hospital and Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC) closed yesterday, with the exception of their emergency wards, due to disputes which threatened staff safety. A doctor working at BMC, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Libya Herald that medical staff went on strike after weapons were brandished during an argument between the families of two patients.
Benghazi Joint Security Room (BJSR) members met with doctors and administrators at BMC yesterday to try to find a solution to the security concerns, according to BJSR spokesman Ibrahim Al-Sharaa. He said the closure of further health centres, either the Hawari or 17 February Hospital, could be a “catastrophe”.
The closure of hospitals across the country because of security concerns has become increasingly frequent. Earlier this month Al-Jalaa Hospital closed temporarily after a number of patients were reportedly injured when gunmen opened fire on hospital security guards.
Tripoli Central Hospital has just reopened after partial closure for a month. This followed armed clashes that left one police officer dead, caused extensive damage to one of the hospital buildings and spilled over into the hospital’s emergency ward.

Oil production down to 450,000 barrels per day after pipeline sabotage

By Callum Paton.
Tripoli, 13 February 2014:
Oil production has plummeted to 450,000 barrels per day (b/d), a significant decline from 600,000 b/d reported two days ago, after further pipeline sabotage.
The decrease – announced today by the National Oil Corporation (NOC) - was due to the partial closure of a pipeline carrying oil from the Sharara field, said NOC spokesperson Mohammed Al-Harrari. He said that the line had been tampered with near Reyayana in the Jebel Nafusa but declined to give further details.
Sharara oilfield manager Hassan Al-Sideek told the Libya Herald  yesterday that the oil flow to the Zawia refinery and oil terminal from Sharara had been cut by 60 percent after the pipeline had been sabotaged.
The rise to 600,000 b/d had been attributed to the reopening of the pipeline from Sharara after an armed group turned down the valve using similar tactics. It is thought that the same group could be responsible for the current, partial closure.

Sharara oil pipeline again blockaded in Jebel Nafusa

By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 12 February 2014:
A valve on the pipeline carrying oil from the Sharara oilfield has again been tampered with near Reyayana in Jebel Nafusa causing a 60-percent cut in the flow of oil to the Zawia refinery and oil terminal.
Sharara oilfield manager, Hassan Al-Sideek, told the Libya Herald that a group of unknown men had “turned down the tap” in the pipeline yesterday evening.
Ten days ago, a small group turned down the same valve, causing a 40-percent reduction in flow and a consequent similar reduction on production at the oilfield. At the time, a source at Akakus Oil which operates the field said that those involved were Zintanis but added that they were acting on their own. The issue appeared to have been resolved and the valve opened.
It seems that the same people may again be involved.
Another Akakus source said today he believed those involved were Zintani members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard “demanding compensation”. The flow rate had been reduced by 60 percent, he stated.
“A number of elders met the blockaders two days ago in attempt to broker a deal and lift the blockade,” he added. “The blockaders seemed very cooperative at the time, but they’ve now turned very different from they were before.”
A reliable Zintan source also told this paper this evening that a group of young Zintanis were responsible for turning down the valve as well as for the blockade on the gas pipeline from the Waha field to the Mellitah gas complex near Zuwara.
Zintani elders were trying to put a stop to it, he said, adding that he did not know why the action was being taken.

Power cut warning of Tripoli after gas pipeline blockaded

By Michel Cousins, Ashraf Abdul-Wahab and Jamel Adel.

Tripoli, 12 February 2014:

Major power cuts in Tripoli are expected following a new blockade of the pipeline carrying gas from the Wafa field, 160 kilometers south of Ghadames, to the Ruwais power station in the Jebel Nafusa and the Mellitah gas complex near Zuwara.  The electricity company, GECOL, has warned residents in the capital that outages are inevitable as a result of the power station having to stop production. On its website it said that it had asked elders and anyone else who could help to negotiate a solution to whatever the problem was so as to get the gas flowing again.
According to the manager of Mellitah port, Mustafa Al-Fard, an unknown group blockaded the pipeline’s Station No. 5 in the near Derj, some 60 kilometres east of Ghadames yesterday evening at 5 pm. 
There were early suggestions that Tuareg militants might be responsible.  The area is where a significant number of Tuareg were resettled having been forced to leave Ghadames after the revolution by Arab residents because, it was claimed, they had been Qaddafi supporters. Living in reportedly “dire conditions” they have been demanding the right to return ever since.
However, reliable sources at Mellitah and in Zintan this evening told the Libya Herald that “young Zintanis” were responsible, much to the anger of Zintani leaders.  It was not clear, they said, what the blockaders wanted.   
Al-Fard told this newspaper this morning that if the blockade of continued, it would affect Libya’s gas exports and cause power cuts throughout the west of Libya because of the importance of the Ruwais power station.
With six-gas fired turbines, it has been providing 600 MW to the national grid.
It stopped production in November when Amazigh protestors blockaded the pipeline in the Jebel Nafusa demanding more seats in the 60-member Constitutional Committee. The blockade ended at the beginning of December although it was only on 8 December that the gas started flowing again.
Two of the turbines at Ruwais can operate on oil, and during the November blockade one of them did so for a while, but it had taken 50 trucks a day to feed it with 60,000 tonnes of diesel. This produced 125 MW, compared to 150 MW when running on gas.

Libyan Army soldier shot dead in Benghazi

By Noora Ibrahim.

Benghazi, 13 February 2014:

A soldier in charge of a Libyan Army unit was shot dead outside his house at dawn this morning.
Osama Miftah Al-Agouri, head of a unit of the 20 Brigade, which is part of the Libyan Army, was shot three times, Benghazi Joint Security Room spokesman Ibrahim Al-Sharaa told the Libya Herald. His body was taken to Benghazi Medical Centre.
Sharaa added that 26 year-old Agouri had formerly worked for the police in the department of undercover investigations.

Intelligence services take time to rebuild – Zeidan

By Sami Zaptia.

Tripoli, 13 February 2014:

In reply to a question from the media at yesterday’s press conference, Prime Ali Zeidan said that the intelligence services need time to be rebuilt.
The question posed to the Prime Minister was how was it that Libya’s Military Intelligence were strong and able enough to detect the recent meeting of military officers, allegedly discussing the possibility of returning Libya to military rule, yet have been totally unable to make any intelligence breakthroughs against the terror and crime campaign across the nation.
Zeidan said that this (weakness of the intelligence services) reflects Libya’s reality. He said that the intelligence agencies had been destroyed during the revolution and that the state was currently in the process of recreating effective agencies.