Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Libya Updates February 18 , 2014 -- Congress members given ultimatum to resign or “be arrested” ....... Zintan’s Qaqaa and Sawaiq brigades issue an ultimatum to its members to resign by 10 pm or be arrested. Members and staff are reported to have left the Congress building but there was no visible extra security in the road outside which remains open to traffic, unlike previous occasions when there have been threats to Congress...... Colorful past behind Libyan 'coup maker' ....... Additional items pertaining to security or lack thereof in forgotten Libya !

Political drama......

Congress members given ultimatum to resign or “be arrested”

By Ahmed Elumami.
Tripoli, 18 February 2014:
There was confusion at the General National Congress this evening after it was announced on TV that Zintan’s Qaqaa and Sawaiq brigades had issued an ultimatum to its members to resign by 10 pm or be arrested.  Members and staff are reported to have left the Congress building but there was no visible extra security in the road outside which remains open to traffic, unlike previous occasions when there have been threats to Congress.
Zawia Congresswoman Naima Al-Hami told the Libya Herald that over 20 Congress members had left the GNC in response to the threats but that she herself had stayed, saying she would have the honour of being arrested in the chamber if it came to it.
She said that it was time for the government to protect the state. If it did not send troops then this would demonstrate its unwillingness to protect legitimate institutions and that it was complicit with the brigades.
The ultimatum was part of a statement reported this afternoon by Dawlia TV, seen as supportive of Mahmoud Jibril and the National Forces Alliance.  The chairman of the latter’s steering committee, Abdulmajid Milaiqtah, is the brother of Othman Milaiqtah, the commander of the Qaaqaa Brigade.
The statement allegedly claimed that instability in the country was the fault of the Muslim Brotherhood in Congress and those organisations sympathetic to it. The statement also reportedly said the Brotherhood was an epidemic and disease which only the brigades could cure.  
Qaqaa and Sawaiq also allegedly claimed that they were not attempting to grab power but would act as “protectors of the homeland” until such time as the military and other security institutions had been built up to their full strength.
The statement provoked a call to Libyans by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to refrain from resorting to force to resolve political disputes and instead rely on dialogue to ensure a peaceful transfer of the powers of the GNC to a new elected body. 
The European Union, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States also put out a joint statement effectively giving their backing to Congress and stating that the use of force was not a legitimate means “to divert the democratic transition”.
Reflecting UNSMIL’s call, GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain, speaking on Wataniya TV,  said peaceful dialogue and the transition of power according to legal mechanisms were the only course open to Libya. He said that Congress had instructed the General Chief of Staff to take the necessary measures against the “armed groups” and called on the Libyan people to “defend their political choices in the face of these threats”.
Reports this evening that forces were heading from Misrata to Tripoli to protect Congress appear, however, to be premature. According to the Libya Herald correspondent in the city, there has been no mobilisation. Nevertheless, the Military Council there has called forces to be on alert.  The Council of Revolutionaries in nearby Zliten also issued a statement this evening calling on revolutionaries to be on alert and warning Qaaqaa and Sawaiq to stop interfering in Congress’ affairs.  It said that they would use an “iron fist” to punish anyone who harmed Congress.
Questions, however, surrounds the veracity of the statement. In what appears to be a repeat of General Hafter’s coup that was not, there was no sign of the Qaqaa brigade in Tripoli this evening although, in what appears to be a precautionary measure, large numbers of military vehicles are reported to have been deployed at the roundabout near the Tripoli end of the Airport Road.  It is viewed as a possible route of forces coming from Zintan.
Meanwhile Former Defence Minister Osama Juwaili, himself from Zintan, interviewed by on TV,  distanced Zintan from the two brigades, saying they did not represent the town.
The government appears not to be overly concerned about the threat.  It has denied on social media claims by Aljazeera TV that it had asked the ministries to evacuate in anticipation of an armed attack. 


Colorful past behind Libyan 'coup maker'
By Ramzy Baroud

A mass prison break in the Libyan town of Zliten on Friday, which saw 92 escape, seems an appropriate snapshot of the chaos which has descended since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in August 2011.

On the same day, former military chief Major General Khalifa Hifter called for the parliament and government to be suspended, in an announcement some described as a coup attempt. "The national command of the Libyan Army is declaring a movement fora new road map [to rescue the country]", Hifter declared in a video post. 

Global media regularly uses cliches such as "security vacuum" or references a "lack of a true national identity" to explain away Libya's situation. Loyalty to tribe and region indeed may supersede other affiliation, but the root causes for the break down in state control are more complex.

Hifter's announcement was met with by derision from government officials, with Prime Minister Ali Zeidan describing it as "ridiculous". Libya is stable, Zeidan told Reuters, adding that parliament was doing its work and so was the government.

Zedian did not remark on the militias destabilizing the country, nor that he was himself kidnapped by one last October. The fact is that most of these militias are either directly or loosely affiliated with officials. In Libya, to have sway over a militia is to have influence over local, regional or national agendas. Unfortunate as it may be, this is the new Libya.

There are convenient ways to justify the chaos: Libya is inherently unruly, observers say, usually adding that it took a strong leader like Gaddafi to maintain the national cohesion of a country made of tribes, not citizens. But the truth requires more than mere platitudes.

Libya is in a state of chaos, and not because of an intrinsic tendency to shun order. Libyans, like people all over the world, seek security and stability. However, other Arab and Western forces are desperate to ensure that the "new Libya" is consistent with their own interests.

The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick reported on the "coup attempt" from Cairo last week. In his report, "In Libya, a Coup. Or Perhaps Not", he drew similarities between Libya and Egypt.

His analysis argued that in the case of Egypt, the military succeeded in consolidating its powers, while in Libya a strong military institution never existed in the first place. In order for Hifter to stage a coup, he would need to rely on more than a weak and splintered army.

It is quite interesting that the newspaper chose to place Hifter's "ridiculous" coup in an Egyptian context. There is a more immediate and far more relevant context which the newspaper and its veteran correspondents should know very well. It is no secret that Hifter has had strong backing from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for nearly three decades.

The man has been branded and rebranded throughout his colorful history. He fought as an officer in the Chad-Libya conflict in the late 1980s, where he was captured alongside his entire unit of 600 men.

During his time in prison, Chad experienced a regime change (both the former and incoming regimes were backed by French and US intelligence) and Hifter and his men were released as per a request by Washington to another African country. While some chose to return home, others knew only death awaited them there, as the New York Times reported on May 17, 1991, in the article "350 Libyans Trained to Oust Qaddafi Are to Come to US".

"For two years, United States officials have been shopping around for a home for about 350 Libyan soldiers who cannot return to their country because American intelligence officials had mobilized them into a commando force to overthrow the Libyan leader," the newspaper reported. "Now, the administration has given up trying to find another country that will accept the Libyans and has decided to bring them to the United States."

Hifter was relocated in the early 1990s to a suburb in Vienna, Virginia, about five miles from CIA headquarters in Langley. There is scant information about his exact activities while living there, but it is clear he used the time to build up ties to Libyan opposition forces supported by the US, including The National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL).

In a thorough report published in the Business Insider in April 2011, investigative journalist Russ Baker traces Hifter's activities since his split from Gaddafi.

"A Congressional Research Service [CRS] report of December 1996 named Hifter as the head of the NFSL's military wing. After he joined the exile group, the CRS report added, Hifter began 'preparing an army to march on Libya'. The NFSL, the CSR said, is in exile 'with many of its members in the United States'."

It took nearly 15 years for Hifter to march on Libya. It also took an North Atlantic Treaty Organization-backed air war purportedly supporting a popular uprising. Hifter, as Baker described, is the Libyan equivalent of Iraq's former interim oil minister Ahmed Chalabi.

In the 1990s, Iraq exile Chalabi headed the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an umbrella opposition group that received considerable amounts of money from the American government as it attempted to bring about the downfall of the Saddam Hussain regime. Chalabi is credited as persuading Washington through the INC that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Boasting strong allies in Washington, Chalabi was sent to post-Saddam Iraq to lead the "democratization" process. However, in early 2010 Chalabi was accused of using a supposed "de-Baathification" role to eliminate his political enemies, especially Sunnis.

Hifter's return to Libya in 2011 was a major source of controversy at the time. While his CIA affiliation was no secret, his decision to join the rebels caused much confusion.

A military spokesman initially announced that he would be the rebels' new commander, only for this to be dismissed by the National Transitional Council as false. The NTC was largely a composition of characters who had little presence in Libya's national consciousness. Hifter found himself as the third man in the military ladder, which he accepted grudgingly.

Although officials deny this was a legitimate coup attempt, Arab and Western media continue to report that illegal shipments of weapons arriving into various Libyan airports. Meanwhile, militias are growing in size and the central government is growing irrelevant.

As jail breaks are reported regularly and chaos spreads, Libyans find safety in holding on tighter to their tribal and clan affiliations. What future awaits Libya is hard to predict, but the meddling of Western and Arab intelligence organizations certainly aren't helping the situation. 


Breaking News: Qaaqaa leader Othman Milaiqtah seriously injured; assassination attempt alleged

By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 20 February 2014:
Othman Milaiqtah, the commander of the Qaaqaa Brigade, has been gravely injured late this afternoon in what is variously being called an assassination attempt or a car accident.
Abdulmajid Milaiqtah, the chairman of the National Forces Alliance Steering Committee, has told the Ajwa Liblad Facebook news agency that his brother had survived an assassination attempt and that he was now in intensive care in a Tripoli hospital.
Some Zintani sources also say there was an assassination bid.  Others, however, say that the Qaaqaa commander was injured in a car crash in Ras Al-Afaa near Azziziya, in which Salah Al-Madani, son of the celebrated Zintan martyr Mohamed Al-Madani, was killed.
A leading Military Police source told the Libya Herald that there were no clear details as yet.  They had had two conflicting reports. The first was that Salah Al-Madani had had an argument with Milaiqtah and shot him, and then been shot dead by Milaiqtah’s guard. The other was that the car being driven by Madani had crashed in an ordinary accident.
Other reports state that the shooting incident took place at the 7 April camp in Tripoli, Qaaqaa’s headquarters.
There are also conflicting reports about Milaiqtah’s present whereabouts.  Sources in Zintan claim that he has been taken to hospital to Tunisia, not in Tripoli.
Earlier this afternoon, Milaiqtah had announced that he was going to give a press statement. But he did not. According to a reporter who was waiting for the statement, Milaiqtah abruptly left, apparently to meet a group of elders. It was while driving to meet them that the accident/assassination attempt supposedly occurred.
Two days ago, the Qaaqaa brigade issued an ultimatum to Congress members saying that if they did not resign within five hours they would be arrested.

Benghazi judge dies in hospital following assassination attempt

By Noora Ibrahim.
Benghazi 20 February 2014:
A judge who was receiving treatment for injuries following an assassination attempt yesterday has died in hospital.
A source at Benghazi’s Al-Jelaa Hospital told the Libya Herald that Mayloud Amar Al-Rajhi, a South Benghazi Court judge, had died this morning of complications following surgery.
Rajhi was left with severe injuries after a bomb exploded under his car yesterday morning in Benghazi’s Majouri district. He was 40 years old.

Elections in Obari halted after polling stations attacked; 71 stations across Libya closed, 95% open

By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 20 February 2014:
The elections  in the southern town of Obari for the Constitutional Committee were suspended today when at least two of the polling centres was stormed and set on fire. There are reports that two or three more stations were attacked as well. Other polling centres in the area then closed as a result.
“A group of unknown men stormed into the polling stations and set ballot papers on fire and caused damage to property,” the head of the local HNEC team in Obari, Ali Abu-Salah Ali, told the Libya Herald. “They threatened HNEC workers”, he added.
As a result “we officially stopped the elections in the town because of fears for the HNEC workers’ safety,” he said. “We spoke to head of central administration the HNEC and reported our inability to continue further.”
It is thought that Tebu protestors are behind the attacks. The National Tebu Assemby announced a boycott at the beginning of the week. However, the precise number of polling centres closed as a result the Obari incidents is unknown. There have been reports that some stations in the surrounding area may be operating but this is unconfirmed.
It is reported that all 31 polling centres in the neighbouring Murzuk sub-constituency never opened in the first place after Tebu protestors blocked roads and prevented election material getting through to them. The Tebus apparently objected to the fact that despite the boycott, Tebu candidates could be elected by non-Tebu voters because the voting system allowed them to do so.
In Kufra, where Tebus have also been boycotting the vote, there was no similar attempt to prevent the 15  polling centres from operating.  Three were closed by the other 12 were operating.
In Derna district, 11 stations were reported to have been closed because of attacks, thought to be by militant Islamists opposed to any democratic proceedings, and 41 open.
An official with HNEC, told the this newspaper that altogether, some 71 polling stations across the country were not operating today for various reasons,
Despite earlier HNEC concerns about security in Sebha, all polling centres there were open.
According to statement late this afternoon from HNEC, 95 percent of polling centres were functioning normally throughout the day.

Gas supplies restored to Ruwais power station

By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 18 February 2014:
The gas-fired Ruwais power station in the Jebel Nafusa is up and running again after a week-long blockade of a pipeline carrying gas from the Wafa field.
“The Ruwais power station is now back working on natural gas supplies,” the spokesman for the General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL), Lutfi Ghoma, told the Libya Herald today.
Since last Wednesday there had been disruptions and minor power cuts in different area in the west of the country after the  pipeline was blocked, he said.
The power station was forced to operate using diesel until the blockade ended, he said. The Ruwais power station, which has a capacity of 900 Megawatts, is now generating 600 megawatts of power.
The plant was not operating at full capacity because two turbines were under maintenance, Ghoma said.
The gas supplies to the power station and to the Mellitah gas complex near Zuwara were cut last week when an armed group, thought to be Zintanis with a private agenda, turned down a valve on the pipeline for the second time.

Bani Walid Local Council suspends work after flag-burning incident

By Ahmed Elumami.
An image circulating on circulating on social media websites  showing independence flags being burned
An image circulating on social media websites showing independence flags being burned
Tripoli, 18 February 2014:
Bani Walid Local Council has suspended work after a group of Qaddafi’s supporters burned independence flags on Sunday.
“A number of the independence flags were burnt the day before the third anniversary of the 17 February Revolution by a group of criminals who still support the former regime,” a member of Bani Walid Local Council, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Libya Herald.
He confirmed that pictures and reports that had been circulated on social media networks were genuine and the incident was not just a rumour.
The town was not ignored by the government, he said, pointing out that, as part of a security boost, the government had provided 102 police cars to Bani Walid.
The town, however, continued to struggle with problems caused by Qaddafi loyalists from Bani Walid and some displaced people from Misrata, Tawergha and Tripoli, he said. He called on the government to take swift action to arrest them, as they destabilised security.
Even though he had been a political prisoner under the old regime, he said, he felt more scared now than he had before.

Second attack on Alaseema TV in a week

By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Tripoli, 18 February 2014:
The headquarters of Alaseema TV  (“Capital TV”) has been targeted in the second attack on the channel’s Tripoli offices in a week.
News agency Libya Al-Mostakbal reported that damage had been caused to the television station’s premises when an assault with missiles caused a blaze inside the building. The agency added there had been no casualties in the attack.
A fire department official told the Libya Herald that anti-aircraft missiles rather than RPG rockets had  been used. He also said  that a mobile phone belonging to one of the assailants was left at the site of the attack. There are hopes it will allow investigators to identify the perpetrators.
The headquarters of Alaseema TV was hit by three RPGs six days ago. The station had said two weeks ago it was going to withdraw its staff from Benghazi following threats of violence, although it did not do so.
The channel has notably been critical of Ansar Al-Sharia and the Muslim Brotherhood in the past, although whether this is connected is unknown.

Military police criticises GNC over Haftar

By Ashraf Abdul Wahab.
Tripoli, 18 February 2014:
A military police source has been sharply critical of the GNC’s statements on Major General Khalifa Haftar,  who has been accused to trying to mount a coup.
The officer, speaking to the Libya Herald on condition of anonymity, refuted claims by the GNC that the intelligence services had located Haftar.  The general, he said, was in his hometown of Ajdabiya, with his tribe, family and supporters.
“It is unlikely that Haftar will be arrested there” said the source, adding that it was up to the military prosecutor to investigate the general and any other officers implicated in any coup.
“”We are the only people authorised to arrest army officers and we have not arrested anyone of of any rank in relation to this matter. We may have sent out some summonses, but we have not arrested any official belonging to any Libyan army unit”.
The military police source went on to suggest that the GNC’s assertion that Haftar had been traced using the intelligence services was a “publicity campaign” designed to absorb public anger. This, in his view, had backfired because it had increased public dissatisfaction, not least with the GNC itself.
Osama Juwaily, the former Libyan Defence Minister declined to speculate about Haftar’s whereabouts. However, he did say that he felt very sorry about the way in which the general had chosen to end his career.
“He emerged as a star during the liberation war,” said Juwaily, “where he was on the front lines in the face of Qaddafi brigades. He was not supposed to drag himself into political disputes”.