Saturday, May 10, 2014

Libya Updates May 10 , 2014 - Militia rule by the gun extending beyond domestic politics into foreign policy of Libya ? Note -- The government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Jordan which is seen as a prelude to the exchange of a Libyan convicted of terrorism in Amman for the kidnapped Jordanian Ambassador to Libya ....... Additional timely articles , focus on security related concerns and the Oil Industry !

Agreement struck with Jordan in hopes of kidnapped 

ambassador’s release

By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 9 May 2014:
The government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Jordan which is seen as a prelude to   the exchange of a Libyan convicted of terrorism in Amman for the kidnapped Jordanian Ambassador to Libya.
The government said in a statement following Thursday’s cabinet meeting that it had ratified an agreement between the Jordanian and Libyan ministries of justice for the transfer home of nationals jailed in each other’s country.
The Jordanian Ambassador to Libya, Fawwaz Al-Eitan, was kidnapped and his driver wounded in Tripoli three weeks ago. Shortly afterwards an official investigating the abduction said the kidnappers had demanded that Libyan Mohamed Dersi, who was given a life sentence in 2007 for planning to bomb a Jordanian airport for Eitan, be sent back to Libya.
It was reported that initial negotiations to secure Eitan’s release were stopped when the Jordanian authorities decided that freeing Dersi would mean more kidnappings.
Usually such transfer agreements mean that prisoners sentenced in foreign courts serve their sentence in a prison at home.  The cabinet statement did not mention this, however.
There are also currently two members of the Tunisian diplomatic staff who are being held by abductors.

Three protestors shot dead outside 17 February 

Brigade in Benghazi; 20 injured

By Noora Ibrahim and Moutaz Ahmed.
Benghazi, 10 May 2014:
Three protestors were shot dead in Benghazi early this morning outside the headquarters of the 17 February Brigade. Another 20 were injured. Four were taken to the city’s Jalaa hospital, were one is in a critical condition, according to the hospital’s spokesperson. Sixteen were taken to the Benghazi Medical Centre.
The three dead have been named as Najeeb Al-Athram, aged 24; Muftah Al-Madani, 20; and Fathi Al-Sbeihi, 22. The injured at Jelaa hospital are Mohammed Essa Tuwair, 17; Khaled Mohamed Al-Orafi, 46; Sanad Abdussalam Al-Agouri, 21; and Musa Idris Al-Sahli, 18.
The protestors had gone to the brigade’s headquarters after shots were fired yesterday afternoon at them while they were demonstrating outside the Tibesti Hotel over the security situation in the city. They were convinced that the gunmen were members of the brigade.
As with so many other similar incidents in Benghazi the exact circumstances of what happened are confusing and it is impossible to say who killed the demonstrators. 
As they headed to the headquarters at the end of Venezia Street at about 7.30pm, ignoring warnings from the Benghazi Joint Security Room not to do so. Shortly afterwards, as dusk fell, the lights in the area were turned off.  
For around two and a half hours they chanted slogans outside the gates of the brigade, which is headed by Ismail Salabi, such as “We don’t want you here”, “No to militias” and “All we need are the police and the army”.  According to one of the protestors, there was then shooting of automatic rifles in the air from inside the headquarters, in “an attempt to scare us off”. Another report says that the shooting was proceeded by an explosion, possibly from anti aircraft missile fired from inside the base..
Saiqa forces are then said to have arrived some time before midnight, both to protect the demonstrators but also warning them to leave. Some refused, remaining outside the brigade gates. 
At around 1am there was more shooting, this time at the protestors, killing the three and wounding the others. All were outside the gates of the headquarters.
At present, however, it is not known in the darkness where the shooting came from.

Three days of national mourning for murdered 

Judicial Police

By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 9 May 2014
The government has announced three days of national mourning as of today for the members of the judicial police who were killed yesterday in a shootout when they went to retrieve a stolen vehicle from the Wershefana area.
The number of dead was initially put at three by Justice Minister Salah Marghani when he went on television late yesterday afternoon to explain what had happened. The number later rose to five when two other policemen died from their injuries. Five others were wounded in the shoot-out and three more who were captured by the thieves and their colleagues are still being held.
The Judicial Police had gone to the Wershefana area after their stolen vehicle, which had a tracker device, had been traced by GPS. 
According to one of the Judicial Police who tried to retrieve the vehicle, Masoud Musa Al-Gamati, they tried to negotiate with the gang when they arrived but they were shot at.
The Justice Minister has suggested that those who stole the vehicle were not simply common thieves but armed militants. “As they [the Judicial Police] moved into the area,” he said, “they were besieged by militants who opened fire on them”.
In January, an attempt by security forces to arrest 177 Warshefana people wanted by the public prosecutor on charges of kidnapping, carjacking and other crimes, resulted in at least 11 of them being killed, including Mohamed Kara, brother former SSC commander Abdul Raouf Kara, when the Warshefana rallied and fought back. 
It led to wider fighting in which dozens died and which took on a firmly political hue, with the Washefana seen as Qaddafi loyalists and everyone else around them as suuporters of the revolution. It was not until the very end of March that a sort of calm was finally restored with an exchange of prisoners between the Warshefana and Suq Al-Juma.

Intelligence chief assassinated in Benghazi

By Mutaz Ahmed.
Ibrahim Senussi's car (Photo: social media)
Ibrahim Senussi’s car (Photo: Social media)
Benghazi, 8 May 2014:
The head of intelligence in eastern region, Colonel Ibrahim Senussi, was assassinated this afternoon, two days after he went on television to name names behind killings in the city.
His car was shot at near the Benghazi medical college. Senussi then drove off, trying to escape but was followed.  He was then shot again some 200 metres further along the road, this time fatally – in the neck and chest, according to an eyewitness.
When Senussi spoke on Libya Awalan TV two days ago he was not named, but was introduced as the head of intelligence.
He said terrorist groups were targeting anyone who had been trained abroad since the revolution. He accused Ansar Al-Sharia of being behind much of the violence in the city. 
He also said that, unbeknown to their families, 58 young men had returned from Syria and were preparing to take part in suicide attacks. It was one of them, he added, that had been involved in the suicide attack on the headquarters of Brigade 21 on 29 April in which two Saiqa Special Forces members were killed. 
There are reports that yesterday there was an attempt to seize one of his staff.
Several members of intelligence have been killed or targeted in the past year.

Sebha airport reopens

By Libya Herald staff.
Deputy PM Salah Al-Gadi at the reopening of Sebha Aiport
Deputy PM Abdussalam Al-Gadi at the reopening of Sebha Aiport
Tripoli, 9 May 2014:
After being closed for over four months because of a security crisis resulting from both communal clashes and an attempt by Qaddafi loyalists to seize the town, Sebha airport was formally reopened Thursday. In an event attended by Deputy Prime Minister Abdulsalam Al-Gadi, the airport resumed flights to Benghazi and Tripoli after making some changes to improve its administration and security.
The airport had closed after tribal clashes broke out in Sebha earlier this year.  During the clashes missiles fell in areas near the airport, disrupting flights.  The airport is in an area that is considered disputed land between fighting tribes.
Back at the end of January, local officials were confidently predicting that it would be reopened within days. That it did not was in no small part due to airport management insisting that the airport and its immediate vicinity be secured before flights restarted.
The military authorities, mainly in the form of the Third Forces from Misrata took their time. However, protests eleven days ago by airport employees and security staff and members of the local passport office who demanded the military secure the area appear to have rapidly changed minds.
The closure of the airport had made life extremely difficult for those travelling and great distance to and from Sebha.  Until the reopening, the nearest  operational airport was at Obari, 180 kilometres away.

Libya hopeful of Es Sider, Ras Lanuf oil terminals restarting despite


deal fears

London (Platts)--9May2014/920 am EDT/1320 GMT

The Libyan government is still hopeful that the major eastern oil export terminals of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf can re-open soon despite fears that a deal with anti-government protesters to end the blockade of the ports could be on the verge of collapse.

An agreement from early April between Tripoli and the rebels led to the re-opening of the smaller eastern ports of Marsa al-Hariga and Zueitina for the first time in nine months.

The restart of operations at the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf ports was expected to follow as part of the agreement.

But the leader of the rebel-led opposition movement, Ibrahim al-Jathran, on Thursday said that the government had been ineffective in honoring the commitments it made as part of the deal.

Rebels are also unhappy with the appointment of new Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq, who they say did not take office legally.

Libya's justice minister late Thursday conceded that progress over the opening of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf had been slow.

"On the subject of the oil ports, there is an agreement that was accepted by the government and that is being carried out, but there is some slowdown in some administrative procedures," Salah al-Merghani said, according to a transcript of a press conference in Tripoli posted on the government website.

Merghani called on all sides to respect the agreement and Libyan law.

"Maybe some are trying to exploit it politically, but the process is proceeding well and the government will implement its commitments," he said.

"The two ports of Marsa al-Hariga and Zueitina are open, and God willing, we will soon open the ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf."


Earlier this week, the US Ambassador to Libya, Deborah Jones, said it appeared that the Libyan government was backing away from the deal.

"I'm not terribly optimistic," she said, adding that Maiteeq wanted to tweak some parts of the agreement with rebels.

Maiteeq has taken over from Abdullah al-Thani, who resigned as interim prime minister in April.

There have also been reports that protesters were preparing to re-occupy Marsa al-Hariga and Zueitina -- with a combined capacity of some 180,000 b/d -- because of their concerns.

Only a few cargoes have been loaded out of the two ports since state-owned NOC lifted force majeure at the terminals in April.

Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, which have a combined capacity of 560,000 b/d, have been closed since rebels seeking more autonomy took over the ports last August.

Libya's oil sector remains in a state of chaos with production averaging just 250,000 b/d, way below the 1.5-1.6 million b/d Libya was producing before the current spate of unrest began in May 2013.

There had been hope that with the eastern ports set to reopen it could trigger a sustained recovery too for production in the east of the country.

But there has been no significant increase in production in the past month, while the country's major oil fields in the west of the country also remain closed.

At the start of the week hopes were high of an imminent restart of oil output at the major 340,000 b/d capacity Sharara field, but talks with protesters have seemingly not led to a breakthrough.

The Elephant and Wafa fields also remain shut in.


Libyan rebels reject talks with PM, keep oil ports shut

BENGHAZI/TRIPOLI, Libya Wed May 7, 2014 6:19pm EDT
A general view of the Zueitina oil terminal is seen in Zueitina, west of Benghazi April 7, 2014. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
A general view of the Zueitina oil terminal is seen in Zueitina, west of Benghazi April 7, 2014.


(Reuters) - Rebels occupying major oil ports in eastern Libya said on Wednesday they would boycott Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq and keep two major export terminals shut for now, a blow to efforts to restore vital oil exports.
The rebels even warned they would take action if Tripoli did not fulfill its part of a recent agreement to reopen the oil ports, a veiled threat to close the terminals again.
"Nothing has been implemented," said Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi, self-declared prime minister of the rebel movement.
He accused the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists in parliament of undermining the agreement and trying to take over the ports.
The struggle over energy wealth is part of growing turmoil in the North African country three years after the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Maiteeq's predecessor, Abdullah al-Thinni, reached an agreement with the rebels to reopen four of the ports, although only the smaller facilities, Hariga and Zueitina, have been handed over to government forces.
Both sides agreed to hold further talks over the larger Ras Lanuf and Es Sider exports terminals.
Barassi said the rebels would not deal with Maiteeq, claiming he had not come to power legally. The businessman was sworn in on Sunday after a chaotic election in parliament that was disputed by many deputies.
"Mr. Abdullah al-Thinni needs to explain or appoint someone to say why there is this delay and why the agreement has not been implemented," Barassi told a rebel television station.
If the government did implement the deal, then the rebels might take unspecific "measures." Barassi did not elaborate, but rebel spokesman Ali al-Hasi said this would mean asking tribal elders whether the reopened ports should be closed again.
Barassi said more talks about "new conditions" were needed to reopen the Ras Lanuf and Es Sider ports. He did not say what these conditions would entail, but top leader Ibrahim Jathran said the group wanted a federal system sharing power and oil wealth between the regions, an impossible demand on the weak central government.
There was no immediate comment from Tripoli, which has struggled to assert authority over a country awash in arms and rival militias, some of which have seized oil ports and fields to make political and financial demands.
Their actions have cut oil output to 250,000 barrels a day from 1.4 million bpd last summer, eroding public finances that are almost entirely dependent on crude exports.
Parliament has failed to approve a budget for this year.
Libya will post a budget deficit of 10 billion Libyan dinars ($8 billion) because oil revenues will reach only 34.7 billion dinars, said Mohammed Ali Abdullah, head of the parliamentary budget committee.
However, the deficit might be much higher because the draft, which comes to a vote on Sunday, assumes annual oil production of 800,000 bpd and an oil price of $100 a barrel, an unlikely goal if the Ras Lanuf or Es Sider ports remain shut.
Total expenditures will be 59 billion dinars, mainly for public salaries and subsidies, Abdullah said.
He did not say how the deficit would be funded. The central bank had foreign reserves worth $115 billion at the end of February. Oil exports are also the only source of funding for annual imports of $30 billion.
In another sign of turmoil, most air traffic at Benghazi airport came to a halt for hours after a fight among ground staff.
The two main local carriers, Libyan and Afriqiyah Airlines, suspended operations after a member of the ground staff tried to smuggle two Chadians without travel documents onto a flight, airport officials said.
The employee scuffled with a colleague who tried to stop him, a source at ground handling firm al-Shorooq said.
And in Tripoli, gunmen beat up the chairman of one of the biggest state cellphone operators to demand that the company open an office in their town, a company source said. Staff plan to strike on Thursday, he added.