Sunday, May 18, 2014

War Watch May 18 , 2014 --Libya descending into further confusion - Families evacuate Benghazi as renegade Libyan general vows more attacks , Fighting spreads in Tripoli as brigades move against GNC attackers; five dead , Omar Al-Mukhtar Brigade has withdrawn from Kufra and may head to Benghazi ......... Iraq in focus -- 78 Killed, 37 Wounded As Iraq Security Ops Continue

Libya .....

Families evacuate Benghazi as renegade Libyan general vows more attacks

General Khalifa Haftar speaks during a news conference in Abyar
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General Khalifa Haftar speaks during a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the …
By Ayman al-Warfalli and Ulf Laessing
ABYAR/TRIPOLI, Libya (Reuters) - The self-declared Libyan National Army led by a renegade general told civilians on Saturday to leave parts of Benghazi before it launched a fresh attack on Islamist militants, a day after dozens were killed in the worst clashes in the city for months.
Families could be seen packing up and driving away from western districts of the port city where Islamist militants and LNA forces led by retired General Khalifa Haftar fought for hours on Friday.
Dressed in military uniform, Hafter - whom the speaker of parliament accused of plotting a coup - said his troops had temporarily withdrawn from Benghazi for tactical reasons.
"We'll come back with force," he told reporters at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi.
"We've started this battle and will continue it until we have reached our goals," he said.
He said government and parliament had no legitimacy as they had failed to achieve security. "The street and the Libyan people are with us," he said, adding that his troops were spread out in several parts of eastern Libya.
In Tripoli, parliamentary speaker and military commander-in-chief Nuri Abu Sahmain said Hafter was trying to stage a coup.
"(LNA) members who have carried out the clashes in Benghazi are out of the control of the state of Libya and they are trying to attempt a coup for their own interests," Abu Sahmain said in a televised news conference.
A Health Ministry official said the death toll had risen to 43, with more than 100 wounded. Haftar said 60 militants and six of his soldiers were killed, and 250 militants and 37 of his men wounded.
Libyan news website Ajwa Belad said late on Saturday 75 people had been killed and 141 wounded, citing official data.
A worker in a hospital that received at least 40 corpses said: "More bodies are coming in from areas outside Benghazi.
Authorities extended the closure of Benghazi's Benina airport on Saturday. Egyptair halted flights to Benghazi until the security situation improved, an Egyptian security official said.
The Libyan army declared a no-fly zone after Haftar's forces used at least one helicopter during Friday's fighting, according to a statement on the chief of staff's website.
Since the 2011 civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi after 42 years of one-man rule, Libya has been unable to impose authority over brigades of former rebels who refuse to disarm and have carved out regional fiefdoms.
Benghazi, the cradle of the NATO-backed uprising against Gaddafi, in particular has struggled to curb violence and stem attacks blamed on Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist group that Washington designates as a terrorist organization.
Haftar, a leading figure in the 2011 uprising that ousted Gaddafi, stirred rumors of a coup in February by appearing in military uniform to call for a presidential committee to be formed to govern until new elections.
Libya's government is fragile and the parliament almost paralyzed by rivalries, with little progress to full democracy made since 2011. A planned new constitution is still unwritten and the country is on its third prime minister since March.
U.S. and European countries are helping build up the regular army but Libya's armed forces and government cannot control the brigades of ex-rebels and militants who once fought Gaddafi.
The North African nation's vital oil industry has suffered badly and is often targeted by armed protesters seeking a greater share of oil wealth, federalist power for the regions or just better basic services.
Since last summer, armed protesters have repeatedly closed down ports and oilfields, bringing production down to around 200,000 barrels per day from the 1.4 million bpd that the OPEC member state produced before the protests erupted

Fighting spreads in Tripoli as brigades move 

against GNC attackers; five dead

Tripoli, 18 May 2014:
An apparent block off the Airport Road hilt by missiles (Photo: Social media)
An apartment block off the Airport Road hit by missiles (Photo: Social media)
Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Fighting which started at the General National Congress (GNC) this evening spread across the capital. It first shifted to Hay Al-Akwakh, near the steel bridge on the Airport Road, but since then missiles were reported to have fallen by the TV station near the end of Ennasr Street and heavy firing was  heard in the Corniche area on the way to Mitiga airbase.  The fighting has since died down.
Eyewitnesses near the Airport Road  have told the Libya Herald that heavy clashes had taken place there after a number of Tripoli militias united against the Qaaqaa and Sawaiq brigades following their attack against the GNC. Ignewa Al-Kikly, an Islamist brigade based in Abu Sleem, was said to be out in large numbers on the road and rockets were fired into the surrounding residential area.
An Interior Ministry official also told this newspaper that Qaaqaa units had forced their way into the Ministry buildings on the Airport Road and had taken equipment. 
Meanwhile, reports from Tripoli Central Hospital, Tripoli Medical Centre and the Khadra and Abu Sleem hospitals put the number of dead at five and those injured in the fighting at 73.  Most of the latter were civilians caught in the crossfire while trying to return home. At least five are in serious condition. 
These figure, however, are from one side only.  The Zintanis were said to be taking their wounded elsewhere.  
The hospitals are also calling for urgent blood donations. 
Reports that Tripoli International Airport is closed are untrue.  Airport officials have said it was operating normally but that few passengers were turning up.
There are fears that sunrise will bring new clashes. A source close to the Qaaqaa and Sawaiq brigades has said that further reinforcements from Zintan were now on their way to Tripoli.
The same source also insisted that the two groups had not aligned themselves with General Khalifa Hafter in his bid to expel Islamist militias from Benghazi and take control of the city.

Omar Al-Mukhtar Brigade has withdrawn from Kufra and may head to Benghazi

By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 18 May 2014:
The Omar Al-Mukhtar Brigade withdrew from Kufra about a week ago after local elders failed to arrest and hand over locals who had carried out an attack against the brigade’s checkpoints in the town.
“Some members of the Zuwai tribe attacked a group from the Omar Al-Mukhtar Brigade at a checkpoint and took over their vehicles and weapons two weeks ago,” a Kufra local told the Libya Herald.
Omar Al-Mukhtar leaders entered into negotiations with town elders to see that the perpetrators were handed over, but they were not successful.  In response, Omar Al-Mukhtar commander Zeyad Balam ordered the brigade to quit from the town.
“The Omar Al-Mukhtar members who withdrew from Kufra are now based at the Man Made River (MMR) compound outside of the Al-Shula Oil in Sarir.  They are probably headed to Benghazi,” Petroleum Facility Guard (PFG) member in Sarir, Mohammed Waday, told this paper.
It has been reported that the interim government ordered Zeyad Balam to secure Benghazi in a decision issued yesterday.
The Malik Unit of the Omar Al-Mukhtar Brigade commanded by Balam arrived in Sarir and Kufra in February following two months of bloody clashes between the indigenous Tebu minority and the Arab Zuwai tribes in January and February.
The fighting, though centred in Kufra extended further into the Sarir area 400 kilometres north of Kufra.

Seven Congress members detained in GNC attack, Hafter forces claim responsibility

By Libya Herald staff.
Part of the GNC during  today's assault (photo: social media)
Part of the GNC complex during today’s assault (photo: social media)
Tripoli, 18 May 2014: Seven GNC members were detained and later released in today’s assault on its buildings. Earlier reports that Congress President Nuri Abu Sahmain was one of them have, however,  since been denied.
A source close to the GNC has told the Libya Herald that he believes today’s attack on it was mounted by Zintani brigades. He said they had stormed Congress’s hospitality facilities across the road from the main building, and arrested Abu Samain and the other members, mainly Islamists. These, he said,  had stayed behind after today’s sitting which ended at around 12.30.
Other reports claimed the Zintanis were the Qaaqaa Brigade.
Smoke can now be seen billowing from the site of the attack.
For his part, Mohammed Al-Hijazi, the spokesperson for General Khalifa Hafter’s forces, which call themselves the national army, say that they were responsible for the attack and “arrests”.
“The national army forces went to the GNC building to put and end to it,” he said, speaking on Libya Al-Ahrar TV late this afternoon. In the action, “the national army” had engaged in fighting with “extremist and civil militias” who were guarding Congress.
“This GNC has been protecting the terrorist groups in Libya and perpetuating its problems. The situation we come to today is the direct result of the GNC. “The purpose in storming the expired GNC is to arrest the people who prolonged our misery, and created severe problems for us,” he declared.
“For us, as the national army, it was necessary to make this move and end this for once and for ever.” Hijazi added: “Benghazi is now cautiously calm, we will move according to orders from the General Khalifa Hafter.” The two claims, that of the Hiftar forces and Zintani forces being involved, are not necessarily contradictory. Hifter has been in close contact with Zintani forces, specifically the Qaaqaa Brigade.
On Friday, there were shooting in and around the Abu Sleem district after Qaaqaa units based on the Airport Road, moved into the district, apparently in support of the action taken by Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi.  
Three months ago, Qaaqaa and Sawaiq Briugdae, threatened to arrest members of Congress if they did not resign and it close down.


78 Killed, 37 Wounded As Iraq Security Ops Continue
by , May 17, 2014
At least 76 people were killed, mostly militants, and 37 were wounded in today’s violence.
In Anbar:
In Fallujanine people were killed and 13 more were wounded by artillery fire. Five militants were killed in a clash just outside of town. Troops killed 25 militants.
Fifteen militants were killed in Jurf al-Sakhar during military operations related those in Anbar. Jurf al-Sakhar is just over the border in Babel province.
Gunmen shelled an army base in Garma.
A bomb at a Tarmiya market killed five shoppers and wounded 14 more.
In Mosul, gunmen killed a policemanOne militant was killed and another was wounded when they bomb they were handling exploded prematurely. Security forceskilled a suicide bomber. Gunmen killed a judge.
One soldier was killed and three more were wounded in a roadside bombing in Ouja.
Gunmen killed a military officer near Balad.
Sahwa member was shot dead in Arab Jabour.
A bomb in Taza seriously wounded a farmer.