Tripoli will remain stable although there is an on-going risk of clashes between rival militia groups. In a clash on 3 January, four people were killed and five injured. Meanwhile, a local militia leader claimed to have detained a number of pro-Gaddafi supporters who were planning to carry out an attack in the capital. In general, AKE sources on the ground have reported that the situation for foreign personnel operating in Tripoli is positive. AKE sources have also highlighted that the process of entering the country at Tripoli International Airport is relatively smooth and assess that the air route via Tripoli is now the most practical way of reaching the capital. The frequency of demonstrations expressing the frustration at the rate of progress has increased in recent months and there is a continued risk of similar demonstrations in central areas of major cities.
Tripoli will remain stable; however, there is an on-going risk of clashes between rival militia groups, especially if efforts are made to disarm those groups who remain. The incorporation of the militias into a national army and police force represents the greatest immediate challenge to the NTC.
The risk of clashes in other areas of the country will endure as long as the militia groups remain independent of the NTC. In rural areas, local tribal militias will remain suspicious of the larger militias from Misrata, Benghazi, Tripoli and Zintan, who may continue to cause tensions by encroaching on land controlled by smaller local militias.
There is a risk of demonstrations by Libyan citizens frustrated with the lack of progress, or their perceived lack of representation in the interim government. Although there is potential for low level violence at these demonstrations, they will remain mostly non-violent.
Security in the country’s major cities will remain positive. There is a risk of strikes and demonstrations in Benghazi, while in those cities liberated from Gaddafi control by outside forces, particularly Sirte Brega, Bani Walid and Bin Jawad, tensions relating to the continued presence of outside forces will persist.
Four people were killed and five injured in a small arms clash between militia groups from Misrata and Tripoli on 3 January. The incident occurred near the hospital between Zawiya and Saidi streets. Clashes between armed organisations from different towns and districts are likely to persist until on-going integration and disbanding efforts are completed. AKE sources on the ground assess that the presence of militia groups has decreased significantly over the past few weeks, and the majority of those present in central areas of the city belong to the Tripoli brigade. Despite this there is a risk of both Misratan and Zintani militias entering the city as a show of strength aimed at improving their bargaining position in talks over their integration into centrally controlled national security forces.
On 1 January, Abdullah Naker, commander of Tripoli’s revolutionary council, stated that Tripoli Brigade militiamen had detained nine men alleged to be supporters of former leader Muammar Gaddafi. Naker stated that the men were plotting to attack the capital’s power grid. He also claimed they had been funded by a group of businessmen affiliated with the former leader. The men were also accused of attempting to re-launch Gaddafi’s former television station, Al-Jamahiriya.
AKE assesses that the risk posed by remaining Gaddafi loyalists is low. There is a risk of one-off attacks being conducted, although there have been no major incidents attributed to former regime elements in the capital since the liberation of the last regime strongholds in September 2011. Major militia groups that were involved in the liberation of the city are assessed to have an interest in inflating the risk posed by pro-Gaddafi elements in order to justify their continued presence in the city, and in the lack of tangible evidence regarding the continued presence of regime supporters, the level of risk will remain unclear.
AKE sources on the ground have reported that despite the risk of sporadic clashes in certain areas of the city, the security situation is positive. The reaction to Western personnel is positive, and travel around the city, which continues to move toward normality, is good. The major districts of the city remain stable, including Souq al-Juma, Tajura, Gargaresh and the Medina (old city). There may be an increased risk of petty crime in the old city, but this is comparable to, and is indeed lower than, most major European cities. Having a local fixer makes moving around easier; however this is not a requirement.
AKE sources have also highlighted the lack of a militia presence in the capital. The number of checkpoints has reduced markedly and those that remain are not stopping vehicles as they pass through. Furthermore, the only militiamen that were visible were those from the Tripoli brigades, a fact that significantly reduces tensions in most areas of the city. However, as the recent clashes have demonstrated, there is still a risk of clashes involving militias from Zintan and Misrata, who may attempt to enter the city in symbolic moves aimed as a show of strength, causing tensions with the local militia groups.
The frequency of demonstrations expressing the frustration of many civilians at the rate of progress in the political sphere, as well as the resumption and improvement of services, has increased in recent months. In December 2011, reports indicated that thousands of Libyan citizens took to the streets in the centre of major cities, including Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata, al-Beyda and Derna. The demonstrators were calling for a change of course by the NTC in order to increase the pace of reconstruction.
AKE assesses that there is an on-going risk of demonstrations in the centres of major cities across the country, however these have so far been non-violent and will likely remain so, at least over the short term.
Alan Fraser is a Libya specialist with AKE, a British risk mitigation company working in Libya throughout the crisis. You can access AKE’s intelligence website Global Intake here.