Over recent weeks there have been unconfirmed reports of intelligence relating to apparent hostile groups looking to carrying out attacks in the city around the time of anniversary celebrations on 17 February. Although there remains a risk of one-off attacks even after the celebrations, it is unclear to what extent these hostile groups exist, and it is doubtful they have the capability to conduct major coordinated attacks.
AKE sources on the ground in Tripoli reported that celebrations passed without incident on 17 February. Numbers in Martyrs’ Square were reported to be relatively low (approx. 2000 by 1630 hours); however, they were expected to increase into the evening. AKE sources reported a positive atmosphere and the reaction towards foreign media personnel in the country remains friendly.
Personnel should however be mindful of the risk of demonstrations with the potential for low level violence as protestors express their anger at the perceived slow progress of the reconstruction process. Furthermore, although the authorities managed to clamp down on the practice of celebratory gunfire, there is a risk that the practice may return during times of celebration.
AKE sources on the ground reported a significant security presence around the city, particularly in Martyrs’ Square, during the celebrations, with security personnel carrying a variety of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Security was also stepped up around major hotels and security forces were carrying out more stringent security checks throughout the city.
At least six people were killed and 20 wounded in clashes between Tibu and Zwai militiamen in the town of Kufra on 12 and 13 February. Clashes reportedly involved rocket propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns; Tobu tribal figures have reported that NTC forces were supporting the Zwai.
Local militiamen from the Zwai tribe accused the Tibu ethnic group led by Isa Abdel Majid of attacking Al Kufra backed by mercenaries from Chad. Tensions between the two groups have increased since the outbreak of unrest in February 2011 and there is potential for further clashes in the area.
The clashes have continued in recent days, despite an apparent ceasefire agreed on 21 February. The NTC has warned on a number of occasions that government troops would be sent in if fighting did not cease, but it is likely wary of the potential this move would have to inflame an already volatile situation.
Integrating the Militias
Yousef al-Manqoush, the head of a committee set up to help former rebel fighters join the country’s new army and police forces stated on 13 February that around 5,000 militiamen have signed up to the national army. Although a far greater number is required if the national army is to re-assert control, Manqoush also stated that over 100,000 militiamen had registered with the committee, which deals with them as individuals and not as part of a specific group.
AKE has long highlighted the integration of the countries disparate militia group’s under regime control as the major challenge facing the NTC, and although the numbers of those joining the national security forces remains relatively low, it is likely that the rate will increase as former rebels begin to see the value of a stable income and training to develop their careers, all things that cannot be offered by the local militias.
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.