Weekly Security Review

AKE Oil Infrastructure Report
AKE has produced the first independent security and risk assessment of Libya’s major oil producing and refining facilities. Designed to provide accurate and actionable information to companies looking to enter or re-enter the oil-rich North African state, the project aimed to assess the threat level in the areas most associated with the energy industry. The security situation at major oil facilities was a major focus of the report. To see a preview of the report including details of how to purchase it click here.

The security situation in Tripoli will remain stable although there is an increased likelihood of demonstrations following the declaration of semi-autonomy by political figures in the east of the country. A number of demonstrations are already scheduled and more will occur in response to further developments and statements by major political figures on this issue. A large demonstration is expected to occur in Martyrs’ Square in central Tripoli on the evening of 9 March.

The risk of clashes between rival militias, particularly involving the Misratan al-Swehli militia, which retains control of assets in central Tripoli, will remain. There is a risk that local militia groups may attempt to oust the Misratans by force, thus leading to clashes, focussed around the coastal route near the Marriott hotel.

Security in Benghazi is likely to be similarly affected by the recent declaration of semi-autonomy. Demonstrations, both pro and anti-federalism, have already been held in the city, and there is potential for tensions between rival protestors. Demonstrations over the lack of progress being made by the NTC in rebuilding vital governmental institutions will continue, and the city will also be affected by workers strikes that will cause sporadic disruptions to traffic in the city.

Federalism has become the most highly publicised issues in the country, and although there is potential for clashes in future, both sides will be keen to avoid disagreements over the relative merits of the move from descending into conflict. Many Libyans, including many in east of the country, particularly Benghazi, are against any move that would threaten national unity, and stifle the rebuilding process, although the issue does have significant support in the east.

The security situation in the capital remains positive. Following the declaration of semi-autonomy by a number of senior political figures in the east of the country, there is a likelihood of demonstrations by protestors expressing their opposition to federalism in Libya. Demonstrations are scheduled to take place on the evening of 9 March, and there are likely to be further demonstrations of this nature over the coming days, weeks and months. Although these will mostly remain peaceful, there is a risk of tensions and acts of violence, as there is at any demonstrations in the country involving large crowds of protestors. Personnel are advised to avoid demonstrations of this nature, and media personnel covering the demonstrations should be mindful that although likely to remain non-violent, there is a risk of violence, particularly given the widespread presence of weapons in the country.

Meanwhile, the commander of Misrata’s al-Swehli militia, Faraj al-Swehli, stated on 4 March that two British journalists currently held by the group in the capital Tripoli are being investigated on suspicion of spying. Al-Swehli stated that the group was conducting its own investigation, although said it would then hand the pair over to the interim government. NTC officials stated they had no knowledge of any evidence of spying, and that they had been attempting to persuade the militia to release the pair.

The al-Swehli militia is one of the last remaining non-local militias in Tripoli, and is currently in control of the former women’s military base on the coastal road near the Marriott hotel and Souq al-Thalata roundabout. The local city authorities have been attempting to get all militias from outside the city to return to their own regions, as well as attempting to persuade local Tripoli brigades to lay down their weapons and join the national army and police force, however a number of militia groups have as yet, refused to comply.

A recent statement released by the Zintan militia, who remain in control of Tripoli International Airport, claimed that the group was willing to hand over the airport to the NTC, once it deemed the security situation stable enough for it to leave. The Zintan militia remains in control of a number of strategic assets throughout the west of the country. In addition to Tripoli International Airport, Zintan militiamen are providing security at the major oil sites in the Murzuq basin, and AKE personnel who visited the area noted a degree of tension between them and local militias, who have largely been integrated into the national army.

Both militia groups are likely to remain in control of strategic assets in the capital until they feel they have reaped the maximum benefit from their continued presence. The control of areas of the capital likely acts as a bargaining chip for those militias and major militia commanders who seek to gain maximum influence in post-revolutionary Libya. In a recent statement, NTC head Mustafa Abdul Jalil accepted that the NTC does not currently possess the firepower to deal with militia groups who continue to prevent the national army and police force from taking control of vital border crossings, airports and oil facilities.

Demonstrations in support of and opposition to the recent declaration of semi-autonomy in the east of the country have been held in the city in recent days, and further demonstrations are likely. Although these are likely to remain non-violent, there is a risk of sporadic incidents and raised tensions. Benghazi is home to significant number of supporters of semi autonomy, as well as many who fear the consequences for national unity, therefore there is potential for raised tension and sporadic violence at these mostly peaceful demonstrations.

Meanwhile, on 2 March hundreds of people protested outside the main courthouse in Benghazi demanding that the militia that had occupied the building during the revolution leave and allow judges to return to work. The militia has been using the courthouse as its headquarters, and reportedly wants it to remain as a symbol of the revolution. The protests were a sign of the growing frustration at the continued presence of militias and lack of centralised law enforcement in the country.

With still little sign of a functioning police force throughout much of the country, these frustrations may begin to spur more frequent protests and raise tensions, as criticism of the NTC increases. Many Libyans have shown a high degree of patience with the transition process, although if basic institutions such as the army and police and the basic institutional framework of law enforcement shows no signs of improvement over the coming months, demonstrations like these may become more frequent.

East Declares Semi-Autonomy
Local leaders in eastern Libya declared semi-autonomy at a meeting in Benghazi on 6 March, raising concerns over the future integrity of the country, and possible future conflict between eastern forces that support the move and those aligned to the National Transitional Council (NTC), which rejects it. The declaration, which calls for a semi-autonomous, self-governing region (named Barqa) in the east, but recognises Tripoli’s authority on matters of defence and foreign relations, comes at an awkward time for the NTC, which has been attempting to promote unity, and bring disparate regional militia factions under a centrally controlled umbrella.

Opposition to the move is also widespread in Libya, and anti-federalism rallies have been held in major cities, including the proposed eastern capital Benghazi. NTC head Mustafa Abdul Jalil expressed his opposition to the prospect of separate federal entities in a statement on 7 March. He called on regional leaders to engage in national dialogue that would promote unity, and promised to resist the move, with force if necessary. Despite this, both sides will be keen to avoid conflict, as are most Libyans, and although there is a risk of sporadic clashes and demonstrations over the issue, further political posturing is likely before anyone risks a new internal conflict. A further statement by Abdul Jalil claimed that the NTC does not have the military resources to confront eastern leaders on the issue, an announcement seen as a climb down from his previous veiled threats of force.


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.

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