The security situation in Tripoli will remain positive, although there is an ongoing risk of clashes between rival militia groups and attacks by groups and individuals hostile to the NTC and seeking to disrupt the transition process.
Following the handover of Tripoli International Airport to the central authorities the NTC will likely seek to focus on gaining control of all major entry points and strategic facilities over the coming weeks and months. Local militia groups may continue to hold firm in their control over some key assets, which give them a high degree of leverage over the transition process.
The Libyan authorities must present their case for the prosecution of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to the ICC on 30 April if they are to gain UN backing for a trial on Libyan soil. It remains unclear how strong a case has been built up against Saif, however Prime Minister Abdurahim al-Keib has stated on numerous occasions that the trial will take place in Libya.
Tripoli remains calm and the general security situation is positive. AKE personnel on the ground reported on 20 April that Prime Minister Abdurahim al-Keib has confirmed the transfer of Tripoli International Airport to the control of central government security forces. AKE personnel attended the handover ceremony at the airport and reported a large presence of security and the presence of high profile regime figures.
The transfer has been under way for over a week, after agreement was reached to provide employment at the airport and the city’s port for around 300 militiamen belonging to militias from Zintan, Tajura and Souq al-Juma. The handover marks a significant point in the reassertion of central control over the country’s major entry points and strategic internal locations. It also represents progress in the attempts by the Interior Ministry to disband the militia groups that remain in control of these assets.
The Zintan militia continues to exert control over strategic oil assets in the south of the country, while the as-Swehli militia from Misrata maintain a presence in the capital, at the former women’s military base near Souq al-Thalatha roundabout and the coastal road, adjacent to the Corinthia and Marriott hotels. There remains a risk of clashes involving these groups and local Tripoli militias, as well as the national army; however, today’s development may be a sign that the militia groups are increasingly willing to cede control over strategic assets.
Government security forces reportedly cleared concrete blocks and protestors from the main highway leading into northern Tripoli on 19 April, allowing a 3 km long queue of traffic to dissipate. Protestors had been demonstrating against rising fuel and commodity prices. Strikes organised by the public transportation sector and the bakeries union over the same issue were cancelled after talks with the government.
Benghazi has been calm over the past week, although there is an ongoing risk of demonstrations with the potential for low-level violence. A recent improvised explosive device (IED) attack on a UN convoy in the city highlighted the risk of sporadic attacks by hostile groups and individuals. However, there are currently no known groups capable of causing significant disruption.
The number of people registering to participate in the upcoming local elections in Benghazi has so far been low. Lack of awareness of the process may be a significant factor among a population that has little experience of what it entails. The elections follow successful local elections in Misrata where high turnout was accompanied by very little in the way of security issues. However, officials have stated that if turnout for registration remains low then the elections may have to be postponed.
Two people were killed and 15 were injured in clashes between soldiers and tribesmen in the town of al-Kufra in the southeast of the country. National Army forces were sent to the town in February to help quell fighting between Tibu and Zwai tribesmen in the area. However, the continued tensions demonstrate the difficulties faced by the central government in trying to maintain control throughout the country, particularly in the south where central authority is traditionally weaker.
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.