Weekly Security Review

Reports of a recent vote of no confidence in the government of Abdurrahim al-Keib are likely to increase political uncertainty in the run up to elections. The reports may prove to be premature, although the evident cracks between the government and NTC are causing increased concern over political stability in the run up to the polls.

If the elections were to be cancelled there would likely be an increase in levels of frustration among the population whose patience with the NTC will appear increasingly strained.

Demonstrations expressing anger at the stalled transition process are also likely over the coming months if elections are postponed, although this will be less likely if the government remains in place.

Security in Tripoli will remain stable, although there is likely to be an increase in political protests as elections near. These will remain mostly peaceful, and will be centred around Martyrs’ Square, and major government buildings and ministries.

The major risk to personnel will continue to be the lack of a police presence, whose role continues to be filled by untrained militiamen, who can act in an erratic and vigilante manner.

Benghazi will also remain largely stable, although demonstrations will continue to occur outside government ministries and buildings associated with oil and other major industries.

There is an ongoing risk of attacks similar in nature to those carried out in recent weeks. Although these will likely remain small in scale, they have the potential to cause deaths and injuries, as well as major disruption in central areas of the city.

Tensions will also remain high in the south of the country, particularly in Sabha and Al-Kufra, where there is an ongoing risk of further clashes between local militias.

Investors will be increasingly concerned with the degree of political instability at present, which follows a notable deterioration in the security environment, mainly in the south of the country, over recent months. The NTC however, will be keen to portray an image of stability, and is unlikely to delay elections indefinitely.

A number of small scale clashes have occurred in the city over the last week. A small skirmish occurred near Tripoli Medical Centre on 25 April between rival militia groups, while AKE sources on the ground also reported a small clash between police and unknown gunmen near the Corinthia hotel, which was hosting the Libyan Oil and Gas conference 2012.

AKE personnel on the ground report that security for foreign personnel is positive during the day, particularly in central, busier areas of the city. Concerns remain around the areas of Abu Salim and Hadba, where although there are few incidents of violence or criminality, the reception to foreign personnel may be less friendly.

AKE personnel on the ground reported that a ceremony was held at Tripoli International Airport on 20 April to mark the handing over of responsibility for security to the national government at the facility. The development represents a significant milestone in the re-imposition of central control by the NTC, however significant progress will be required to completely disband the militia groups who retain control of major strategic sites and facilities throughout the country.

Meanwhile, British Airways has confirmed it will resume flights to Tripoli from London Heathrow on 1 May. The date had been previously set as the date for a resumption of services to Libya, and the airline has maintained this will go ahead as planned. BA ended its service to the capital in February 2011, following the outbreak of unrest that led to all out conflict in the country. However, the British Foreign Office continues to advise against all but essential travel to Tripoli, and against all travel to much of the rest of the country.

Four people were wounded and a number of buildings were damaged when three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were detonated simultaneously outside a courthouse in the city early on 27 April. The explosion reportedly shattered the windows of a nearby hospital, wounding one person inside, and left gaping holes in the courthouse wall. It remains unclear who carried out the attack, although it follows a recent attack on a UN convoy in the city, and raises concerns over the potential for further violence. Tensions have been raised in the city ever since the announcement of a plan for semi-autonomy for the east of the country, which has become a divisive issue in the region.

There is potential for further similar attacks over the coming months in Benghazi, which also witnessed a number of car bomb attacks targeting the Tibesty hotel, which housed foreign journalists and NTC officials, during the height of the conflict in 2011.

Meanwhile, on 26 April six prisoners and guards were killed in clashes at the al-Kawifiyah prison, which was sparked by an attempted prison break by a group of inmates.

Elsewhere, protestors gathered outside the headquarters of AGOCO, the country’s largest oil producer, and demanded more transparency over how company profits are spent, as well as demanding more jobs for the young and unemployed. The demands also included the sacking of Gaddafi-era officials, who remain in positions of power and management within the company. Around 50 protestors gathered outside the headquarters and prevented employees from entering. The role of AGOCO has caused tensions between many in the east of the country, and the central government in Tripoli. The company, a subsidiary of the National Oil Company (NOC), is the only one of a number of other NOC subsidiaries to be based in Benghazi, and operated autonomously during the conflict, due to the sanctions against the NOC. Many in the east, and in the company itself, have called for it to be granted increased autonomy over contracts and managing its budget. Many felt that the east of the country does not receive the level of investment due to it from the exploitation of its vast oil reserves.

Further demonstrations of this nature are likely in Benghazi, particularly as the issue of semi autonomy continues to raise tensions in the east of the country. Many people there are opposed to further autonomy, and there have been a number of violent incidents in Benghazi that were linked to this and similar issues.

Two people were killed and 15 were injured in clashes between soldiers and tribesmen in the town over the last week. National Army forces were sent to the area in February to help quell fighting between Tibu and Zwai tribesmen. However, the continued tensions demonstrate the difficulties faced by the central government in trying to maintain control throughout the country.

Fighting has reportedly continued sporadically with around 10 people killed and 30 people injured since it broke out. Local activists have called on the government to increase its efforts to protect local civilians, many of whom have been caught up in the clashes, which have involved reckless fire into areas occupied by non-combatants.

Amnesty International reported that the majority Tibu neighbourhood of Qurdufai has been shelled by local Arab militias using anti-aircraft machine guns and mortars. There are also reports of disruptions to the electricity and water supplies in the city.

Under the former regime, the Tibu regularly claimed state sanctioned discrimination, and many report that they continue to be subject to discrimination from local Arab communities.

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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