There is the risk of a further deterioration in security in Libya over the coming weeks and months. It is now clear that some threat groups do exist, although they lack the capacity to carry out major attacks. There is therefore an ongoing risk of further low level violence in major cities that could be directed towards international organisations, and foreign, particularly Western, diplomatic presence.
Security in major cities will remain the same on the whole, although there is a risk of political demonstrations following the announcement that the elections will be delayed. There will be no significant improvement in the provision of security, or the organisation of centrally controlled security forces in major urban areas.
The risk of clashes between rival militia groups will also continue throughout the country, and the government will continue to struggle to maintain order in rural areas.
Fighting broke out at Tripoli International Airport on 4 June, after members of the al-Awfea Brigade from the town of Tarhouna occupied it and demanded the release of a militia commander allegedly kidnapped south of Tripoli. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the commander was on his way to the capital from Tarhouna, when he was stopped and turned back at a checkpoint along the main highway. While returning to Tarhouna he was ambushed and detained. These reports could not be independently verified. AKE personnel on the ground reported that the initial fighting caused several casualties and an airport hangar was damaged. Although operations at the airport have resumed the incident highlights the risk to vital and strategic facilities in the country.
Meanwhile, on 7 June AKE personnel on the ground received reports of an incident near the German embassy in the Abu Miliano area near the Radisson Blu. Unconfirmed reports indicate that an unidentified man opened fire outside the embassy, although he did not fire directly at the embassy. The incident is a demonstration of the threat posed by the widespread presence of weapons in the country. AKE personnel on the ground highlighted that incidents of random fire have increased in frequency over recent weeks, particularly at night.
Personnel are advised not to travel at night if at all possible, as the incidence of crime increases markedly after dark. Although generally safe, some areas of the city (Hadba, Abu Salim, Sarraj) have a higher risk than others at night. AKE personnel also highlighted that reported incidences of car-jacking have increased in recent months, and some incidents have also occurred during the day.
AKE sources reported that security has been heightened around embassies and other diplomatic facilities in the capital, following the IED attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Personnel are advised to remain vigilant, particularly in Tripoli where there is an ongoing risk of clashes involving rival militia groups.
The FCO confirmed that 2 RPGs were fired at its convoy in Benghazi on 11 June, with one hitting a vehicle directly. This was then followed by small-arms fire. One person was reportedly injured in the incident. AKE personnel on the ground have long highlighted the risk posed to personnel travelling in high profile convoys in major towns and cities, particularly Benghazi, which has seen a number of attacks against Western diplomatic targets in recent weeks. Recent attacks have largely targeted high profile assets or convoys, which are easily picked out by hostile elements.
Unidentified militants carried out an IED attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi early on 6 June. Although no casualties were reported in the attack, the explosion did cause damage to the compound wall. The compound was established in Benghazi after the outbreak of unrest in February, to show support for the uprising.
AKE assesses that there is a risk of further similar attacks targeting foreign diplomatic presence or international organisations in the country. Organisations are advised to take a low profile approach so as to prevent being picked out as a potential target. AKE sources on the ground have reported that security has been heightened around consulates and any other diplomatic facilities in the city. Personnel are advised to remain vigilant, as there is an ongoing risk of low level violence in the city.
The recent attack was the second against a foreign target in recent weeks, on 22 May a rocket propelled grenade struck the ICRC building in Benghazi, although again no casualties were reported.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that those responsible for the attack originated from the eastern town of Derna. Derna was famous as the home of a large number of Islamist fighters who joined the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and is thought to have a higher than normal proportion of extremists. Reports also indicate that a number of Islamist militiamen were based in a farm outside Benghazi, and have been linked to the attack as retribution for the killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi, the former al-Qaeda second in command, who was from Derna. However, none of these claims could be independently verified.
Fighting continued for a second day on 10 June in the southern desert town of al-Kufra, where government forces clashed with local Tebou tribal fighters. At least 16 people have reportedly been killed since the fighting began on 9 June. The incident highlights the constant threat of violence in a number of flashpoint rural towns throughout the country.
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