This weeks regional reporting was dominated by the hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas facility in south-eastern Algeria, which started on 16 January came to a conclusion on 19 January when Algerian security forces assaulted the facility killing the remaining hostage takers. While the exact number fatalities remains unconfirmed, the events resulted in a considerable loss of life. The continued French intervention in northern Mali also continues to dominate regional reporting. On the 19 January, Prime Minister Ali Zidan expressed the Libyan government’s deep concerns about the events in Mali and condemned and rejected the Islamist attack against the In Amenas facility and the subsequent loss of life. He confirmed Libya’s full support and solidarity with its Algerian neighbour and called upon countries in the region to show solidarity.
On 18 January, CNN reported that Islamist groups called for protests after Friday prayers in Benghazi in response to the French intervention in Mali. The group posted on its Facebook page that “Mali is bleeding” because of the French involvement and promised violence in Tripoli and Benghazi if the French failed to withdraw. Separately, Libya’s official news agency WAL reported that the UN anticipates around 700,000 displaced persons from the conflict in Mali will potentially cross into Libya.
In the wake of the attack on the In Amenas gas facility, Libyan border security has been high on the agenda. Libya’s Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) announced that it was to boost security at oil facilities in the west and south of the country, including the formation of a special operations room, military air support and increased security patrols.
On a more positive note, the pro-democracy NGO Freedom House in it’s ‘Freedom in the World 2013’ report concluded that Libya showed some of the biggest gains of any country during 2012 in terms of freedom, and proclaimed Libya as a “success story”. The report recognized that clear governmental control was inconsistent, but praised increased transparency in drafting a constitution and the proliferation and sustained activism of both media outlets and civil society organisations.