13. Despite some progress, the security situation remains problematic. On January 3rd, President el-Magariaf survived an assassination attempt during a visit to Sabha. On January 12th, unknown gunmen fired upon the vehicle of the Italian consul in Benghazi. Targeted attacks on security officials continue in the east. The head of Benghazi’s police directorate and a top official in the city’s Criminal Investigation Department have been killed. Police stations in Benghazi and Derna were attacked on many different occasions, as have police patrols.
14. The Ministry of Interior, supported by the Benghazi Local Council, has begun to implement a participatory security policy, involving citizens and tribal leaders aimed at creating the stability in Benghazi that Libyans desire. Benghazi residents organized a demonstration on December 28th in which they demanded an end to the attacks against security personnel and an investigation into the recent events, and, most important of all, the dissolution of all armed groups. In my meetings with the local council, non-governmental organizations, political parties and independent personalities during my visit to Benghazi, all emphasized the need for more effective implementation of the government’s decisions to improve security in the east. They also expressed their deep feeling of marginalisation and called for genuine decentralization and for the election, rather than selection, of a constitutional drafting body.
15. The security situation in the east poses a serious challenge to the government and threatens to derail its attempts to secure stability. Assassinations and attacks have to be viewed, primarily, in the context of the resistance of some armed groups to the state’s attempt to re-establish its authority. The opposition of armed radical groups to the military intervention in Mali may exacerbate the situation given ideological and/or ethnic affiliations as well as porous borders in Libya. Senior Libyan officials whom I met recently stressed their concern over the situation in the east and pledged to provide better security to the diplomatic community and the citizens of Benghazi.