By James Hopkinson, Director of Assaye Risk.
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This week, like last, has been relatively quiet in terms of security incidents. The four Christians that were arrested last week in Benghazi for the offence ofproselytizing continue to be held. The four - a Swedish-American, Egyptian, South African and South Korean – are being held by Preventative Security having been charged with printing and distributing Bible pamphlets in the city. This offence brought in by Gaddafi is potentially punishable by death and is not likely to improve the imminent threat warning against Westerners in Benghazi that remains in place.
The focus this week has been on the potential impact and ramifications of Libya introducing a law to purge officials from Gaddafi’s era (see separate Blog on the issue). Separately Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, also announced this week that he had dismissed a number of officials. It is not yet clear who they are and for what reason although it is being seen as a stand being taken by the Prime Minister against corruption and a sign of his continuing attempts to stamp his government’s authority.
Flights to all Libya’s airports have resumed this week and although the border with Egypt has also reopened there continues to be significant congestion as a result of it having been closed from 14-18th February.
Tripolitania and Tripoli
Over the weekend Libya's coastguard announced that it had seized more than 30,000 kilograms of hashish from a boat off the coast of Tripoli, some 60km NE of the Bouri oilfield. This is a significant seizure and is believed to be as a result of a long-running investigation.
An own goal explosion has exposed the presence of an anti-government terrorist cell with ties to the Gaddafi regime in Bani Walid. The explosion occurred on Thursday and killed Yousef Rahim Dabia, a former member of Gaddafi’s Revolutionary Committees and the Khamis Brigade, and wounded two other cell members. They are being held securely in a hospital in Tripoli. It is believed that their intention was to launch a bombing campaign in Bani Walid and Tripoli to undermine the government.
Gulf of Sidra, Cyrenaica and Benghazi
The Interior Minister, Ashour Shuwail, has removed the Chief of Police in Benghazi, Colonel Mustafa Raqiq and replaced him with Brigadier Ali Mansour Ferjani. It appears that the Interior Minister’s hand was forced by an on-going dispute with local police and the removal was one of the demands being made. The dispute has included sit-ins and is over terms and conditions of service and pay. There have been a number of changes at the top of the Police in Benghazi and things do not look set to change with the force remaining disgruntled and low in morale. This plays into the hands of those seeking to keep Benghazi unstable.
Separately but equally worrying in terms of general insecurity and lawlessness in Benghazi, the Libyan Judges’ Association has revealed that one of its members was arrested and then detained for five days during which time he claims to have been assaulted. Again this does little for confidence in the rule of law.
Along the coast a vehicle belonging to the Supreme Security Committee (SSC) in Ajdabia appears to have been targeted and blown up on Thursday wounding two members of the SSC. Reports remain vague at this stage as to the cause of the explosion.