The key elements that have occurred this week have predominantly been in the strategic arena and connected to the US. The first instance was the appointment of Deborah Jones as the new US Ambassador to Libya to replace the murdered Christopher Stevens. The announcement was made on the back of a visit by Prime Minister Ali Zidan to the US.
This visit by Ali Zidan to the US was part of an effort to lobby the UN Security Council, which was successful in that the Security Council agreed on 14th March to lift an embargo on the supply of non-lethal equipment such as armoured vehicles. Concern was also expressed, however, about the spread of weapons regionally from Libya as a result of the civil war and the resultant porous borders. Last week’s reported testimony by General Ham’s to US Congress regarding shoulder launched surface to air missiles underlines the seriousness of the potential threat in the region. Prime Minister Zidan also took the time to launch a charm offensive thanking the US for its past support and going forward.
Separately Faraj al-Chalabi has been detained by Libyan authorities in relation to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi and the murder of Ambassador Stevens. In separate developments Egyptian authorities have detained Muhammed Jamal, a leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The linkages between the two are as yet unclear and where the other wider linkages might lead. Chalabi was detained having returned from Pakistan. US sources believe that he is directly implicated in the Benghazi attack on the US Consulate. Whilst this is progress there is still a long to go in terms of understanding who and why and then apprehending the perpetrators.
Tripolitania and Tripoli
Critically this week saw the restart of Libyan gas exports to Italy from the Mellitah plant. The Libyan Defense Ministry said the military took control of security at the Mellitah complex near the country's west coast last week following clashes with militants but it has taken some time for the situation to stabilise and for Eni to be happy to restart its export operation with NOC.
Some semblance of order and security is now in place at the General National Congress following the past weeks of violence and disruption. The Ministry of the Interior has now assumed responsibility for its security.
There was an RPG attack in the early hours of 17th March on a police vehicle outside the Azzarouq district police station in Misrata. There were no casualties.
Finally, last night the home of SSC Commander in Tripoli’s Bu Sleem district, Abdul Ghani Kikli, was reportedly hit by an RPG last night. The motive remains unclear and he was unhurt in the attack.
Gulf of Sidra, Cyrenaica and Benghazi
In addition to the recent developments over the perpetrators of the US Consulate attack there has been a continuing of the campaign against the Christian Coptic community in Benghazi. This week an Egyptian Coptic church was set alight marking the second attack in as many weeks. It is reported that the attack was in retaliation for an earlier demonstration in Cairo outside the Libyan Embassy where a Libyan flag was burnt in protest at the death of one of the Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libyan detention. The Libyan Embassy as a result has temporarily shut. The Libyan authorities have attempted to defuse this ongoing sectarian violence but they are unlikely to be successful in the short to medium term whilst Islamist militias continue to hold sway in Benghazi.
Protests continue to hit Libya’s oil and gas sector, this time at Waha Oil’s Gialo 59 Field, south-east of Benghazi. The protests are over the use by an oil services company of labour from outside the local area. This is a common mistake often made by oil and gas service providers, who fail to think about their community outreach and engagement seriously by developing a sustainable local employment plan.
This week has also seen protests in Sirte calling for the removal of the leader of the town council, Ali Dou Labaz. The demands relate to a general lack of progress in the town.
78 Eritreans were also detained in Sirte by members of the Zawia Martyrs Battalion. They were illegal immigrants who had been granted refugee status in Sudan but were being shipped to Tripoli illegally by truck. They will be deported back to Sudan.