This week again has seen a mix of differing reactions and moves in Libya’s difficult political and security landscape as the crisis that has paralysed Libya’s oil exports in the east has continued with its wider agenda of separatism and autonomy continuing to play out.
The Muslim Brotherhood influence appears to be manifesting itself more in Tripoli through the President of the General National Congress and his push to increase the presence of Libya Shield units on the streets, particularly Misuratans. This so-called boosted security did not prevent an attack on the EU Ambassador’s convoy as she was moved past the Corinthia Hotel this week.
Sporadic violence with continued infighting and assassinations continues to bedevil Benghazi.
The general state of disorder in the country can be seen by the Prime Minister’s attempts to regain the initiative by announcing a national dialogue that is aimed at addressing the issues affecting Libya to find resolution and a way forward. It is further recognition of the gravity and complexity of the situation with its tribal, religious and separatist conflicting tensions. This comes hard on the back of increasing criticism of the Prime Minister and his government to get control of the situation.
Tripolitania (Western Libya)
On 20th August the EU Ambassador’s convoy was rammed with the last support vehicle being targeted at gunpoint and robbed. The Ambassador, Nataliya Apostolova, was unarmed and her vehicle and immediate close support vehicle were able to drive out of the attack. It appears to have been criminal rather than political in nature but is ominous that such an attack could take place in such a high profile area as outside the Corinthia Hotel.
Politically there appears to be growing concerns at the creeping influence of the Islamist agenda through the auspices of the President of the GNC, Nouri Abusahmain, who is seen as advancing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the GNC and Tripoli itself. Libya Shield units with strong Islamist influence appear to be arriving in the capital under the guise of improving the security. The Misuratans are particularly prevalent in Tripoli.
The President this week also handed over to the Defence Minister, Abdullah Al-Thani, the powers of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to enable him in the absence of a credible Chief of Staff to deal with the deteriorating security situation.
Secularists have criticised the Prime Minister this week over what appears to be a contradictory policy of having earlier in the year continued paying the Shield Brigade whilst at the same time trying to disband them. The LD 900 million payment in delayed salaries is being alighted upon by the Prime Minister’s critics as non-sensical and contrary to the will of the ordinary citizen. Ali Zeidan has reacted by stating that he had little choice in the matter and that had he not done so then further violence and instability would have ensued.
This wave of criticism directed at him has led the Prime Minister to launch a national dialogue to resolve all Libya’s political and security related issues. The announcement on 25th August contained no detail as to what form the dialogue would take.
The trial of Gaddafi’s personal security chief began this week in Misurata. Mansour Dhou is facing charges relating to his role in the Revolution and the use of foreign mercenaries. It is expected to run for several weeks.
Cyrenaica (Eastern Libya)
The force majeure announced by the Prime Minister and National Oil Corporation on the export of all crude and refined oil products through Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, Zueitina and Brega ports continues. The picture is a complicated one with other ports such as Zawiya and offshore platforms reported as being able to continue to export. The picture relates to preventing the eastern Petroleum Facilities Guard from exercising autonomy and selling the fuel themselves. Brega appears to resumed limited exports yesterday – 26th August - with reports of the force majeure having been lifted with the port operating normally and at full capacity. It is not yet clear whether this is part of a wider settlement that will see the other export terminals resuming or not.
There were arrests this week – 21st August - of an armed group at a farm in Benghazi following a raid by security forces. A quantity of explosives was seized during the raid
On 23rd August Colonel Mostafa Oukeila, who is believed to have been an experienced senior criminal investigator was shot and killed in Benghazi as he left a mosque. This attack followed hard on violent clashes between armed groups in Benghazi’s western suburb of Abu Surra, which killed one and wounded others.