The second and third order consequences of last week’s capture by US Special Forces of al-Libi came to the fore this week. Predictably the Islamist militants called for retribution to be taken on Americans and strategic targets. Ali Zeidan sought to distance himself from the US action by firstly denying knowledge of the operation and then stating baldly that Libyans charged with crimes should be tried in Libya. Then early on Thursday 10 October the Prime Minister was taken by force from his secure accommodation in the Corinthia Hotel by some 150 armed men. He was held for a period of some hours before being eventually released. It was an extraordinary sequence of events even for a country where the extraordinary has become commonplace. It still strikes one as remarkable that 150 armed men can travel with impunity through Tripoli unchallenged and then force entry to the Corinthia Hotel – a supposed secure location where a number of countries operate their embassies from – overpower the Prime Minister’s security detail on the 21st floor of the hotel before leaving unopposed. Remarkable still are reports that those who took the Prime Minister were from a security agency called the ‘Anti-crime Committee’! Stories currently abound that the kidnapping was nothing to do with the al-Libi episode and was due to political infighting with his opponents in the General National Congress having spotting an opportunity to overthrow him. Whichever way it turns out it is symptomatic of the state of politics and security in the country. It is difficult on this evidence to know what will happen next.
Analysis in the Press this week has focused on why the US did not simultaneously also take last week the chief suspect in the US Consulate attack in Benghazi, Abu Khattala, having now shown its capability and willingness to strike in Libya. The opportunity has been missed unless it was for calculated reasons that it would have been a step too far for the Libyan people leading to the potential overthrow of Ali Zeidan’s government. If that is the case then it was a finely judged assessment given recent events.
The ICC agreed this week that Libya should try Abdullah al-Senoussi, Gadaffi’s former head of intelligence, in their own courts having found that the quantity and quality of evidence gathered meets international justice standards. Furthermore the ICC commended Libya for its efforts to ensure that its justice system was fair and ethical.
Finally, although the stoppages in the oil and gas sector continue the oil terminals at Zueitina and Tobruk re-opened over the weekend. The Deputy Oil Minister made the announcement whilst also mentioning that Mellitah continues to experience problems. Production does now appear to be getting back on track from its low point of 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) last month to 700,000 bpd currently. It still has some way though to get back to its high of 1.6m bpd.
Cyrenaica (Eastern Libya)
Again this week there has been another spate of targeted assassination attempts and killings focused around Benghazi. On 11th October the joint Swedish and Finnish consulate in Benghazi was attacked with a car bomb which detonated causing damage to the building but no casualties.
Also on 11th October Sheikh Daifallah al-Hassi was attacked when a device detonated under his car as he returned from Friday Prayers. He is a prominent Imam in Benghazi and although he is believed to be a salafist he is not judged to have been outspoken. The Imam suffered injuries to his legs and is currently in intensive care in the Jalaa Hospital.
On 12th October the home of the leader of the Zawia Martyrs Brigade in Benghazi was attacked causing superficial damage but the house was empty at the time of the attack so no casualties were caused. On the same day the Derna head of the National Forces Alliance Party, Safwan al-Masouri, survived an assassination attempt in the town. The motive appears to have been political infighting within the party.