Little dramatic change this past week with continuing challenges in the Oil and Gas sector with resultant lack of exports, power outages and fuel shortages. There has been no progress towards resolution and positions took a turn for the worse when Cyrenaica federalists announced that they would not stand by whilst the GNC and others in the West attempted to wrest control of the ports back from Ibrahim Jedran.
Violence has continued to manifest itself in the east also with the first disturbing use of a suicide attack that killed 7 and wounded a further 12 when a suicide bomber in a vehicle rammed a military checkpoint at Bersis, some 50 km east of Benghazi.
Internationally, the anniversary of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie occurred with both the US and UK governments restating their commitment to investigate the atrocity thoroughly. Both governments are seeking access to Abdullah al-Senussi, Gaddafi’s chief of Intelligence, in search of new information given that only one man was ever convicted of the attack, al-Megrahi, and he has now died.
Tripolitania (Western Libya)
Earlier this week petrol stations in Tripoli were once again closed. This time not because there was no fuel but because 10 of them had been vandalised leading to the government securing them with Police and the Army.
Cyrenaica (Eastern Libya)
Violence and politics have been the fare in the east this week. The week started badly with the killing of a General Electricity Company of Libya station manager, in Tobruk when his vehicle exploded. This is believed to be the first targeted assassination in the town since the Revolution. The gruesome recovery in Benghazi of the severed head of a senior Saiqa Brigade officer’s father followed. He had been kidnapped some weeks before.
The suicide attack on a military checkpoint at Bersis, 50km east of Benghazi occurred on 22nd December. The death of 7 soldiers and 12 others wounded is bad enough but the attack was also the first time that a vehicle-borne suicide bomber has mounted an attack in the country. One can only hope that this is not the start of the use of this deadly tactic that has become commonplace in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. This represents potentially a fundamental step-up in the tactics and capability of those wishing to destabilise the country. The tactic is a favoured one of violent Islamist extremists and worryingly may represent technology and knowledge transfer from other violent jihadist theatres of operation.
Federalists this week from the tribes in the east warned the government and GNC that they would not idly sit by if force were used to end the disruptions and closures to the oil exporting ports. They went further stating that it was their right and not that of the NOC to export oil should they so use and that any assault upon Jedran and his rebels would be tantamount to an attack upon Cyrenaica. The government has threatened the rebels with force if the ports are not re-opened within the week.
Fezzan (Southern Libya)
The shortage of fuel as a result of the disruptions and strikes within the sector has been bad enough but is not the only reason for power outages as this week showed when Sarir Power Station’s output was reduced due to security concerns as a result of an attack on a farm in the vicinity of the station. The attack resulted in 5 of the attackers being killed and resultant revenge attacks that included the use of artillery. This, in turn, led to workers leaving the power station and the resultant reduction in its power output. The cause for the attacks was tribal and represented a continuation of the clashes between the Tebu and Zwai tribes that have occurred for years.