Tag Archives: Libya

Assessing Libya’s Unity Government: Three Months In

Posted on in Libya title_rule

On 30 March 2016, Libya’s prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj sailed into the capital Tripoli under naval escort and set up the headquarters of his country’s unity government. Now after three months in office, many are asking how has the newly formed Government of National Accord (GNA) fared in tackling the North African country’s ongoing crisis and what more needs to be done to stabilize Libya.

The GNA, which is the result of a UN-brokered power-sharing deal that was reached in December 2015, continues to face a fearsome set of economic, political and military challenges. While its allied militias have made major advances against the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in its stronghold of Sirte, success there would just be the start. The country’s economy, which was hard-hit in the wake of the 2011 uprising, continues to struggle amidst power cuts and a cash crisis at the country’s banks. Furthermore, a rival government based in the eastern city of Tobruk has refused to cede power until the country’s elected parliament passes a repeatedly delayed vote of confidence. Meanwhile neither administration can rein in militias that have fought for control of the country since the 2011 fall of former dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

So what has the GNA achieved?

Within days of its arrival in Tripoli, Sarraj’s government had won the loyalty of the main economic institutions, cities and armed groups based in western Libya. Without waiting for a vote of confidence from Tobruk, the GNA took control of key government ministries in Tripoli, with Sarraj managing to secure a rapprochement between rival central banks and national oil companies. According to analysts, the prime minister-designate has also met with figures from both sides of the country and has continued to stress the need for unity. However the GNA’s biggest achievement to date has been its success in commanding an assault on IS in Sirte, which is located 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of the capital Tripoli. Since 12 May, pro-government forces have cleared IS from 280 kilometres (175 miles) of coastline and surrounded the jihadists inside the city.

GNA’s failures

In political terms, the GNA’s main challenge continues to be securing a rapprochement with the east. Sources however have disclosed that Easterners are wary of the GNA’s reliance on militias. Furthermore, kidnappings for ransom are on the rise, as are the prices of basic goods. Power cuts are common, long and unpredictable and they sometimes affect the water supplies. Furthermore, foreign airlines are avoiding the country and Libyans have few options to fly out. Also, despite a string of foreign delegations, no foreign embassy is currently present in the capital.

What after IS? 

In order to govern effectively, Sarraj will need a vote of confidence from the House of Representatives in Tobruk. The continued fight against IS delays any rapprochement between the East and the West, and is inevitable unless a political solution is reached.

Tagged as: , , , , ,

The Islamic State Group in Libya (2014 – Present)

Posted on in IS, ISIS, Islamic State title_rule

On 9 June, unity government force surrounded the so-called Islamic State (IS) group’s Libyan bastion Sirte, where clashes have erupted as the Unity Government attempts to oust the militant group. The jihadist group, which moved into the North African country in 2014 amidst chaos that followed the ouster of Moamer Kadhafi, has become yet another player in the lawless country, where rival authorities and militas are battling for control of territory and major oil reserves.


  • 19 November – The United States indicates that it is “concerned” by reports that radical extrmeists with avowed ties to IS are destabilizing eastern Libya, after having already seized vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.   News reports emerge indicated that the eastern coastal city of Derna is emerging as an IS stronghold.
  • 27 December – A car bomb explodes outside the diplomatic security building in the capital city Tripoli. The attack, which is claimed by IS, causes no casualties.


  • 27 January – IS claims responsibility for an attack on Tripoli’s luxury Corinthia Hotel that kills nine people.
  • 15 February – IS releases a video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, all but one Egyptians, that the jihadist say they filmed in January. Egypt carries out air strikes on IS in Derna
  • 20 February – IS claims responsibility for suicide car bombings in Al-Qoba, which is located near Derna. Those attacks kill 44 people, with IS stating that the attacks are to avenge losses in the air strikes.
  • 19 April – A new video depicts the execution-style killing of 28 Christians originally from Ethiopia.
  • 9 June – IS announces that it has captured the city of Sirte, which is located east of Tripoli.
  • 12 July – The group acknowledges that it has been pushed out of Derna after weeks of fierce fighting with members of the town’s Mujahedeen Council.
  • 13 November – The US bombs IS leaders in Libya for the first time and states that it has killed Abu Nabil, an Iraqi also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi. Libyan officials later identify him as the head of IS in Derna.


  • 7 January – A suicide truck bombing at a police school in Zliten, east of Tripoli, kills more than fifty people in what is the worst attack to take place in Libya since the 2011 revolution. IS claims responsibility for the attack.
  • 5 February – US officials disclose that the number of jihadists has almost doubled in Libya to about 5,000.
  • 19 February – A US air strike on a jihadist training camp located near Sabratha, west of Tripoli, kills about fifty people.
  • 24 February – Some 200 jihadists briefly occupy the centre of Sabratha, however they are later ousted by militas.
  • 30 March – The head of Libya’s United Nations-backed unity government, Fayez al-Sarraj, arrives at a naval base in Tripoli, despite the hostility of rival authorities.
  • 31 May – UN special envoy Martin Kobler calls on all of Libya’s armed groups to untie against IS.
  • 4 June – Unity government forces say that they have retaken a jihadist air base, Al-Gordabyia, which is located south of Sirte.
  • 5 June – Sarraj rules out an international military intervention on the ground.
  • 9 June – Unity government forces enter the centre of Sirte where clashes continue with IS.
Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Global Terror Attacks Declined in 2015

Posted on in Terrorism title_rule

According to the United States State Department, there was a marked fall in the number of terror attacks that occurred around the world in 2015.

In a newly released report this month, the State Department attributed the 13% decline from 2014 to fewer attacks in Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan, which are three of the five countries that have been the worst affected by terrorism. The other two are Afghanistan and India. Together, more than half of the 11,000 attacks that occurred last year happened within the borders of these five countries.

Data compiled by the University of Maryland indicates that more than 28,300 people died – a 14% decline – and about 35,300 others were wounded in 11,774 terrorist attacks that occurred worldwide last year. State Department Acting Co-ordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell notes that attacks and deaths increased in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Syria and Turkey. The State Department also reported that figures indicate that the terror threat “continued to evolve rapidly in 2015, becoming increasingly decentralized and diffused,” adding that extremists were exploiting frustration in countries “where avenues for free and peaceful expression of opinion were blocked.” The State Department highlighted that the so-called Islamic State (IS) group is the biggest single threat, adding that the group has attracted affiliates and supporters in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It noted that while IS was losing territory in Iraq and Syria, it was gaining strength in Libya and Egypt. The United Nations has also warned that IS is increasingly focusing on international civilian targets. The UN has reported that over the past six months, IS had carried out attacks in eleven countries. This does not include the militant group’s ongoing activity in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

The State Department report also disclosed that Iran was the biggest state sponsor of terrorism, stating that it supported conflicts in Syria and Iraq and that it was also implicated in violent Shia opposition raids in Bahrain. Bahrain has accused Iran of supplying weapons to Shia militants behind bomb attacks on security forces however Iran has denied this.

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Libya’s Continuing Migrant Challenge

Posted on in Libya title_rule

An important, but often under-discussed aspect of Europe’s migrant crisis is the specific roles played by criminal organizations. In a rare development, the Italian Government announcd that an Eritrean national named Mered Medhanie was now in their custody. He had previously been detained in Sudan back in May, before being formally extradited to Italy. In contrast to the political divisions that existed for much of the crisis, the UK’s National Crime Agency and Italian prosecutors worked together closely. The BBC reported that the NCA obtained specific information about Medhanie’s presence in Sudan that made the arrest possible. Italian prosecutors have alleged that Medhanie, along with an Ethiopian accomplice, ran one of the largest human-traffic organizations transporting migrants across the Mediterranean Sea. As with many of the human traffickers, he was suspected of having a blatant disregard for safety, including packing hundreds of migrants on to unseaworthy boats. The Italian investigation, based out of the Sicilian city of Palermo, has argued that Medhanie was directly connected with the sinking of a boat off the island of Lampedusa in October 2013. At least 359 migrants died after the boat, travelling from Libya to Italy, capsized suddenly.

Though Mered Medhanie’s arrest is an important development, it does not change the larger, tragic trend in human trafficking. The Red Crescent reported on June 2 that at least 100 migrants died after their boat capsized off the Libyan coast (exact numbers differ, with 100 being the conservative estimate). Libya’s Coast Guard is largely viewed as lacking the proper resources, personnel and equipment to handle the current crisis. As bodies wash ashore on Libya’s coastline, the large number of maritime emergencies recently make it difficult to know which human remains were connected with an individual sinking. Though the Libyan Coast Guard has limited successes, such as intercepting 100 migrants on June 7, these are only a small percentage of the total. Considerable international aid has been pledged to help Libya, but assistance has been hindered by internal conflict, corruption and governance problems. Until Libya’s political fragmentation is meaningfully addressed, it is difficult to see a comprehensive strategy being successful.

Tagged as: ,

Report: Boko Haram Sending Fighters to Libya to Join IS

Posted on in Boko Haram, IS, ISIS, Islamic State, Libya title_rule

A senior US official disclosed on Friday that there are signs that Nigeria-based Boko Haram militants are sending fighters to join the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in Libya, adding that there is increased cooperation between the two jihadist groups.

According to US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, there have been “reports” that Bok Harm fighters were going to Libya, where IS has established a large presence, effectively taking advantage of the ongoing security chaos. He disclosed that “we’ve seen that Boko Haram’s ability to communicate has become more effective. They seem to have benefited from assistance from Daesh (IS),” adding that there have also been reports of material and logistical aid. Speaking to reporters in Nigeria, Blinken further stated, “so these are all elements that suggests that there are more contacts and more cooperation, and this is again something that we are looking at very carefully because we want to cut it off.” While little is known about the extent of cooperation between the two radical Islamist groups, Western governments are increasingly becoming worried that IS’ growing presence in North Africa, coupled with its ties to Boko Haram, could herald a push southwards into the vast, lawless Sahel region, ultimately creating a springboard for wider attacks across the region. According to Blinken, the United States is helping Nigeria in its fight against Bok Haram with armoured vehicles. However he declined to comment on a request by the West African nation to sell it aircraft. Earlier this month, US officials revealed that Washington wants to sell up to twelve A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to Nigeria in recognition of President Muhammadu Buhari’s army reforms. Congress however still needs to approve the deal. While under Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, the US had blocked arms sales, partly due to human rights concerns, Blinken has indicated that Nigeria has made several requests for military hardware, adding, “we are looking very actively at these requests.” Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama had earlier disclosed that the government had set up reporting mechanisms inside the military to monitor human rights, which should convince the US Congress to approve the sale. Furthermore, while Blinken has indicated that the military under president Buhari has made “important efforts” in order to address human rights, he noted that the US was “troubled” by an Amnesty International report, which was released earlier this month, that children were dying in military detention. The Nigerian army has rejected the report. Blinken disclosed that Washington was also concerned about an alleged army massacre of Shi’ites in northern Nigeria in December, during which, according to residents, hundreds were killed. He added that a state commission to probe the killings should provide a “transparent and credible report.”

A British official has also warned that Boko Haram jihadists are likely to step up cooperation with IS should the latter extremist group gain a stronger foothold in Libya.

IS first seized part of Syria and Iraq, however it later built up a foothold in Libya, exploiting a security vacuum. Speaking at a security conference in Nigeria, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond stated that “if we see Daesh (IS) establish a stronger presence in Libya, that feels much more to people here like a direct communications route, that is likely to step up the practical collaboration between the two groups.” Hammond added that “the intent is clearly there, the evidence of hard collaboration is still pretty sketchy.”

At the conference, which was attended by Nigeria’s neighbors and Western powers, a number of African leaders also warned that stability in lawless Libya was key to fighting Boko Haram and improvising security in the region.

In a speech, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari stated that the army had almost recaptured all territory it had lost to Boko Haram, noting however that the jihadist group still often stages suicide bombings. He added, “what remains is to dislodge the terrorist from their hideout in the (northeastern) Sambisa Forest and safely liberate the Chibok girls and other victims of abduction,” referring to a group of 219 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in the Nigerian town of Chibok in 2014. Buhari also stated that Nigeria’s army was respecting human rights when dealing with civilians, a condition from the US to fulfill requests to sell aircraft and other arms.

Tagged as: , , , , , , , ,