Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In spite of cease fire in Libya conflict continues in several areas


Clashes took place in Benghazi where pro-government forces led by CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar have been trying to retake the city from an umbrella group of Islamist militias opposed to the Tobruk governent.
After recent peace talks brokered by the UN, Libya Dawn, the main militia associated with the Tripoli-based government, declared a ceasefire. A few days later, the internationally recognized government in the eastern city of Tobruk also declared a ceasefire. However, the government said that it would continue to pursue terrorists. As a result, there has seemingly been no ceasefire at all in Benghazi, where Haftar continues his attempt to retake the city from the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries who captured most of the city last July.

Haftar began the present campaign against Islamists back in February last year culminating in his Operation Dignity launched last May. Up until now, he has lost the two major cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, to the opposition but appears to have retaken at least some of Benghazi. The latest clashes come as he tries to take the port area. Haftar tends to view all his enemies as "terrorists." He probably hopes to concentrate attacks on key areas such as Benghazi, while due to the ceasefire other fronts will be quiet. It is not working out that way as the other side has launched an attack on an oil port.

  In the battle for the Benghazi port area, seven soldiers are reported killed. Soldiers took over several government buildings including a passport office and a state bank that had been damaged in earlier fighting. Army sources said 25 soldiers were wounded. A military commander reported the the road to the port was under pro-government forces' control.

  A militia group allied to the Tripoli government is carrying out Operation Shorouq designed to capture the key oil ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanauf from forces loyal to the Tobruk government. A commander of the militia Mussab Bala said: "Thank God there is a dialogue. But they say they support the dialogue and then bomb us with war planes.They target civilian facilities."

The UN for its part does not mention government attacks on these militia but singles the militia out for condemnation for breaking the ceasefire agreement. There is no specific mention of Haftar's campaign in Benghazi. The UN is probably under pressure to take sides. The UN has been careful not to refer to any governments in its releases but just to participants in the peace talks. This is probably a wise tactic. The Libyan Supreme Court on November 6 last year ruled that the elections establishing the Tobruk government last June were unconstitutional and that the Tobruk House of Representatives should be dissolved. Neither government recognizes the legitimacy of the other.

Both sides are united against some of the more radical Islamic jihadist groups operating in Libya. The Tripoli government suffered an attack on its territory. The Islamic State attacked the luxury Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli causing a number of casualties including several foreigners, among them an American. More recently, an attack on the al-Mabrouk oil field about 100 miles south of city of Sirte was also attributed to a group loyal to the Islamic State by a representative of the guards protecting the facility. Nine guards and one employee from Niger were reported killed. The attackers abducted seven foreigners including three Filipinos.

 More dialogue and peace talks are proposed for the future. In earlier talks neither the Tripoli government nor its militia representatives participated. The next talks are to take place in Libya and Tripoli may participate but given the continuing clashes on the ground it is not clear when, where, or even if new talks will take place.

The appended video reports a stunning development that seems not to be on western news media radar. After launching a successful coup against the former government that was also led by present prime minister of the Tobruk government, Abdullah al-Thinni, Haftar is not satisfied that the new government is following his line sufficiently. He now wants to form a military council with himself as head and has given the Tobruk government a deadline to do his bidding. Where are UN or western statements about this development?

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