Weekly Security Review

AKE Oil Infrastructure Report
AKE has produced the first independent security and risk assessment of Libya’s major oil producing and refining facilities. Designed to provide accurate and actionable information to companies looking to enter or re-enter the oil-rich North African state, the project aimed to assess the threat level in the areas most associated with the energy industry. The security situation at major oil facilities was a major focus of the report. To see a preview of the report including details of how to purchase it click here.

Projections
The situation in Tripoli will remain stable, although the risk of clashes involving remaining militia elements will also endure. The police presence in the city will gradually increase over the coming weeks and months, putting more pressure on militia groups to disband.

Assuming control of the country’s major points of entry, including border crossings, airports and seaports will represent a significant step to the government exerting its authority throughout the country, however a number of major militia groups remain and they will have to be persuaded to give up their weapons. Some are likely to be resistant, and this could lead to violence and increased tensions in those areas of the country that remain under the control of militias.

The issue of federalism will continue to cause controversy and dispute among many, particularly in the east. Further demonstrations both in favour of and opposed to federalism are likely throughout the country, particularly in reaction to official statements by either side.

Tripoli
AKE personnel on the ground have noted that the situation in the city remains calm, and movement around it is good. There are regular incidents of local neighbourhood militias blocking roadways, which can cause traffic jams and necessitate finding alternative routes around the city. This is particularly of concern given the continued lack of any substantial police presence to maintain order. AKE personnel have highlighted the gradual increase in police presence on the streets, although this presence is mostly restricted to traffic duties.

Two British journalists detained by the Misratan al-Swehli militia on suspicion of spying were transferred to national government custody, before being released to return home on 19 March. The two were shown in a video released by the militia on 12 March in which they apologised for entering the country illegally. International rights campaigners had claimed the two were detained illegally. The al-Swehli militia had initially indicated they were under investigation on suspicion of spying, although they provided no evidence to support this claim. The journalists were working in Libya for Iran’s English language news agency Press TV, when they were detained by the militia and subsequently held at the former women’s military base on the coastal road near the centre of the city.

The government had previously questioned the legitimacy of the detention as well as evidence of spying activities.

The incident demonstrates that although security in the city remains positive, there are still risks to personnel, which are associated with the general lack of law enforcement, and the sometimes vigilante actions of the remaining militia groups. These groups are attempting to justify their continued presence by claiming the national security forces are not yet capable of filling the security vacuum. Journalists are particularly at risk of being viewed with suspicion when conducting interviews or traveling to areas of the city deemed to be less stable.

Meanwhile, the Zintan militia stated that it was willing to hand over control of the international airport to a national body whenever that body has been formed and is deemed capable. The statement said the militia would remain to safeguard the airport but was not seeking to retain control over the long term. AKE sources on the ground report that a force has been assembled with a view to taking over control of the airport, although exactly when this takes place will be down to negotiation between the Zintanis and the central government. A government statement claimed the transition would occur over the coming days; however, it may well be a staged process.

Central Government Security Forces
Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelal stated on 10 March that militia groups outside the control of the central government should lay down their arms, or face confrontation with the new national security forces. Abdelal stated that the police now had 25,000 men at its disposal and was ready to step into the security vacuum currently filled by the militias. AKE sources on the ground have highlighted a slowly increasing police presence, however it is still far below pre-conflict levels and mainly restricted to traffic duties in major cities.

On 14 March government spokesman Nasser al-Manaa stated that the NTC was ready to take control of the country’s borders and airports from militia groups. At a meeting in the capital Tripoli, militia leaders reportedly agreed to hand over control of border points and airports to the government. The port of Misrata is another important entry point that will soon come under the control of the central government, further increasing confidence in its ability to centralise responsibility for security throughout the country.

The integration of regional militia groups under a central body has long been cited by AKE as the most important challenge facing the NTC, and taking control of vital entry points would be a significant sign of progress towards this goal.

Anti-Federalism Demonstrations
Thousands of demonstrators turned out in cities throughout Libya late on 9 March to protest against the declaration of semi-autonomy by a group of eastern local leaders. Central squares in the capital Tripoli and a number of major cities, including many eastern cities - notably Benghazi, the proposed capital of a semi-autonomous eastern region - were packed with people calling for national unity. The development weakens the position of those eastern leaders in favour of the move.

The issue of semi-autonomy in the east is likely to remain an ongoing dispute between supporters of centralised control and those in the east who feel they have not benefited from the regions oil wealth and have been held back due to their lack of oversight over their own affairs. However, the ability of proponents of the recent declaration to claim they speak for the majority of people in the east was undermined by the high turnout of opponents of the move in eastern cities.

The issue will also continue exacerbate political uncertainty and nervousness among foreign investors, many of whom remain reluctant to enter into contracts with central government that may later be disputed by any new regional government.

 

Alan Fraser is a Libya specialist with AKE, a British risk mitigation company working in Libya throughout the crisis. You can access AKE’s intelligence website Global Intake here.

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