This week has been a continuation of the past few months with protests in the Oil and Gas sector ending at Waha but others occurring sporadically, such as Zueitina residents who took part in a sit-in outside the gates of the oil terminal near Ajdabiya; and with continuing concern at the intimidation and persecution of the small Christian community by Islamists, particularly in the run-up to Easter.
There have also been a number of attacks in the south of the country centred upon Sabha with a prison break and then a serious attack on an airbase by some 150 fighters.
Regionally, Egypt has moved to extradite two of the three former Gaddafi regime back to Libya this past week. Mohammed Mansour, the former head of the Libyan state fund and Ali Maria, the former Libyan Ambassador to Egypt were returned but Ahmed Qaddaf al-Dam, a cousin of Gaddafi, is fighting extradition based upon his Egyptian nationality claims.
The Prime Minister, Ali Ziedan, has been in the UAE seeking support with Security Sector Reform. This is an unsurprising move given the military and financial support given by the UAE during the Revolution. Meanwhile on 1st April it was reported that the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Mohamed Ali Ghatous, has gone missing and is presumed to have been abducted. This and the storming of the Justice Ministry in Tripoli by members of the Supreme Security Committee (SSC) are all concerned with the Government’s attempts to dismantle the militias and opposition to those moves. This will not lessen in the short to medium term.
The major story that has hit headlines worldwide has been the kidnap and rape of three British aid workers, two of whom were sisters, who were travelling through Libya enroute to Gaza as part of an aid convoy. The attack occurred outside Benghazi as a result of the convoy being prevented from entering Egypt and five of its number who had left the convoy and had travelled to Benghazi hoping to fly out from there. A number of arrests have been made in relation to the attacks already by the Libyan authorities who have been quick to act both in condemning the attacks and acting to arrest those believed responsible.
Tripolitania and Tripoli (Western Libya)
The SSC stormed the Justice Ministry in Tripoli on 31st March and it is likely that this attack is also related to the abduction of the PM’s Chief of Staff also on the same day, when his car was found abandoned on the outskirts of the City. Tensions and actions appear to be escalating as the PM seeks to dis-establish the armed militias and restructure the security sector with the militias opposing any moves to dismantle them and their influence.
An explosion damaged the tomb of Sidi Mohamed Landoulsi, a well-known Sufi shrine, in the Tajoura neighbourhood of Tripoli on 28th March. It is not clear whether this is an extension of the campaign by Islamist extremists to establish a wholly Sunni-based society but fits with the trend that has seen the intimidation of Christians in the east of the country. In line with that Tripoli’s Anglican Church cancelled its traditional Palm Sunday parade last weekend and kept its doors shut for mass on Easter Sunday.
Further south in Sabha it was reported that 50 prisoners escaped from the city’s prison on 26th March; one prisoner was shot dead during the escape. This was then followed on 30th March by a more serious and orchestrated attack by 150 heavily armed men on the airbase some 45 km north of Sabha. During the attack at least two of the security forces were killed with a number being wounded. Such a coordinated attack has not been seen before and is a worrying development.
Gulf of Sidra, Cyrenaica and Benghazi (Eastern Libya)
The kidnapping and rape of the three women who were travelling back to Benghazi when their peace convoy to Gaza was halted at the border with Egypt occurred on 26th March. The Libyans on 29th March arrested two soldiers for the attacks and continues to hold them in detention and question them. The five activists who were attacked, two men and three women, were travelling without valid visas. They were abducted from a taxi at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Benghazi before being attacked and then released several hours later.
It was confirmed on 29th March that the protests by local people at the Waha Oil Company’s Gialo 59 Field, south-east of Benghazi had ended. The protests were over lack of employment opportunities and have been going on for over three weeks.
Finally, there was an explosion that has caused extensive damage to the lower court building in Derna on 30th March. It is believed that an explosive device was left outside the building. Fortunately there were no injuries in the blast as there was no one in the building or vicinity at the time of blast.