Weekly Security Report by SNE Special Projects 22 July 2014

SNE assesses that travel to Libya should be put on hold at present unless for business essential reasons only and advises that stringent security and travel management plans are in place. An itinerary specific pre-travel risk assessment including mitigation measures are recommended. In-country personnel should be confident in their evacuation procedures and crisis management plans and in light of the current situation these should be checked and updated where necessary. SNE still advices that non-essential travel to Libya should be reconsidered given recent developments in Tripoli and Benghazi. Following a two-day ceasefire in Tripoli which had been punctuated by sporadic clashes, intense fighting was re-ignited once again at Tripoli International Airport (TIP) on the 20 July and continued into the 21 July. At least 47 people have been killed since clashes erupted on 13 July and local sources have suggested that the true number of casualties is closer to 100. A huge amount of damage to planes and airport facilities has also been reported, while clashes have also spread to nearby districts of the city. Reinforcements for both sides have been seen moving into Tripoli throughout the weekend, while Major General Khalifa Hifter, the commander of the controversial “Operation Dignity” described the “Libya Dawn” offensive as an attack on the Libyan National Army, and promised “escalation”, suggesting that his Benghazi-based forces could possibly join the clashes in the capital.

The High National Elections Commission (HNEC) stated on 20 July, that the final results from the recent elections will be released by 1600hrs (local time) on the 21 July 2014, despite having recently confirmed that they were expected on 20 July 2014. A spokesperson for HNEC claimed that the delay was to allow the conclusion of all challenges to the results. Meanwhile the General National Congress (GNC) confirmed on 16 July 2014 that preparations for the handover to the new House of representatives are complete and that the handover will take place in Benghazi on 03 August 2014. Concerns remain that the handover will have to be delayed or will be disrupted due to the ongoing violence in Benghazi.         While rivalry between Islamist militias and the Zintan-based anti-Islamist militias has long been a source of contention leading to clashes in Tripoli, the attack launched by the “Libya Dawn” coalition mirrors “Operation Dignity” the offensive started by General Khalifa Hifer with the intention of ridding Libya of Islamist militias in Benghazi. A group of prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya released a statement on 20 July 2014 stating that the condition for de-escalation of the conflict is the immediate cessation of “Operation Dignity” attacks in Benghazi. The statement came despite repeated claims by the Muslim Brotherhood that they were not involved in the attack on the airport and has further politicised the clashes. The Muslim Brotherhood statement also came alongside Hifter’s threat to send forces to Tripoli meaning more forces are expected to amass in the capital over the next few days and weeks.

The clashes have also substantially worsened the fuel shortage that Tripoli residents were suffering prior to the outbreak of violence. The coastal road which links Zawiya oil refinery with the capital has been closed several times in Tripoli’s eastern suburb of Janzour since clashes at the airport began, as local residents have attempted to prevent reinforcements from reaching the city, while the airport road on which the Brega Oil and Gas Company’s main storage depot is located remains blockaded.

On 19 July a car bomb was found and defused in the al-Dribi area of Tripoli. According to images circulating on social media the car bomb which consisted of two 200kg cylindrical bombs wired to a radio, was very similar to the three car bombs discovered last week outside a Qaaqaa Brigade base in the Salaheddin area of Tripoli.

20 July saw five rockets hit the main oil depot on Tripoli Airport Road, reports sated that no workers were injured. Armed clashes were also reported at the second ring road on the Gorji road roundabout at approximately 18.30 with a build-up of technical vehicles in the area. Further west of Tripoli the coastal highway was blocked east and westbound at the first bridge with a diversion in place. Eight technical vehicles were spotted heading west towards Bridge 27 just after 18.00. In terms of damage at the Tripoli Airport, at least 1 Airbus A330 and a CRJ900, both parked on the tarmac, were seriously damaged in Sunday's fighting. See this link for video footage on this report https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xN3kwqLCxA

On the 20 July GNC member Suleiman Zubi was kidnapped on the outskirts of Tripoli by the Zintani Brigade and released shortly after unharmed. The Zintani Brigade responsible apparently 'arrested' Zubi, claiming to be Military Police. Zubi is reportedly a member of the GNC's Wafa bloc (Islamist) representing Benghazi, and is opposed to 'Operation Dignity.' Images circulating on social media appear to show Zubi in good health during his abduction, having breakfast with some soldiers and casually speaking with them. The interim government's Justice Department had also reportedly issued a statement condemning the kidnapping.

The situation on the ground in Benghazi remains uncertain as Ansar al Sharia has seemingly regrouped in its traditional strongholds in the Sidi Faraj and Hawari districts. Given that these areas have seen some of the heaviest airstrikes and ground clashes over the past few weeks. The current situation appears to suggest that General Hifter’s forces remain unable to break the stalemate. The areas most affected by violence related to “Operation Dignity” include: Hawari, Sidi Faraj, Guwarsha districts, Ganfouda, Tabalino, Garyounes, Laithi and Souq Hadiqa. The residential areas surrounding Benina International Airport, from which Hifter’s forces have launched attacks have also suffered numerous attacks by Islamist forces. In Garyounes, a police station has reportedly been nearly completely destroyed following a fire started after rockets struck it early on 20 July 2014. A large car bomb was also discovered and defused by security forces in the al Hadaiq district on 20 July which is believed to have been intended to target the nearby power station. Violence also appears to be on the rise in central Benghazi with clashes being reported in the central district of Hay al Salam on the 16 July around the north-eastern districts of Shabna and Bu Atni, areas which have not previously been affected by “Operation Dignity”. It is likely that clashes in the Bu Atni district were instigated by Islamist forces as a Saiqa Special Forces camp is located near to where an RPG fell. On 17 & 18 July local sources reported a major increase in tanks and special forces deployment in central districts while several airstrikes were once again noted in the Hawari district. Two Egyptian nationals were reportedly killed early on 19 July 2014 after mortar struck their home in the Bu Atni district. It is believed that the mortars had been fired towards the Saiqa camp, but missed and hit the nearby residence.

Filipino worker beheaded in Benghazi - A Filipino construction worker in Libya was beheaded by militants in Benghazi, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on the 21 July. Citing a report from the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli , the Filipino, whose identity is not disclosed, was kidnapped by armed men on July 15 and was subsequently beheaded in Benghazi.

His remains were found at a Benghazi hospital on 20 July 20. Initail reports state that the vehicle he was riding in was stopped in a checkpoint, there were three people in the vehicle, a Libyan national, a Pakistani and a Filipino. He was allegedly singled out because he was non-Muslim. The report said the Filipino’s kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of $160,000 USD, however four days later his body was discovered at a hospital. The company negotiated with the kidnappers and on the fourth day when they decided to pay the ransom they received a call from the abductors who referred them to a Benghazi hospital. The body was already in a state of advanced decomposition when seen by the employers and It is possible that he was already dead when the kidnappers were negotiating for ransom. The remains have been identified and his family in the Philippines have been informed of the incident. Upon the family’s request, the DFA will not release the name of the victim. The Philippine government is now enforcing the mass evacuation of around 13,000 Filipinos there. A spokesman for the Filipino Embassy said  all Filipinos in Libya should return home as soon as possible due to the increasing violence and lawlessness, the closure of major airports, and the heightened threat to their safety, particularly in Benghazi. “The threats to our Filipinos’ safety and security became more imminent,” it said, adding that recent events indicate that it is no longer safe for Filipinos to remain in Libya. “We are calling for total evacuation.” The Philippine government has identified Egypt or Tunisia as exit routes for the Filipinos.

Due to the current ongoing unstable situation within Benghazi, SNE is advising NO travel should be made to Benghazi until the current situation shows signs of stability.

Airport Updates - Misrata Airport is operating international flights, Sirte and Zuwara are preparing for possible international flights specifically Afriqiyah Airways is operating the following flights: Misrata-Tunisia @ 13:20, Tripoli (Mitiga)-Alexandria @ 17:35, Tripoli (Mitiga)-Casablanca @ 15:00, Labraq (near Al Bayda)-Istanbul @ 09:00, Labraq-Alexandria @ 15:00. Both the airports in Sirte and Zuwara (100km west of Tripoli) also appear eager to resume international flights. Zuwara's Airport manager reportedly said on Sunday that their airport would be ready to accommodate international flights within days, provided that the necessary support from the Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Transport was provided - some equipment needs maintenance and extra staff are needed. European carriers would almost certainly not fly to Zuwara, however, because its runway is only 1,800 meters (Tripoli Intl is 3,600m), the airport has no refuelling facilities and limited apron and parking.

Crime remains one of the biggest risks to foreign personnel operating on the ground and the risk is assessed to be at its highest in outlying areas of the cities, particularly after last light when travel is not recommended. Car Jacking’s are on the rise and we advise clients to look closely at their method of travel within Tripoli using alternative routes, timings and vehicle’s where possible. SNE can assist clients with pre entry risk assessments, on the ground physical support, safe discreet transportation, accommodation/business centre and risk management services throughout the region with villas and offices in both Tripoli & Benghazi.

 

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