Weekly Security Report by SNE 04 November 2014

It is reported that the House of Representatives will move from its temporary home in Tobruk to Benghazi once the city has been secured by the military but not before, the spokesman for the house has said. A spokesman for the House of Representatives reportedly said that in accordance with the constitutional declarations made in June that the HoR would move to the city as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni indicated on 29 October that he is willing to engage in peace talks with the Libya Dawn militia coalition and the rival government that it backs in Tripoli. Following a meeting held between al Thinni and Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, it was announced that a “clear plan” was in place to bring together the rival groups, this possible development does not come as a surprise given the tale mate situation and the possibility for the Libyan PM to gain some moral high ground.

Possible early signs of this are a number of Zintani elders met with the House of Representatives in Tobruq to discuss the situation in western Libya. Of particular concern were reported allegations from the Zintanis that groups outside the authority of the state were carrying out air strikes and that the closure of many surrounding roads had restricted the provision of fuel and basic services.

Ten people killed and over thirty were wounded by heavy shelling in Kikla on Friday. City hospitals are struggling to provide adequate care to the wounded, due to the shortage of medicines and equipment caused by disruption of the supply chain.

There have also been reports that some 200 military officers in the western region had held a meeting at which they declared support for the Libya Dawn movement, although details of the meeting remain sparse.

Clashes in the Central districts of Benghazi have continued, as Libyan army troops and members of the Benghazi Shura Council continue to battle for territory within the city. Local media indicates that much of the fighting on 30 October 2014 was concentrated in the districts of Hadaiq, al Salmani, al Sabri, Sidi Mansour and al Jalaa, while the areas of Bu Atni and Hawari witnessed clashes the previous day.

A huge car bomb detonated in the early hours of the morning near Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC) has damaged nearby homes and property Meanwhile In western Libya the capital Tripoli remains calm, through the last 72hrs there were no significant security issues to report from the capital.  There continues to be a significant and almost complete eradication of car jacking’s and opportunist robbery of innocent capital residents.  Reports do exist of personal attacks of personnel who were or are aligned to Zintan militia.

Over the past few week Tripoli has largely returned to normal with the exception of the return of expat workers and diplomatic missions, heavy fighting has continued in Kikla which is 150km south of Tripoli and the Southern areas of the Jabal Naffusah. The fighting continues in the large part to be between Zintani militia and non-Misratan elements of the Misratan-led alliance and whilst initially a fight over strategic towns and supply routes it has now become far more personal and tribal given the nature of the fighting in Kikla and the associated deaths.

In the east forces under the control of General Hafter have in the past week made some significant territorial gains in Benghazi. There is now a clearer east/west territorial control divide in Benghazi itself with Hafter forces solidifying gains in the east of the city, the airport and large areas of the central district where fighting was most intense.

Pressure is building on the government of Prime Minister Abdallah al-Thinni to pursue political means of resolving the ongoing conflict between forces allied with him and Operation Dignity and those of the Misrata-led Alliance (MLA) and Operation Libya Dawn. Seemingly unable to make definitive headway in its offensive against the MLA in Benghazi and elsewhere, al-Thinni appears to be considering entering into negotiations with his opponents. Nonetheless, given the failure of previous “peace talks,” he has clearly not forsaken a military approach at this juncture.

During the course of a visit to Khartoum this week by al-Thinni, the Sudanese government said that it would launch its own series of negotiations to avert a deepening crisis in Libya. Although there was no immediate comment from al-Thinni, he subsequently confirmed that he would entertain negotiations with opposing groups. The statements from both Sudan and the al-Thinni government, however, are so vague as to suggest that little will come of the Sudanese proposal. In addition, members of al-Thinni’s government and its coalition are sceptical of Sudan and its intentions, which will prevent the Khartoum initiative from moving forward.

The alleged Sudanese proposal is just the latest attempt to find a negotiated solution to the Libyan crisis.

Talks in September that were organized by the UN in Ghadames failed to gain traction because they only included members of the democratically elected House of Representatives (HoR). The talks took as their basis the legitimacy of the HoR as Libya’s only government, whereas the conflict between the MLA and the al-Thinni government and Operation Dignity is about this very issue. As a result the talks were ineffective and short-lived. Their host, head of the UN Support Mission to Libya Bernardino Leon, has subsequently warned that talks must be seriously pursued or Libya faces protracted civil war. During the recent Paris conference Leon also sought to coordinate the mediation and support being driven forward by numerous special envoys representing both states and international organisations such as the African Union and EU.

Simultaneously, Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra tried to launch his own initiative to resolve the crisis. Algiers first endorsed reaching out to as wide a range of stakeholders as possible, including even Ahmad Qadhafadam, a staunch Qadhafi loyalist, and Abdelhakim Belhaj, a former militant Islamist. In the face of opposition from Libyans and the international community, Lamamra has had to back away from such an aggressive agenda and is now struggling to regain momentum. Making matters worse, it appears that the Algerian initiative may be falling victim to political rivalries in Algiers itself. Algeria’s talks were supposed to have been launched this month, but that is no longer possible and now they may never happen at all.

Meanwhile, General Khalifa Haftar and his Operation Dignity campaign, which is now officially recognized by the al-Thinni government, launched a new offensive on 15 October to gain control of Benghazi. Although the campaign was more effective than previous offensives, at least in part due to winning the support of an armoured battalion and to efforts of some of city’s civilian population, Haftar is still nowhere close to being definitively in control. Even if Haftar had been able to win control of Benghazi, Tripoli is still very much out of his reach. But at this point, Dignity controls neither.

It is perhaps because of this “stalemate” that al-Thinni appears to be willing to entertain almost any proposed peace initiative. Not only does doing so allow al-Thinni to gain the moral high ground, but it also may be his only way of remaining politically relevant.

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