North Africa Theater

Libya: who bombed Tripoli?

Unidentified warplanes carried out air-strikes on a small arms depot and other targets controlled by Islamist militias in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Aug. 18. At least six were killed in the strikes. The strikes were beyond the capacity of the limited Libyan Air Force, and Libyan authorities said the planes had come from a foreign state. The US, France, Italy and Egypt all denied responsibility. Also hit in the raid were camps along the road to Tripoli's airport, which is contested by rival militias. Another target was Tripoli's Mitiga air base, also controlled by Islamists. At least 100 have been killed in fighting in Tripoli over the past month. (NYTXinhua, Aug. 19)

Libya parliament votes for foreign intervention

Libya's parliament on Aug. 13 passed a measure calling for foreign intervention to protect civilians from deadly clashes between rival militia groups. MPs were meeting in the eastern city of Tobruk because of violence in the capital Tripoli and the second city Benghazi. The resolution, which passed by 111 out of 124, calls on the "United Nations and the Security Council to immediately intervene to protect civilians and state institutions in Libya." The body also voted to formally disband Libya's militia brigades left over from the 2011 revolution that have yet to be incorporated into a regular army. Fighting between the rival Zintan and Misrata militias for control of Tripoli's airport left over 200 dead last month. (AFP, Aug. 14; BBC News, Aug. 13) Libya's caretaker prime minister, Abdullah Thinni, meanwhile issued a statement assuring that all of the country's oil ports are still under the "control" of the central authorities—a clear sign of fears that they aren't. (Libya Herald, Aug. 14) On the day before the parliament vote, Col. Mohamed al-Suwaisi, head of the Tripoli Security Directorate, was assassinated while his car waited at an intersection after leaving a meeting with police commanders in Tajoura, a suburb of the capital. (Libya Herald, Middle East Eye, Aug. 12)

Mali: French pursue jihadis; talks open with MNLA

Authorities in Mali said July 31 that a once-powerful jihadist leader has been arrested by French military forces in the northern desert town of Gao. Yoro Ould Daha was a commander of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which controlled Gao for nearly a year before the French intervention of 2013. Ould Daha was the MUJAO commander who announced the death of French hostage Gilberto Rodriguez-Leal, who was captured in November 2012 while traveling in Mauritania and Mali. He also took responsibility for the abduction of five humanitarian workers who were later released. (AP, July 31)

Environmental disaster seen in Libya fighting

A fire from fuel tanks near Tripoli's international airport set ablaze by rocket strikes is out of control as clashes between rival militias continue in the area, Libya's National Oil Company reports. Six million liters of fuel were set ablaze by a rocket late on July 27, with a second depot hit the following day, darkening the city's sky. "The situation is very dangerous after a second fire broke out at another petroleum depot," the statement said, warning of a "disaster with unforeseeable consequences." The Libyan government appealed for "international help" fighting the blaze amid heavy fighting that the government says has killed more than 150 people in Tripoli and Benghazi during two weeks of fighting. (Al Jazeera, July 29) Fighting continued July 28, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, with bombs and explosions heard across Benghazi. (Libya Herald, July 28)

Militants attack Egypt border post from Libya

Gunmen killed at least 20 Egyptian military border guards near the frontier with Libya in a July 19 raid. An army spokesman said the attackers were "terrorists"—the term Egyptian authorities use for Islamist militants. A weapons storage facility was reportedly blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade during the attack, which took place in Wadi al-Gadid governorate, bordering Libya and Sudan. At least two militants were reportedly killed in the clash. (Radio Australia, July 20) The attack comes three weeks after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi flew to Algiers for a meeting with his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Commentators in the region say the meeting was intended to coordinate support for Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who has launched a unilateral offensive on Islamist militants in Benghazi. (Middle East Monitor, June 27)

Libya: Tripoli clashes; Benghazi suspect killed

Tripoli's airport has been severely damaged and several commercial planes destroyed in heavy fighting between armed groups, prompting the United Nations to pull its staff out of Libya. A coalition of Islamist militias under the banner of Operation Fajr, or Dawn, is apparently attempting to wrest control of the facility from the Zintani militias stationed there. At least 15 people have been killed in clashes in Tripoli and Benghazi in the past three dfays.  (Reuters, July 15; Libya Herald, July 13) Meanwhile, Islamist militant Faraj al-Shibli, named by the US as a suspect in the 2012 attack in Benghazi, was found dead in the eastern town of Marj, where he had reportedly been detained by a local militia over the weekend. Al-Shibli, a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, had been detained by government forces last year, and was apparently interrogated by the FBI—before being released without explanation. He had been wanted by the Qaddafi regime in connection with the murder of a German intelligence agent in Sirte in 1994. Libyan authorities also issued an arrest warrant for Osama bin Laden in connection with the crime. (CNN, July 14)

Moroccan women protest reactionary PM

Moroccan women protested outside parliament June 24, waving banners and frying pans, and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane. The protest came days after Benkirane gave a speech urging women to stay at home and not work jobs. "Don't you realize that when women went to work outside, the light went out of their homes?" he said. "We will continue to defend our position against this modernity that is trying to eliminate family in our lives by reversing the roles of men and women. To that we say 'no!'" Since 2011, the Morocco has had a gender equality guarantee under the constitution, but it has never been fully implemented. Women in the country have periodically protested over the last few years to pressure the conversative government on the question. (Feministing, June 25)

Benghazi suspect pleads not guilty

Ahmed Abu Khatallah (BBC profilemade his first appearance on June 28 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia  where he pleaded not guilty to a federal terrorism offense arising from his alleged participation in the September 2012 attack on a US facility in Benghazi, Libya. Khatallah was indicted by a federal grand jury on the charge of "conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, knowing and intending that these would be used in preparation for and in carrying out a killing in the course of an attack on a federal facility, and the offense resulted in death." The attacks occurred on September 11 through September 12, 2012, and resulted in the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. The investigation into Khatallah's involvement is ongoing and the Department of Justice may bring additional charges as the case continues. "Now that Ahmed Abu Khatallah as arrived in the United States, he will face the full weight of our justice system," said US Attorney General Eric Holder. "We will prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant's alleged role in the attack that killed four brave Americans in Benghazi." 

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