North Africa Theater
Libya's ongoing internal chaos briefly made world news Dec. 5 as a US national, a teacher at the Benghazi International School named Ronald Smith, was shot to death under circumstances that are still unclear. Whoever was behind it, it will be a headache for Obama, whose opponents are still milking the "Benghazigate" scandal. (CNN, Dec. 5) Other than when a US citizen dies, the world media take little note the near-daily violence in the city. On the same day Smith was killed, a member of Libya's Special Forces and a young cadet were gunned down in Benghazi. And the head of the Presidential Guards of the city, Anwar al-Dous, lost a leg when an explosive device detonated under his car. (Libya Herald, Dec. 5) Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou, speaking to reporters at a Franco-African summit in Paris, responded by implying that Libya could be next for intervention: "Our fear is that Libya falls into the hands of Salafist terrorists and that the state becomes like Somalia... Sadly, we're seeing that the terrorists are there and that armed Salafist militia are in Benghazi, with people being killed almost every day. We must stabilize Libya." (Reuters, Dec. 6)
Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) announced Nov. 29 that they are ending their ceasefire with the Malian government, which has held since June. The statement comes a day after clashes between Malian troops and Tuareg protesters who prevented a visit by Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly to the rebel-held town of Kidal. The central government said soldiers at the airport had been attacked with stones and gunfire by "uncontrollable elements," and had fired warning shots. But the MNLA said troops had fired directly at a crowd that included women and children, leaving several wounded. MNLA vice president Mahamadou Djeri Maiga told the AFP: "What happened is a declaration of war. We will deliver this war. Wherever we find the Malian army we will launch the assault against them. It will be automatic. The warnings are over." (BBC News, Nov. 29)
Gen. Amadou Haya Sanogo, leader of the March 2012 coup that plunged Mali into civil war, was arrested Nov. 27 on charges of murder, complicity to murder, assassination and kidnapping. According to one of the arresting soldiers, Sanogo had repeatedly ignored summons by Mali's Ministry of Justice. Twenty-five armed soldiers arrested Sanogo in his home in Bamako and took him to appear before a judge, after which he remained in custody.
French troops last week launched a new offensive against Islamist rebels in northern Mali—raised questions about whether Paris will in fact reduce the number of its forces in the African country from 3,000 to 1,200 by year's end as planned. Islamist militants have been struggling to regain control of the contested area, known as the Niger Loop, which includes the cities of Gao and Timbuktu. French general staff spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said the new campaign, dubbed "Operation Hydra," was undertaken joinlty with Malian army forces and troops from MINUSMA, the UN force for the country. "It is the first time we have seen forces of significant size working together," Jaron said. (NYT, IBT, Al Jazeera, Oct. 24)
Parties that make up Mauritania's Coordination of the Democratic Opposition (COD) have announced a boycott of November's legislative and municipal elections after talks with the government collapsed without agreement earlier this month. The ruling Union for the Republic is the only party fielding candidates in every district, with the next highest representation from Islamist group Tewassoul, the only member of the 11-party COD that will field candidates. Tewassoul calls its participation a form of struggle against the "dictatorship" of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who took power in a 2008 coup. The opposition is demanding the polls be postponed until April to allow time for a voter census and guarantees of the independence of the electoral commission. A vote was due in 2011 but has been repeatedly delayed due to disagreements between the opposition and government. The last legislative election was held in 2006. (AFP, Oct. 29; Reuters, Oct. 4)
About 30 aides to Moammar Qaddafi, including his son Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, were indicted Oct. 24 by a Libyan court for a list of offenses allegedly committed during the 2011 revolt in the country. The charges levied against them include murder, kidnapping, complicity in incitement to rape, plunder, sabotage, embezzlement of public funds and acts harmful to national unity. Although less than half of the defendants appeared in court for the indictment hearing on Thursday, all defendants must be present at the trial hearing, the date of which has not yet been set. The trial will be one of the most high-profile in the country's history, with defendants including senior officials such as former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and Qaddafi's last prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi.
Leading al-Qaeda operative Nazih Abdul Hamed al-Ruqai AKA Abu Anas al-Libi, wanted for his role in the 1998 African embassy bombings, was reportedly captured Oct. 5 by US forces in Tripoli, Libya. Al-Libi was apparently apprehended by US troops assisted by agents from the FBI and CIA. According to a federal indictment filed during the Clinton administration, al-Libi "conducted visual and photographic surveillance of the United States Embassy in Nairobi" in 1993. His apartment in the UK was raided after the embassy bombings, where authorities found a copy of a manual entitled, "Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants." In September 2012, he was reported to be living freely in Tripoli. (Long War Journal, Oct. 5)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Libya Oct. 4 to suspend the death sentences of Ahmed Ibrahim and Walid Dabnoon, who were convicted of crimes related to the country's uprising in June 2011. HRW contends that Ibrahim, a former official in the government of deposed president Muammar Qaddafi, and Dabnoon, a volunteer for pro-Qaddafi fighting forces during the clash with protesters, were denied the full benefits of due process during their trials, including the ability to consult counsel regularly and confidentially. According to HRW: