North Africa Theater
Algerian security forces on April 16 violently dispersed an attempt by opposition activists to stage a protest in the capital against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's run for a fourth term in this week's elections. Only a few members of the opposition alliance Barakat—President Abdelaziz Bouteflika—were able to assemble in central Algiers before police routed them. Barakat was able to hold a rally in a stadium, where some 5,000 gathered to chant "Boycott" and "The people want the regime out!" Mohsen Belabes, a leader of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), told the crowd: "The people here are the people who have been excluded, who have been put aside, but this is the real Algeria. The regime will collapse, but Algeria will survive."
A car bomb targeting a graduation ceremony at a military academy in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi left at least eight soldiers dead and over 20 wounded March 17. A second car bomb later exploded elsewhere in the city, killing one person. Libyan Minister of Justice Salah Marghani responded: "Now it is not time for mourning or condemnation. It is about time for Libyans to declare war on terrorists who have been killing Libyans and foreigners in the cities of Benghazi and Derna in eastern Libya. What is going on in Benghazi and Derna is terrorism and we must declare the state of emergency in Benghazi and we fight back. Asking for international assistance in this fight is not violation of Libyan sovereignty. What violates our sovereignty is the killing of these youth in cold blood."
Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan fled to Europe in a private jet March 12, in defiance of a travel ban, after the General National Congress (GNC) ousted him in a vote that many members said did not follow legal procedures. The Islamist-led GNC took the move over Zeidan's failure to prevent a North Korean tanker loading oil from a port controlled by rebels in the eastern region of Cyrenaica. Zeidan had threatened to bomb the tanker at al-Sidra port, demanding that "All parties must respect Libyan sovereignty." Replied Rabbo al-Barassi, who heads the Cyrenaica executive bureau formed in August by "federalist" rebels: "We announce to Libyans and to the whole world that we have begun exporting oil. We are not defying the government or the Congress. But we are insisting on our rights." There were reports of a fire-fight at the port as the vessel departed March 12, but it succeeded in slipping through a Libyan naval bloakcde and getting away. Tripoli has asked other countries to try intercept the ship.
Saadi Qaddafi, son of former Libyan leader Col. Moammar Qaddafi, was extradited from Niger back to Libya on March 6 to stand trial for crimes allegedly committed during his father's rule. Saadi is the most recent fugitive whom the Libyan government has extradited from Niger. In February Abdallah Mansur, a former top intelligence official and fifteen other former Libyan officials were sent back to Libya after Niger accused them of plotting to overthrow the current Libyan government. In 2011 Interpol issued a "red notice," requiring member countries to arrest him. Niger had previously declined to extradite Saadi due to concerns that he would be executed upon return.
Libya's parliament moved to a Tripoli hotel March 3, a day after protesters stormed the building, killing a guard and wounding six legislators. Protesters swept the parliament chamber while it was in session, firing live rounds, throwing bottles at lawmakers, and setting fire to furniture, while chanting "Resign, resign!" Elected after the 2011 uprising, the parliament has sparked popular anger by extending its mandate, which was meant to have expired on Feb. 7, until the end of December. For weeks, hundreds of protesters have held daily demonstrations demanding the parliament be dissolved. (Al Jazeera, March 3)
The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) announced Feb. 11 that they have abducted a team of Red Cross workers in Mali who had been reported missing days earlier—the latest in a wave of new attacks by the jihadist militia. (Al Jazeera, Feb. 11) MUJAO was also blamed for a Feb. 7 attack that left least 30 Tuaregs dead at Tamkoutat, 80 kilometers north of the desert city of Gao. A young girl and a woman were among those killed in the road ambush. Initial reports had attributed the killings to a cycle of reprisals in ethnic violence between the Peul (Fulani) and Tuareg in the area. Authorities later said the attackers were actually MUJAO militants. (Reuters, Feb. 9; AFP, Feb. 7)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Feb. 13 reported that Libya has failed to grant due process rights to Saif al-Islam Qaddafi and other detained former government officials. On Jan. 23 HRW interviewed Qaddafi, who revealed that he and the other detainees have been denied access to legal counsel. Moreover, he claimed they were not afforded an opportunity to review the evidence submitted against them in relation to crimes they allegedly committed during the 2011 uprising. Following the interview, HRW deputy director Nadim Houry said, "The Libyan government should make greater efforts to ensure these detained former officials have adequate legal counsel and the opportunity to defend themselves fairly before a judge." Qaddafi and other detainees stated that their lawyers had no access to court documents, witness statements, or the evidence against them. Qaddafi has yet to appear before a judge.
Sectarian attacks in Algeria's desert city of Ghardaia (see map) have left five dead over the past week—including one young Berber man who a local official said was knifed to death and disfigured under the eyes of police. Local Mozabite Berbers, adherents of the Ibadi sect, are apparently being targeted by Chaamba Arabs, followers of the Malekite branch of Sunni Islam. Troops of the National Police and Gendarmerie were rushed to the city this weekend, and 10 arrested in connection with the violence. There have been repeated clashes in the city since December, but the violence reached a climax on Feb. 4 when a Mozabite teaching center was torched. (AFP, Feb. 9; AP, Algeria Press Service, Feb. 8)