North Africa Theater
Islamist militants occupying Timbuktu in northern Mali destroyed remaining mausoleums in the ancient city using pick-axes Dec. 23, a leader of the group said. "Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu, Allah doesn't like it," Abou Dardar, head of Ansar Dine, told the AFP. "We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area." (Al Jazeera, Dec. 23) Three days earlier, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to approve an African-led intervention force to oust the Islamist forces from Mali's north. (The Real News, Dec. 20)
The Libyan government closed the country's southern border with Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan on Sunday and declared southern Libya as a military zone. The move was in response to growing lawlessness in Libya's southern provinces of Ghadames, Ghat, Obari, al-Shati, Sebha, Murzuq and Kufra. Representatives of the southern provinces had been boycotting legislative sessions due to the government's failure to assist in curbing the violence in the region. Government officials indicated that the closure would only last until order has restored. There was indication that some of the problems in the southern provinces were due to deteriorating conditions in Mali and the expected international military response.
Mali's prime minister Cheick Modibo Diarra was forced to resign on state television Dec. 11 after junta troops arrested him for attempting to leave the country. President Dioncounda Traoré appeared on TV to appoint Django Cissoko, a French-educated university professor and presidential aide, as interim prime minister. Diarra's ouster was a show of force by a military that staged a coup in March, just as rebels were seizing the country's desert north. Following his arrest, Diarra was taken to a meeting with coup leader Capt. Amadou Sanogo, where he was accused both of failing to retake the north and of scheming to to disrupt talks now underway with the rebels.
The government of Mali is now confirmed to be holding direct talks with two of rebel groups that seized control in the country's north, in a bid to resolve the country's political crisis and head off foreign intervention. Top government officials gathered in neighboring Burkina Faso Dec. 4 for preliminary talks with delegates from the MNLA Tuareg separatist group and the radical Islamist organization Ansar Dine. But meanwhile in Washington DC, the chief of the Pentagon's Africa Command, Gen. Carter F. Ham, warned that rebel-controlled northern Mali has become a staging area for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). "As each day goes by, al-Qaeda and other organizations are strengthening their hold in northern Mali," Gen. Ham said in remarks at the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. "There is a compelling need for the international community, led by Africans, to address that." (VOA, Dec. 4; NYT, Dec. 3)
As Islamist miltias have established Taliban-like rule in northern Mali since taking the vast territory in March, regional powers have been muddling towards military intervention. On Nov. 21, Reuters reported that "military experts from Africa, the United Nations and Europe have drafted plans to retake control of northern Mali." We are told that "African leaders will this month seek a UN mandate to send a mainly West African force of some 4,000 to Mali to...back military operations to retake swathes of the Sahara desert from rebels." Quoted is Stephen O'Brien, the UK's first special envoy to the Sahel, speaking from Nigeria: "This deep insecurity... we have to recognize that, unless it is checked and it is not met, then it will have the potential for export." He called the Mali crisis was "a universal threat" with "the capability of threatening interests outside the...region." While no other European countries are mentioned, we may assume that France will play a leading role.
Undocumented foreign nationals in Libya are at risk of exploitation, arbitrary and indefinite detention, as well as beatings, sometimes amounting to torture, Amnesty International (AI) reported Nov. 13. The report urged Libyan authorities to confront issues of xenophobia and racism, which may in part be inspired by the prevalent belief that some foreigners were "mercenaries" who had supported the ousted regime. The report is based on visits with 2,700 foreign nationals in detention centers throughout Libya between May and September of this year, including pregnant women, and unaccompanied minors held over migration offenses. According to AI, many detainees displayed bruises said to be linked to the abuse, such as being beaten with metal wires, water pipes and rubber hoses. Among other hardships, the report indicated women at the centers are vulnerable to sexual violence from male guards. According to Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at AI, despite the overthrow of Moammar Qaddafi in 2011, undocumented foreign nationals currently face worse situations than before.
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is collecting evidence for possible new war crimes charges against Moammar Qaddafi supporters and opposition groups arising out of crimes committed during last year's civil war. According to an exclusive Associated Press interview, the ICC is specifically investigating crimes committed by rebel forces against Qaddafi loyalists and residents of Tawerga as well as further evidence against members of the former Qaddafi government. Tawerga was used to launch attacks on Libya's commercial capital, Misrata. The ICC is looking into allegations that rebel forces subjected civilians in Tawerga to killings, looting, torture and forced displacement. Bensouda also discussed Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, who is currently being held by a militia group until he will stand trial. She urged the group to allow Saif al-Islam access to a lawyer and, while she encouraged the group to allow the ICC to prosecute him, should Libya proceed with the national trial the ICC "will continue to monitor what Libya is doing."
Pretty funny. CIA director David Petraeus, responsible for countless civilian deaths in his lawless drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal territories, resigns in contrition saying, "I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair." (NYT, Nov. 9) After reading numerous accounts, we still can't figure out exactly how this came to light, but it seems to have originated in an FBI investigation of harassing e-mails apparently sent to an unnamed third party by Petraeus' paramour and biographer Paula Broadwell. After the Benghazi blow-out in the presidential debate last month, we were left wondering how the CIA could not have known for two weeks after the fact that the consulate attack was an armed ("terrorist") attack and not just a rowdy demonstration. Now we are left wondering how the director of the CI goddam A could not have known that the FBI was reading his e-mail. And it appears that, at least in the minds of the paranoid, there may be a link between these two apparent lapses...