North Africa Theater
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...
Obama seemed to score a win in last night's debate by catching Mitt Romney in a lie, or at least an error, over the question of when the deadly attack on the consulate in Benghazi was deemed "terrorism." Obama's snappy come-back "Get the transcript" is already an Internet meme. Here's how the Associated Press "Debate Fact-check" calls it:
Mitt Romney wrongly claimed that it took 14 days for President Obama to brand the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya a terrorist act...
OBAMA: The day after [the] attack... "I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime."
In an Oct. 15 statement, Human Rights Watch called on Tunisian authorities to investigate a series of attacks by religious extremists over the past 10 months and bring those responsible to justice. The statement noted a letter sent in July to the ministers of justice and interior, detailing six incidents in which apparent Islamists assaulted artists, intellectuals and activists. Human Rights Watch said no progress had been made in these cases, and it meanwhile received reports of another such attack against the organizers of a festival in August. "The failure of Tunisian authorities to investigate these attacks entrenches the religious extremists’ impunity and may embolden them to commit more violence," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
In response to the local uprising against lawless militias in Benghazi, Libya's national authorities are making moves to centralize militias under army command and disband the intransigent. New leadership has been announced for two Benghazi Islamist militias, Rafallah al-Sahati and the February 17 Brigades, while Ansar al-Sharia has been ordered to disband. In Tripoli, the army issued an ultimatum Sept. 24 giving unauthorized militias 48 hours to withdraw from military compounds, public buildings and other property. "The objective is to bring the militia under full control of the government," said Ahmed Shalabi, spokesman for Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur. "We want to see them inside the law, not outside of the law." But in Derna, an Islamist stronghold east of Benghazi, several militia—including Ansar al-Sharia and the Abu Slim Brigade—are reported to have abandoned their camps and slipped into the desert, raising fears that they are preparing an insurgency. (The National, UAE, Sept. 26; CNN Security Clearance blog, Bloomberg, Sept. 25; Libya Herald, Sept. 23)
Four protesters were killed in Benghazi Sept. 21 and over 20 wounded when citizens moved against militia groups in the eastern Libyan city, storming and occupying their bases. Hundreds of weapons were pilfered, and vehicles set ablaze. Among those seized was the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia, the Islamist militia linked to the attack on the US mission in the city that killed the ambassador and three other US personnel. The stage was set for confrontation when Ansar al-Sharia called a rally of its own supporters in the city's central Shajara Square after the "Save Benghazi" rally—to oppose the lawless militias that continue to operate with impunity in the city—had been called for the same time and place. "Ansar al-Sharia have done this deliberately," said Bilal Bettamir, an organizer of the Save Benghazi rally. "We have been planning our march for the past week, and they made their decision yesterday. They knew all about it." But the jihadists apparently retreated as some 30,000 advanced on the plaza after Friday prayers, chanting "No, no, to militias," with banners reading "The ambassador was Libya's friend" and related slogans. After rallying in the square, groups of protesters started to overrun the militia bases. The four were killed while attempting to occupy the base of the Raf Allah al-Sahati Brigade, another Islamist militia.
Uh-oh. We had just taken heart that the 9-11 anniversary in New York was low-key and uneventful. And now we just got news that hearkens back to the 2010 anniversary, with its depressing controversy over some wacky preacher's threat to do a mass Koran burning, sparking deadly violence in Afghanistan. Now BBC News reports that a US official was killed when the consulate was overrun by protesters in Benghazi—over some wacky film dissing the Prophet Mohammed produced by some stateside Islamophobic idiots. There were similar protests at the US embassy in Cairo, where the situation is especially depressing because a rumor (based on a slim kernel of truth) seems to have implicated the Coptic Christians, who were already in a precarious situation in Egypt. Background is provided the New York Times' The Lede blog, which also notes that Terry Jones makes cameo in the ugly affair...
We've been waiting for the other shoe to drop in Mali ever since April, when Tuareg rebels seized power in the north, only to be shortly overthrown themselves by an alliance of jihadist militias. Yeah, this is the middle of the Sahara, but how long is the "international community" going to allow an unrecognized extremist-controlled rogue state the size of France to persist? The jihadists continue to up the proverbial ante. Over the weekend, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) advanced into Mopti region, south of rebel-held Timbuktu, seizing the town of Douentza. (See map.) Unbelievably, it appears that this border zone on the edge of the vast rebel territory has been abandoned by the government, and the town was defended only by a local militia, the Ganda Iso (Sons of the Land)—one of several that the region's residents have been organizing autonomously to defend against jihadist aggression or (much more ambitiously) to eventually take back the north. MUJAO also made good on their threat to put to death an Algerian vice consul they had abducted. Mali's government this week reportedly made a formal request for military intervention to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), but is apparently refusing to confirm this to its own people, making no mention of it in state media. (AP, Sept. 7; Middle East Online, Sept. 3; MEO, Sept. 2; AFP, Aug. 31)