North Africa Theater

US captures alleged Benghazi attack ringleader

US military forces conducted a secret operation in Libya June 15, capturing Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the alleged mastermind behind the September 2012 attacks on US facilities in Benghazi that killed four Americans including US Ambassador Chris Stevens. Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm John Kirby released a statement June 17 saying, "There were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all US personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya." According to the US State Department, Abu Khatallah is a senior leader in Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia [BBC backgrounder]. According to the BBC, he has been charged in a federal court in Washington, DC, with killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility, providing material support to terrorists and weapons charges.

ICC rules it may prosecute Qaddafi son

The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled (PDF) May 21 that the case against Muammar Qaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Qaddafi may proceed in the ICC and that Libyan authorities must immediately surrender Saif al-Islam to The Hague. Saif al-Islam is being tried on multiple crimes against humanity associated with the 2011 revolt in his home country. A majority of the ICC Appeals Chamber, with one dissenting opinion, rejected all four grounds of appeal brought by the Libyan government, concluding that it had not been effectively demonstrated that the domestic investigation in Libya would cover the same case that would be presented before the ICC. Judge Erkki Kourula stated that "the Appeals Chamber did not err in either fact or law when it concluded that Libya had fallen short of substantiating, by means of evidence of a sufficient degree of specificity and probative value, that Libya's investigation covers the same case that is before the Court." The Libyan government also presented arguments that the Pre-Trial Chamber had committed procedural errors when reaching its decision, to which the Appeals Chamber confirmed the Pre-Trial Chamber's decision. The judgment affirmed the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I decision (PDF) in May 2013 to allow Saif al-Islam to be tried in the ICC, which Libya subsequently appealed in June.

Battles in Benghazi as general goes unilateral

At least 14 people and possibly up to 10 more are reported to have been killed in fighting in Benghazi May 16 as forces led by Gen. Khalifa Hafter attacked an alliance of Islamist militias made up of the February 17 Brigade, Libya Shield No. 1 Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia. Gen. Hafter's attack on the militias was apparently not approved by the central government in Tripoli, which has disavowed it. Acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni condemned the operation as "a coup against the revolution." The fighting is the heaviest in Libya since the 2011 revolution. Eye-witnesses describe a city in chaos, with warplanes streaking low over rooftops, tanks on the streets, aerial bombardments and door-to-door combat. The February 17 Brigade claims to have shot down a helicopter used in the attacks. Fighting continues, with with all shops shut and the city virtually closed down—including the internet for much of the day, supposedly due to a short circuit. (Shabab Libya, Libya Herald, BBC News, May 16)

Qaddafi appears for trial via video conference

The Libyan News Agency reported on April 27 that the son of Moammar Qaddafi, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, and other ex-officials have appeared for their trial via video conferencing. Saif al-Islam Qaddafi appeared at his trial through video-conferencing because he has been held in Zintan by a militia since 2011. Human Rights Watch reported in February that Libya has failed to grant due process rights to Qaddafi and other detained officials. There are 37 defendants in the trial, facing a variety of charges including the killing of protesters during the 2011 civil war. The trial commenced earlier in April.

Algeria: Berbers join call for election boycott

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."

Calls for intervention against Libya insurgents

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."

Libya: North Korea oil export to spark civil war?

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 extradited from Niger to Libya

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.

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