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Security Update – late December 2012 to early January 2013

Political

In an interview with Reuters, Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail stated that close to 6,000 rebels, roughly 10% percent of those in the High Security Committees (HSC), have signed up to join the police. He said 37 police training committees under the Ministry of Interior had been set up to handle the new recruits, and that he was prepared to change admission rules to accept recruits as old as 40 or 45, or those lacking a high school diploma.  According to several unconfirmed reports over the weekend, there are claims that Mahmoud Jibril’s National Forces Alliance (NFA) has pulled its members from the National Assembly citing concerns over delays in writing a constitution and mismanagement of the assembly, among others

On 7 January it was announced that Mohamed Abdulaziz, the current Minister of International Cooperation would also take on the role of the Minister of Foreign Affairs as the two ministries are merged.  They posts were a single ministry under the Kib administration but separated by Ali Zeidan when he announced his government at the end of October 2012.  The decision followed last weeks resignation of Ali Al-Aujali, who had originally been appointed by Zeidan to be Foreign Minister, but who never took up the post. His appointment was controversial from the start and although he was cleared by the Integrity Commission, there was persistent opposition in Congress to him taking office. Congress will be asked to endorse Abdulaziz’s appointment as it involves the merging of two ministries, but no serious opposition is expected. 

Tripolitania and Tripoli 

Security in several areas in the wesy of the country in late December remained fragile, with continued activity in Beni Walid, Mizdeh, Al Ajelat, and Misratah, with attacks against security forces and incidents attributed to lawlessness and a perceived rise in criminality.  Likewise, security in Tripoli remained of concern, with a number of clashes and an increase in reported abductions. Whereas the majority of abductions have typically targeted civilians for ransom, a number of abductions in mid to late December targeted more prominent individuals.  While the Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail has said he is confident he can restore stability to the capital within six months, he faces a number of security challenges, including the integration of rebel groups into the security apparatus and a general perception of an increase in low-level violence. 

Relations on both sides of the Libyan-Tunisian Ras Al Jadir border remained fractious with at least one closure in late December.  According to the Libya Herald, the Ras Al Jadir Dhehiba-Wazen border crossings were still closed as of 4 January, with dozens of Libyan truck drivers continuing to stage a sit-in in protest of repeated closures.  Separate reports have claimed that goods are now being shipped by sea between the two countries Tunisia and Libya.  On 7 January, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and his Tunisian counterpart Hamadi Jebali both publicly stated that steps were being taken to re-open the border crossings as a mater of priority.

Fighting erupted in late December between the rival Qadhafa and Awlad Suliman tribes in Sabha’s Al Manshiya district, following a small altercation that escalated into violence.  This led to several days of fighting by rival groups in the area.  By 4 January a degree of calm had been restored, unconfirmed reports claimed that the fighting had left several people dead and wounded and saw schools and local businesses temporarily closed.  A separate report claimed that a cease-fire was now in place between the two tribes, which was overseen by the Awlad Abu Yousuf tribe.

Separately, National Assembly Speaker Mohamed Magarief arrived in Sabha on 2 January as part of a fact-finding mission to the south.  Press Solidarity subsequently reported that the Fezzan Hotel in Sabha, where Magarief and his entourage were staying, came under attack on the night of 3 January, two security personnel were subsequently reported to have been killed in the attack.  A later report in Bloomberg Business News claimed that Magarief subsequently told Libyan state television that the attack on his hotel in Sabha was an assassination attempt, although this was dismissed in other reports.

Gulf of Sidra, Cyrenaica and Benghazi

The east of the country remained active in late December through into early January with a continuation of assassinations, explosions and a number of attacks against security facilities. The area from Benghazi to Tocra, Al Abyar, and Al Marj, in addition to Derna and the Jebel Al Akhdar region also remained active. Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail acknowledged that the wave of assassinations and explosions witnessed in Benghazi in late 2012 was the greatest challenge facing his ministry. Security throughout eastern Cyrenaica will remain precarious in January.

Press Solidarity reported that the head of the ‘17 February Union of Rebels’ Mohammed Al Barasi, claimed that he was targeted in an assassination attack on 31 December due to his political activism and efforts to improve the security situation in Benghazi.  In a separate report, AFP wrote that Islamist leader Ahmed Abu Khattalah claimed that one man was killed and another injured while planting a bomb to target him on the night of 6 January in Benghazi.  Khattalah is being sought by the US for possible connections to Ansar Al Sharia and the 11 September 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Khattalah led the Abu Ubayda Bin Al Jarrah Battalion during the war, which was reported to have been a sub-group of Ansar Al Sharia.

The Libya Herald reported that the head of the Benghazi Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Abdul Salam Al Mihdawi, was abducted in the evening of 2 January in Benghazi by an unknown armed group.  According to reports Al Mihdawi was taken as his vehicle stopped at a traffic light on Venezia Street in the Hawari district of the city.  In a separate but possibly related report, the Libya Herald reported the body of Colonel Nasser Al Maghrabi, another officer from Benghazi’s CID was found in the Sidi Faraj area of the city in the early hours of 5 January.

Libya Business News
This article was originally published here.

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