News / Middle East

Extremists Setting Up Shop in Libya

Libyan militias blockade the Justice Ministry in Tripoli April 30 demanding the ouster of officials linked to the late Moammar Gadhafi.
Libyan militias blockade the Justice Ministry in Tripoli April 30 demanding the ouster of officials linked to the late Moammar Gadhafi.
Growing lawlessness in southern Libya and an influx of Islamist militants from Mali are stoking worries that Libya’s security weaknesses are fast becoming a destabilizing factor in the region.
 
A former Libyan intelligence source has told VOA that al-Qaida-linked jihadists driven out of Mali by a French-led offensive earlier this year have set up at least three jihadist camps in southern Libya in recent months.
 
As a consequence, the source said, Libya has now become the headquarters for al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
 
The situation has triggered criticism from neighboring sub-Saharan nations and has caused Libya to appeal for technical assistance from Europe to help police the nation’s long borders.
 
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan reacted angrily to accusations last month that suicide bombers behind twin blasts in Niger that killed 24 crossed over from Libya. What appeared to anger the Libyan leader the most was the claim by Niger officials that Libya was becoming a safe haven for militants affiliated with al-Qaida.
 
Algerian firemen carry a coffin containing a person killed during the gas facility hostage situation, at the morgue in Ain Amenas, Algeria, January 21, 2013.Algerian firemen carry a coffin containing a person killed during the gas facility hostage situation, at the morgue in Ain Amenas, Algeria, January 21, 2013.
x
Algerian firemen carry a coffin containing a person killed during the gas facility hostage situation, at the morgue in Ain Amenas, Algeria, January 21, 2013.
Algerian firemen carry a coffin containing a person killed during the gas facility hostage situation, at the morgue in Ain Amenas, Algeria, January 21, 2013.
Zeidan insisted that Libya was working hard to be a good neighbor and that its own investigation had shown that no terrorists had crossed into Niger from Libyan territory.

In January, the Zeidan government was equally dismissive of Algerian claims that al-Qaida-affiliated militants used Libya to mount the deadly assault on an Algerian gas facility that left dozens dead. Algerian officials said the assailants wore Libyan military uniforms and drove vehicles with Libyan license plates.
 
Alarm rising over extremists in Libya
 
European officials have expressed their own concerns about the movement of radical Islamists into Libya. The terror group’s increased presence in Libya comes at a time the country is reeling from several threats to—or attacks on—Western targets.
 
French President Francois Hollande has pointed to Libyan lack of security as a cause for major worry. In May, the French embassy in Tripoli was bombed, and the French leader has argued publicly that there is a link between the bombers behind that attack and those responsible for the blasts in Niger on May 23.
 
Despite Zeidan’s public denials, he has started to focus attention on the south of Libya, and has been conferring with his officials to see what can be done to reverse what his aides say is a deteriorating situation in the south.
 
Zeidan also visited NATO headquarters in Brussels last week to seek assistance.
 
A team of NATO experts is due to arrive in Libya shortly to assess military training and border security needs. NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, says technical aid “would be a fitting way to continue our cooperation with Libya after we successfully took action to protect the Libyan people two years ago.”
 
In May, an advance team of border security experts from the European Union arrived in Tripoli to start up a mission separate from NATO to provide technical assistance and advice.
 
Libya has been plagued by instability since the overthrow of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi 18 months ago.  
 
Army and police barely functioning
 
The country’s army and national police are barely functioning and the Libyan government has had to deputize revolutionary militias to fill the security vacuum. In late April, those same militias blockaded key government ministries to force through reforms they wanted.
 
In addition, there has been episodic fighting in the south and east of the country between the Tabu, a non-Arab African minority in Libya, and the Zway, an Arab tribe. The two groups have had long-running disputes over identity and control of resources and experts say the resulting lawlessness has allowed the jihadists to establish themselves in the area.
 
And one expert, Frederic Wehrey, at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, says the government policy of allowing militias and tribal elders to mediate such disputes is only aggravating the ethnic rivalry.
 
“This informal strategy has failed to provide lasting peace or address the entrenched roots of the conflict,” Wehrey concluded in a recent study. “In some instances, it has ended up inflaming tensions even more.”
 
He said the militias had adopted a partisan approach, siding all too often with the Zway.
 
Joint efforts to police the tri-border region between Libya, Chad and Sudan have been plagued by disputes and lack of coordination, say UN officials.
 
The chief of staff of the Libyan Border Guard Force, Brigadier General Abdul-Khaleq Al-Senussi, acknowledges that regional security will partly depend on how effective Libya is in securing its borders. “We need everyone to stand by us and help us,” he said recently.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid