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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid