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

Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More