On a recent visit to Libya, I met a family living in an improvised shelter in a displaced persons camp east of Tripoli. One of the tens of thousands Libyan families uprooted by war, the family of seven was living in a room barely 20 paces long and half as wide. A clothesline, a pile of mattresses, a hot plate and the stench of body odor filled the room. Outside, they faced a shortage of potable water and abusive taunts from locals.
The spread of the novel coronavirus will have a devastating effect on the Middle East’s communities of refugees and migrants.… Seguir leyendo »
At a mud-caked intersection this month, some hundred-and-fifty feet from the front line, a lanky militia fighter approached and then abruptly turned around when he saw me, a Westerner. I’ve been covering Libya’s conflicts for years and noticed some minor but distinctive details about his appearance: a do-rag tied around his head, an olive green tactical vest, and perhaps a certain military bearing. The Libyan commander I was with confirmed it, with a chuckle: “That’s not a Libyan look.”
Fifteen minutes later, I was inside a poured-concrete villa that served as the living quarters for a group of war-hardened Syrian fighters.… Seguir leyendo »
On Thursday General Khalifa Hifter, the leader of eastern Libya militias, ordered his forces to advance on Tripoli, the capital, where the country’s internationally backed Government of National Accord is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
Ghassan Salame, the United Nations envoy to Libya, had recently urged opposing Libyan factions to come together at a U.N.-brokered national conference in mid-April to lay the groundwork for elections and pull Libya back from the brink. By ordering his forces toward Tripoli when U.N. Secretary General António Guterres was in the city to help organize the national conference, General Hifter has made his disdain for the peace efforts clear.… Seguir leyendo »
Two days before she was murdered in Benghazi on June 25, the Libyan human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis walked into a Tripoli hotel guarded by Islamist militias wearing three-inch heels and no veil.
She had little patience for such gunmen and their political backers, whom she accused of terrorizing Libya and derailing the country’s struggling democracy: “We have five courthouses in Benghazi and they are all shut down,” she told me. “If these Islamists say they are committed to defending the state, they should defend the state’s institutions.”
Ms. Bugaighis was at the vanguard of the 2011 revolution and had recently been appointed the deputy head of a national dialogue commission.… Seguir leyendo »
Libya is in the throes of its worst violence since the 2011 revolution, thrusting the country into a new phase of its troubled transition and posing new challenges for the United States.
A retired general, Khalifa Haftar, leading a diverse coalition of eastern tribes, former army officers and secular-leaning politicians, launched an attack against Islamist militias in Benghazi. Entire air force units and the city’s charismatic special forces commander defected to his side.
The violence soon spread to Tripoli. Haftar’s allies in the capital attacked the country’s elected legislature, the General National Congress, demanding its closure. Tribal militias from Zintan, in western Libya, who are hostile to the Islamists, joined Haftar’s forces.… Seguir leyendo »
Two years after the Libyan revolution, the police and army remain weak and hollow. Neglected by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in favor of more loyal units commanded by his sons, they are ill-equipped, understaffed, bloated at the senior ranks and tainted by their association with the old regime. Into their place have stepped the country’s 300 revolutionary militias — the groups that fought in the 2011 revolution that overthrew Colonel Qaddafi or arose in its aftermath.
On Saturday, throngs of protesters in Benghazi stormed the headquarters of a government-sponsored militia, Libya Shield, whose members opened fire, killing at least 27 people. Weary of Libya Shield’s overbearing presence, the crowds had demanded that the regular army and police take its place.… Seguir leyendo »
While many Americans have been riveted by recent congressional testimony and debate about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, this country has been caught in its own drama.
In recent days, amid Libya’s worst political crisis since the 2011 revolution that toppled Moammar Gaddafi, the United States and other Western governments have evacuated their diplomatic staff. A Marine quick-response team and a Special Operations unit were placed on alert. But this is precisely the time for greater engagement, not retreat, not only with Libya’s beleaguered government but also with its increasingly assertive civil society. Engagement is crucial for securing Libya’s future and preventing its weakness from inflaming conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East.… Seguir leyendo »
While the world’s attention is fixed on the worsening bloodshed in Syria, Libya teeters dangerously on the brink.
A year after the Libyan revolt began, a weak transitional government confronts armed militias and mounting public frustration. Defiant young men with heavy weapons control Libya’s airports, harbors and oil installations. Tribes and smugglers rule desert areas south of the capital. Clashes among various militias for turf and political power rage.
The Libyan government sits on the sidelines avoiding conflicts with militias it cannot control. Recent attempts to subdue Qaddafi holdouts in the town of Bani Walid ended in humiliation; government forces were outgunned and outfought.… Seguir leyendo »