Libya: Al Qaeda Builds Another Castle In The Sand


December 16, 2012: Al Qaeda has established a presence in the southwest, especially in the town of Ghat on the Niger border. The Algerian border is also nearby. Niger has been hostile to Islamic terrorists but cannot stop the smugglers who take weapons from Libya, via Niger, to northern Mali. Arms dealers and smugglers, who have thousands of weapons looted from government storage areas last year, have concentrated in Ghat, to move weapons to Mali and other points south and also to supply local Islamic terror groups who have set up shop in Ghat. The Libyan government has little control over Ghat and can’t spare the resources to change that any time soon. Al Qaeda sanctuary has been created in Ghat. This is part of an al Qaeda plan to establish sanctuaries in Libya and northern Mali and form a coalition of the various Islamic terrorist groups in those two places. While there has been some progress, al Qaeda continues to find Islamic terror groups willing to fight each other, as well as the more traditional foes (the West and most governments in Moslem nations). This factionalism played a role in the collapse of Islamic terrorist sanctuaries in Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. Libya will probably be no different because some of the Islamic radical militias are already on bad terms with each other.

The government is under pressure to suppress the Islamic radical militias, especially those allied with al Qaeda. But there are too many of these armed Islamic terror groups around for the security forces to deal with. The newly (since November 14) organized government is scrambling to rebuild the welfare state Kaddafi had built to keep most Libyans quiet for decades. This has proved difficult because so many Kaddafi era bureaucrats fled the country and left records and government organizations in a disorganized state. This halted payment to a lot of foreign suppliers, some of whom are now refusing to deliver needed goods or services without additional, or even advance, payments. This distrust of Libya has slowed expansion of oil production as well, meaning a vicious circle of less money and more fear.

For the moment the government just wants to keep the several dozen major militias from interfering with the economy. But down the line (in a year or several) the government will try to disband these private armies. The U.S. is providing some help in the form of sharing intelligence collected on Libyan militias as part of an American effort to identify Islamic terror groups. The government has quietly allowed American intel operations in the country, although the U.S. is asking for more freedom to operate (including the use of UAVs for photo and electronic reconnaissance). Many government officials, especially those in the security services, are eager for the American help. That’s because Islamic terror groups have been sending death squads after senior police and intelligence officials, killing about twenty so far this year. This is part of an intimidation program intended to keep police pressure off Islamic radical groups. The Islamic terrorists want to take control of the government but know that the majority of Libyans are opposed to that. So the Islamic terrorists are trying to defend themselves by persuading the police to back off.

The judicial system, which had atrophied during decades of Kaddafi rule, is overwhelmed with cases demanding justice for crimes that occurred while Kaddafi ran the country or during the revolution last year. If there is no justice in the courts, many of the plaintiffs are threatening to seek help from their tribes, which often means a blood feud. The tribal councils have already handled a lot of disputes and have replaced the ineffective courts for a lot of routine business (contract and family disputes). The new courts have to prioritize their efforts and first in line are cases that impact the economy, especially the flow of goods that keep the population fed and otherwise cared for.

December 8, 2012: Tunisian police arrested two armed men, apparently from Libya as they tried to sneak into Algeria. The two were armed and contained maps (of potential targets in Algeria) as well as Islamic radical literature and other incriminating documents. Tunisian border police have been seeing more Libyan Islamic radicals of late.

December 5, 2012:  In the southern town of Sabha, 196 convicts escaped from a prison, after overwhelming their guards. Most of the escapees were common criminals but some were political or Islamic radicals.

December 4, 2012: Muhammed Jamal Abu Ahmad, an Islamic terrorist leader believed responsible for the attack that killed the American ambassador to Libya and three others last September, was captured in Egypt. U.S. intelligence agencies cooperated with Egyptian police to grab Ahmad, who was establishing al Qaeda bases in Egypt and Libya and spent most of his time in both countries.

November 29, 2012: Protestors representing wounded veterans of last year’s rebellion lifted their two day blockade of the country’s largest refinery. The government agreed to resume sending wounded rebels overseas for medical treatment. The problem is that the government wants to do this without allowing another huge bout of corruption. This all began six months ago when an anti-corruption effort caused problems with wounded rebels. This was because the government halted automatic payments for medical, travel, and living expenses of many wounded rebels sent overseas for medical treatment. All this was the result of a program, started last year, to provide medical treatment abroad for wounded rebels. The program was soon corrupted (not unusual in Libya). Local militia and tribal authorities were allowed to decide who was eligible to go abroad for treatment and the government automatically provided cash for that purpose. But soon anyone with the right connections, or a large enough bribe, got a trip to a European or Moslem country for "medical treatment." Many of those going abroad on this program were not ill but they got to take family members as well and expected the government to pay them a stipend (several hundred dollars a month) while they were abroad. Many of these travelers were actually migrating, and the government cut off the stipends and cracked down on who was going. The government had to do this because the "medical treatment abroad" program was draining huge amounts of cash from what little was available at the time and making most Libyans (who were not in on the boondoggle) angry. Some legitimate medical care cases were cut off as well and they have been demonstrating for justice or at least more money. The government still has a problem with the wounded veterans program because of the corruption so rampant in the country.

November 21, 2012: Three gunmen shot dead the police chief of Benghazi.




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