Tag Archives: Libya

Africa and Europe – wall against migrants almost complete

The Conversation

May 3, 2017 11.00am SAST

Migrants abandoned on the Sudan-Libya border by smugglers in 2014. STR/EPA

A deal signed in Italy with tribes operating in southern Libya may be the last element of the barrier the EU has been constructing to exclude Africans from Europe. “To seal the southern Libyan border means to seal the southern border of Europe,” declared Italian foreign minister, Marco Minniti, following the signing ceremony in early April.

The deal, negotiated in secret with leaders of the Toubou and Awlad Sulaiman ethnic groups, holds real benefits for European politicians under pressure to halt the arrival of more African migrants and refugees. Minniti explained to the Italian newspaper La Stampa that:

The Libyan border guard service will be active all along the 5,000km [3,106 mile] long south Libyan border. And in the north, migrant sea traffickers will be dealt with by the Libyan coast guard which was trained by Italian experts, and which will be equipped with 10 motor boats from April 30.

The Libyan deal is the latest part of a barrier constructed to protect Europe’s soft southern underbelly – the Mediterranean. It may not be a physical barrier comparable to Donald Trump’s wall along the US-Mexican border, but it is nearly in place.

Avenues closing

The routes that Africans have used in the past to reach Europe are fast being sealed. There is currently next to no transit by sea from West Africa through the Canary Islands. Just 144 people made it to Spain by this route between July and September 2016 according to the most recent statistics from the EU’s border force, Frontex. More crossed from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on Morocco’s northern coast, but they numbered just under 3,000.

The route through the Sinai and Israel also has been closed. The brutal treatment of Eritreans and Sudanese in the Sinai by mafia-style Bedouin groups, who extracted ransoms with torture and rape, was certainly a deterrent in the past. But this route was fully sealed in December 2013 when the Israeli authorities built an almost impregnable fence, blocking entry via the Sinai.

Libya and Egypt have remained possibilities for migrants, but both are now becoming increasingly difficult to cross. The latest African Intelligence report from Frontex makes this clear.

Egypt became more attractive following the brutal killing and enslavement of Africans attempting to use the Libyan route. Many are Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians, who are subjected to the most appalling abuse by members of so-called Islamic State (IS).

But even Egypt has its drawbacks. As Frontex makes clear, many refugees dodge the authorities to avoid being forcibly repatriated to their countries of origin. This has left Libya – dangerous as it is – as one of the few viable routes into Europe. Blocking this has been critical to the success of the EU’s strategy, as a recent official assessment by the European Commission made clear:

Libya is of pivotal importance as the primary point of departure for the Central Mediterranean route.

This is why the deal signed in Italy is so important. As Frontex has explained, having the co-operation of the tribes in the area is vital if the route through the southern Libyan border is to be sealed:

The Tuareg and Toubou groups dominate the local human smuggling business thanks to the fact that their clansmen are spread on both sides of the border.

Questionable co-operation

The Italian proposals are very much in line with agreements the EU reached with African leaders during a summit held in Malta, in late 2015.

Libyan prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Italy for diplomatic talks in late March 2017. Angelo Carconi/EPA

The two sides signed a deal to halt the flight of refugees and migrants. Europe offered training to “law enforcement and judicial authorities” in new methods of investigation and “assisting in setting up specialised anti-trafficking and smuggling police units”. The European police forces of Europol and Frontex will assist African security police in countering the “production of forged and fraudulent documents”.

This meant co-operating with dictatorial regimes, like Sudan, that’s ruler, Omar al-Bashir, is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. But al-Bashir is now seen as a friend to the West, despite his notorious record. One of Barack Obama’s last acts as president of the US was to lift sanctions against Sudan.

It is clear that Europe is determined to do all it can to reduce, and finally halt, the African exodus. But one point needs to be emphasised: the EU’s “wall” is by no means the only barrier Africans have to confront.

As Frontex makes clear, several African states have their own system of fences, or are planning to build them. These include the Moroccan wall (or “berm”) to halt the Sahrawis crossing from Algeria, as well as fences along the borders between Niger and Nigeria, Tunisia and Libya and a planned fence between Kenya and Somalia.

The obstacles confronting African migrants and refugees en route to Europe are becoming ever more severe.

US to build $50m drone sight in Niger

Stars and Stripes

An MQ-9 Reaper performs a low pass during a first-ever air show demonstration at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., on May 28, 2016. U.S. Africa Command is expected to soon conduct surveillance operations at a new outpost in Niger, which is the only country in western Africa that has agreed to host MQ-9 Reapers.

 

By JOHN VANDIVER (http://www.stripes.com/reporters/2.1272?author=John_Vandiver) |

Published: September 30, 2016 STUTTGART, Germany —

A new base under construction in Niger could be capable of hosting armed U.S. drones, a sign that a counterterrorism mission in western Africa, focused until now on surveillance, has the potential to turn lethal, according to a news report.

The military is building a new site to host U.S. unmanned aircraft in Agadez, Niger, a strategic outpost that also puts Libya in the sights of long­range MQ­9 Reaper drones, according to The Intercept, an investigative news site.

The government of Niger, the only western Africa country to allow MQ­9 Reapers, will allow for armed drone flights, The Intercept reported, citing a previously classified U.S. document. “Moving operations to Agadez aligns persistent ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) to current and emerging threats over Niger & Chad, supports French regionalization and extends range to cover south Libya and Nigeria,” says a Pentagon document obtained by the Intercept.

For several years, the U.S. has been conducting remotely piloted surveillance out of Niger, a launching pad for reconnaissance on Islamic militant groups operating in Nigeria, Mali and elsewhere. Those operations have been based in Niamey, Niger’s capital, but will shift to Agadez. So far, there have been no reports of offensive airstrikes by the U.S. in the region.

U.S. Africa Command declined to say whether it intended to conduct armed drone flights in the future out of Agadez, where the U.S. base is expected to open next year. “The types of aircraft operating from Agadez will depend on available assets, the regional requirements of our host nations, and the requirements to meet mutual security goals,”

Samantha Reho, an AFRICOM spokeswoman, said in an email. “The arming of any aircraft, including remotely piloted aircraft, is done with the approval of and upon coordination with the Government of Niger.” AFRICOM, citing operational security concerns, said it would not discuss specifics about military efforts or “speculate on potential future activities or operations.”

“The location in Agadez will improve U.S. Africa Command’s capability to facilitate intelligence sharing that better support Niger and other partner nations, such as Nigeria, Chad, Mali and neighbors in the region and will improve our capability to respond to regional security issues,” Reho said. Instability in western Africa has been a growing concern for the United States.

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the militant group Boko Haram has been blamed for the killing of more than 10,000 people in 2015 and ranks as possibly the world’s most deadly terrorist group. While Boko Haram has not demonstrated a capacity to target the West, it has launched attacks on neighboring Niger and Cameroon, where the U.S. also conducts surveillance flights using deployed personnel.

“Security threats in the region underscore the need to conduct continuous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in West Africa and to share information with partners conducting operations in the region,” Reho said. “Due to the vast geography of Africa, Agadez is an ideal, central location to enable ISR collection to face the security threat across the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin region.”

In Africa, the U.S. military has become more overtly focused on counterterrorism operations in recent years. After years of operating in secret in Somalia, the U.S. now acknowledges that it has a small number of special operations forces in the country to assist local troops in their fight against the militant group Al­Shabab. In addition, U.S. airstrikes in support of Somali and U.S. troops on the ground have become more frequent. Meanwhile, AFRICOM is routinely launching airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Libya, where for two months warplanes have been targeting militants in the coastal town of Sirte.

vandiver.john@stripes.com (mailto:vandiver.john@stripes.com)

 

BBC

US invests $50m in Niger drone base for counterterrorism

  • 30 September 2016
Reaper unmanned aircraftImage 

The US is investing at least $50m in a military air base in Niger that will be capable of deploying drones.

The US already has a presence in the capital Niamey, where it shares an airbase with France’s anti-Islamist force, Operation Barkhane.

MQ-9 Reaper drones are stationed there.

But the new facility, in the central city of Agadez, will give Washington greater ability to use drones against Islamist extremists in neighbouring countries like Libya, Mali and Nigeria.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Michelle Baldanza, confirmed the US had agreed to pay for a new runway and “associated pavements, facilities and infrastructure”.

She estimated the cost at $50m but The Intercept, which first reported the story, said it is projected to cost twice that.

The investigative news site reports that it has obtained files that show the project is considered “the most important US military construction effort in Africa” and will be completed in 2017.

Drones, also known as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or RPAs (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) are used by the military for surveillance and to drop bombs, in places where it is too risky or difficult to send a pilot.

map of Niger showing capital Niamey in south west and Agadez, where the base is, in centre

Libyan asembly elects former diplomat as prime minister

Reuters Africa

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s national assembly elected a new prime minister on Sunday, the second within a month to face the daunting challenge of forming a government acceptable to the country’s many factions.

Ali Zeidan speaks during a conference on Libya, in Doha May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous

Ali Zeidan, a former career diplomat who had defected in the 1980s to become an outspoken critic of Muammar Gaddafi, was elected in a televised count just a week after the last prime minister was dismissed in a vote of no confidence.

Mustafa Abushagur was dismissed after his choice of ministers ran into protests both from within the assembly and from outside.

Libya desperately needs a viable government so that it can focus on reconstruction and healing divisions opened up by the war which toppled Gaddafi last year.

Zeidan told a news conference he would focus on restoring security to Libya.

“The security file will be my top most priority because all the problems that Libya suffers from stems from security issues. The government will be an emergency government to solve the crises that the country is going through.”

Zeidan, who had support from the leading liberal coalition, the National Forces Alliance, also suggested, however, that he was ready to take into account the views of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in his government.

“Islam is our belief system and the source for any jurisprudence, and anything against sharia is refused,” he said.

Gaddafi kept Libya broadly secular, but the uprising which toppled him has paved the way for the emergence of both Islamist and more secular factions, as well as opening up tribal and regional divisions in the North African country. Reuters

Libyan removes heads of militias

BBC

Libya’s army has removed the heads of two of Benghazi’s main militia groups, as it tries to reassert control over armed groups or disband them.

Libyan security forces in Tripoli, 23 September 2012

The February 17 Brigade’s Fawzi Bukatif and Rafallah al-Sahati’s Ismail al-Salabi were replaced by colonels.

On Sunday, interim leader Mohammed Magarief issued a 48-hour deadline for militias to vacate state property.

Last week saw demonstrations against armed groups in Benghazi following this month’s killing of the US ambassador.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others Americans died during an attack on the city’s US consulate on 11 September, which coincided with protests over an anti-Islam video produced in the US.

‘Stop using violence’

Islamist militants have denied being behind the attack, but the killing of the respected envoy sparked widespread fury among Benghazi residents.

The Islamist Ansar al-Sharia group was driven out of its headquarters in Benghazi over the weekend in unrest which left at least 11 people dead.

Meanwhile two militant groups based in the Islamist stronghold of Derna – a port city to the east of Benghazi – disbanded on Sunday.

Libya’s interim leaders have taken advantage of the wave of popular sentiment in order to bring the unauthorised groups under control, analysts say.

The government has relied on some brigades to help provide security in post-Gaddafi Libya, analysts say, and many will be watching to see how the authorities undertake the mammoth task of gaining full military control over the country.

“[We want to] dissolve all militias and military camps which are not under the control of the state,” Mr Magarief – the parliamentary speaker who acts as head of state until elections next year – said on Sunday.

“We call on everyone to stop using violence and carrying weapons in the streets and squares and public places.”  BBC

Libya – Benghazi police mutiny following US ambassador death

Reuters Africa

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan police in Benghazi have mutinied and refuse to serve under the man appointed by the government to take over security following last week’s storming of the U.S. consulate in which the ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

With no one clearly in charge in Libya’s second city and major oil port, the officer named by the government in Tripoli to replace both Benghazi’s police chief and the deputy interior minister responsible for the eastern region told Reuters that he had asked for the army to be sent in if he could not start work.

But as the appointee, Salah Doghman, spoke late on Tuesday, police threatened to walk out en masse if the leadership switch was forced through and accused central government in the capital of making local officials scapegoats for its own failures.

Global attention has been focused on security in Benghazi since September 11, when a residential villa being used by the U.S. mission was stormed after a violent protest about a film that has provoked anger among Muslims worldwide. U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens died of smoke inhalation while trapped alone inside the villa, and three other Americans were killed in the attack and during a rescue attempt that followed.

The incident highlighted the lack of central security powers in Libya and a proliferation of militias, a year after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in a revolt backed by the Western powers.

Wanis al-Sharif, the Libyan deputy interior minister based in the east of the country, and Hussein bu Ahmeida, the chief of police for Benghazi, were both fired by the interior ministry in the wake of the attack, and Doghman was named to take up both of their positions. But neither Sharif nor Ahmeida has left his post and Doghman said he was unable to take up either job. Read more…

 

Libya – two killed in Tripoli car bomb

BBC

At least two people have been killed in a twin car bomb attack in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, security officials say.

One blast took place near the former military academy for women, while the other struck close to the interior ministry. Armed police have surrounded both areas.

Several others were wounded in the blasts, which took place at dawn.

It is the first deadly blast since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi last year.

“Two explosions struck at dawn, the first near the military academy on Omar al-Mokhtar Avenue, the second near the interior ministry,” a security official told AFP.

The city’s head of security, Col Mahmoud Sherif, said the blast outside the military academy left two people dead and four or five injured.

No casualties were reported from the other explosion, he said.

Mr Sherif blamed Gaddafi supporters for the attacks, who he alleged were receiving financial backing from contacts based in neighbouring countries.

Earlier this month, Libya’s interim National Transitional Council handed power to a newly elected assembly, in the first peaceful transition in the country’s modern history.

Ending violence a problem for Libya’s newly-empowered Assembly

Reuters Africa

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Getting a grip on security in an often anarchic post-Gaddafi Libya will be the priority for the country’s new ruling assembly when it starts life on Wednesday, the deputy prime minister says.

Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour speaks to Reuters in Tripoli June 19, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour speaks to Reuters in Tripoli 

The National Transitional Council, political arm of the opposition forces that toppled Gaddafi a year ago, will hand over power to a national assembly elected in July in a late night ceremony.

It will be the first peaceful transition of power in Libya’s modern history but is overshadowed by several violent incidents in the past week that have shown the country’s precarious stability.

These include a car bomb in the capital Tripoli near the offices of the military police and an explosion at the empty former military intelligence offices in the eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of the revolt against Gaddafi.

“Clearly they worry us but at the same time we are investigating them. We are trying to find out who is behind this,” Deputy Prime Minister Abu Shagour told Reuters.

“We were able to improve security from when we started but there still a way to go. Security is top of the agenda for whoever will be coming into power.”

The interim government which took over after Gaddafi’s overthrow successfully led Libya to the elections. But it has struggled to impose its authority on a myriad of armed groups, mostly militias who took part in the uprising, who refuse to lay down their weapons. Disarming them remains a challenge.

On Sunday, security forces killed three armed men suspected of being behind seven failed bomb plots. That same day, the International Committee of the Red Cross suspended its work in Benghazi and the port city of Misrata after one of its compounds was attacked with grenades and rockets.  Read more…