Pre-Election Violence Surges In Libya

This is my log of recent violence in Libya and highlights the instability of the country as elections loom. The incidents have been gleaned from various reliable sources. It is not exhaustive.

June 9

Nighttime clashes between Libyan military units and Tibu tribesmen in the city of Al Khufra, near Libya’s borders with Chad and Sudan. Reports of five dead and a dozen wounded. Tibu tribesmen say they came under attack first — an accusation denied by the Libyan military.

Al Khufra has seen several clashes in recent weeks mainly between Tibu and Zwai tribesmen. In February, the transitional government dispatched Libyan armed forces units to the town.

June 10

Thirteen people killed in a second day of clashes between Libyan soldiers and Tibu tribesmen.

Armed thieves ransack a couple of office containers in Tripoli belonging to the Libyan Coast Guard then destroy them with RPG fire.

June 11

Grenade is thrown at two vehicles ferrying a British delegation around Sabha in the Southern region of Libya. No injures. Not clear if the assailant was targeting the British – the vehicles sported UN logos.

British diplomatic convoy comes under an RPG attack in Benghazi. Two security guards injured but the British ambassador unscathed.

Zintan militiamen seize several government vehicles in Tripoli. The action they say is a response to the government’s failure to settle their wage demands.

June 12

Heavy fighting reported in Mizdah between Zintan militia and Mashasha tribesmen, leaving 20 dead. There have been frantic appeals by locals to the government to put an end to the fighting.

June 13

Sixty-nine anti-aircraft missiles found discovered inside a fishing boat on Egyptian-Libyan border.

Two dead and a dozen left wounded after clashes in Sabha involving the “national army”.

A small mob gathered in Tripoli outside a courthouse near the Radisson Blu Hotel to demand the release of the former Gaddafi-era Minister of External Affairs Abu Zaid Omar Dorda, whose trial started that day. A nervous guard responded by firing into the mob, killing a driver working with a European Union delegation. The delegation responded by decamping from the Radisson for a day.

Several left dead and wounded in clashes in Al Khufra involving the Libya Shield force and members of armed groups.

Former Gaddafi-era internal security official Ibrahim Laaribi killed in a car bombing.  He is the second former intelligence officer to be assassinated.

June 17

Libyan government declares a military zone in the west of country (which will presumably mean that journalists and independent observers will be prohibited officially from visiting the area) after days of clashes between rival militias and tribes.

The zone includes the towns of Zintan, Mizdah and Shegayga, about 150 kilometres south of Tripoli. Most of the fighting in these towns involves Zintan militiamen backed by Guntrara tribesmen from the Mizdah pitched against Mashashya tribesmen based out of the town of Shegayga.

Sources have told me there are dozens of dead.


Posner: No Comment

Tripoli: This is what passes for State Dept. media relations these days. Hold a press conference with Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner at a remote location. Then tell the media that the press conference will be at 5pm. Start it early. Result no English-language wire agencies and no foreign newspapers. A CNN producer made it and so did I for Newsweek/Daily Beast but at the end. As Posner was rushing to the airport, he had no time to respond to two questions from me. Brilliant.

Does Dobbs Encourage Attacks on Latino Immigrants?

The U.S. cable ‘news’ networks become ever more bizarre. Now CNN has agreed to run an advert from Media Matters attacking Lou Dobbs during his show. The group slams him for his outspoken support for the ‘birthers’ movement’s claim that Obama was not native born and therefore shouldn’t be U.S. President. Senior CNN executives looked as if they might order Dobbs to back off: CNN’s President recently sent out a network-wide memo urging anchors and producers to treat the ‘birthers’ cautiously. But Dobbs has continued to ignore the memo and there have been no consequences.

Media Matters isn’t the only group unhappy with the toxic nature of the Lou Dobbs Show. The National Council of La Raza, the Latino civil rights organisation, has long been frustrated with the nature of Dobbs’ coverage of immigration and border issues: whenever Dobbs launches on one of his rants about immigrants, especially those from south of the Rio Grande, arson attacks on La Raza offices increase and there is a noticeable jump also of phone threats.

La Raza is currently considering how best to proceed: the group fears that if  it makes too much of the correlation between attacks and threats and Dobbs’ coverage, that will merely embolden him.

A Passport to Make Phone Call

Why did innovative Apple go into business with AT&T, a company that makes GM appear cutting-edge? Last week, I got a new I-phone – great. Alas, AT&T is the exclusive carrier in the U.S. and what a nightmare company to deal with. Now I learn that to be able to make an overseas call and have international service I have to fax (!?) AT&T a copy of my passport, a utility bill, etc. Now that is 21st century! And people wonder why old US companies need the taxpayers to bail them out. This customer is off – back to T-mobile.