Libya’s chaos continues to feed extremist threat

A picture taken on December 25, 2018 shows security officers at the scene of an attack outside the Libyan foreign ministry headquarters in the capital Tripoli. (AFP)
Updated 27 December 2018
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Libya’s chaos continues to feed extremist threat

  • The last attack claimed by Daesh targeted Tripoli’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, killing three and causing major damage to one of the capital’s supposedly most secure buildings
  • Daesh has “benefited from divisions” in the aftermath of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime falling in 2011

TRIPOLI: Two years after the Daesh group lost the Libyan city of Sirte — its last stronghold in the country — the extremists continues to launch attacks, including in the heart of the capital, profiting from government weakness and general chaos.
The last attack claimed by Daesh targeted Tripoli’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, killing three and causing major damage to one of the capital’s supposedly most secure buildings.
It followed two similar attacks, one in September against the headquarters of the national oil company that killed two and another that hit the electoral commission in Tripoli in May, when 14 were slain.
“Daesh has proved that it is capable of maneuvering and of hitting strongly, two years after the loss of its stronghold in Sirte,” said Libyan political analyst Jalal Al-Fitouri.
Its capabilities persist despite “the hunting down (of its fighters) in the Libyan desert by Libyan armed groups and the US military, which has launched numerous strikes against Daesh in the south,” he said.
Daesh has “benefited from divisions” in the aftermath of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime falling in 2011, Fitouri noted.
Libya is divided between several rival entities, chief among them an internationally-recognized Government of National Accord led by Fayez Al-Sarraj in Tripoli and a parallel administration in the east loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.
The political chaos and insecurity benefits jihadist groups, which have carried out numerous attacks in recent years, including more than 20 in 2018 against institutions linked to the GNA and Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.
“In the absence of a monopoly on the use of force in the country, Daesh has been able to consolidate,” said Mohammed Al-Agouri, a professor at Benghazi university in eastern Libya.
“It targets Haftar’s and Sarraj’s forces at the same time — as well as symbolic sites — in order to say ‘We are still here!’ and to recruit new foreign and local sympathizers,” he said.
“If the country’s authorities do not unite... a loss of control (over the situation) could come at any moment,” Agouri warned.
The GNA has sought to improve security in the capital in order to convince Western nations to re-open embassies, which have been shuttered since 2014 due to violence.
But Tuesday’s attack once again exposed the extreme weakness of the GNA, which has repeatedly failed to impose its authority over militias in the capital since it came into being in 2016, despite promising security sector reforms guided by the UN.
These reforms — announced after deadly clashes in September between rival groups in and around Tripoli — seek to reduce the influence of militias whose tentacles extend throughout the capital and its state institutions.
Tuesday’s attack against the foreign ministry risks extinguishing the GNA’s hopes.
“The security situation appears to be good, but in reality it is not,” GNA interior minister Fathi Bash Agha admitted to reporters several hours after the attack.
He recognized that the promised reforms have not been implemented.
He also implicitly accused some armed groups of not obeying orders, and acknowledged the GNA’s weakness in the face of supposedly loyal militias.
“The security chaos that persists creates fertile ground for Daesh,” said Agha.
He spoke of his frustration over the lack of resources available to his ministry, including arms.
The GNA on Tuesday renewed a call for a UN arms embargo imposed on the country since 2011 to be eased, “in order to bolster the security situation and fight terrorism.”
But analysts are dubious about this logic.
“The international community will not allow Libya to import arms, because the government is weak in dealing with the militias,” said Fayrouz Al-Dali, a political science professor in Tripoli.
“The fears of seeing these arms finding their way into bad hands persists,” she warned.


Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

Updated 53 min 18 sec ago
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Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

  • Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country
  • The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation

PRISTINA: Kosovo prosecutors have requested the house arrest of 16 women repatriated from Syria, saying they are suspected of joining or taking part as foreign fighters there.

The women appeared on Wednesday in court in Pristina, a day after 10 other women were put under house arrest. None have been charged with a crime.

Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country.

The women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Centre in the outskirts of Pristina but were freed to go home after 72 hours.

Ten women were seen entering Pristina Basic Court in a police escort on Tuesday. The court said in a statement later that they had been placed under house arrest on charges of joining foreign armed groups and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq from 2014 to 2019.

The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation and more of them are expected to appear in front of judges on Wednesday. The prosecution has yet to file charges.

After the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return to their home countries.

Kosovo's population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but the country is largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.

Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.

International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

On Saturday, 110 Kosovar citizens — the four alleged foreign fighters, 32 women and 74 children — were returned to Kosovo with assistance from the United States, the first such move for a European country.

Authorities say there are still 87 Kosovar citizens in Syria.