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INTERNATIONAL
Friday, November 10, 2017
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Hilltop tribe’s bitterness a challenge
for Libya peace effort
N pushing for deal after six years of turmoil
— Reuters
BANI WALID: Elders of a
powerful tribe that
defended the regime of
former leader Muammar
Qaddafi have a message
for the UN as it tries to
broker peace in Libya —
talk to us or you will fail.
The UN launched a new round
of negotiations in September to
unite a country that splintered
along political, ideological and
tribal lines during and after the
2011 uprising that unseated
Qaddafi.
Western officials hope the talks
will pave the way for elections next
year and produce a functioning
government that could curb mili-
tant activity, tackle migrant smug-
gling and stabilize the nation’s
rapidly deteriorating economy.
But conversations with the robed
elders of the Warfalla tribe at their
meeting in a hall in the former
Qaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid
show how difficult that will be.
Located 145km southeast of
Tripoli, the isolated hilltop town did
not accept the fall of Qaddafi in
2011 and held out against rebels
two months longer than the capital.
“We are for dialogue... but the
UN has never contacted us,” said
Muftah Eftais, leader of the coun-
cil of elders.
Winning over losers of the 2011
revolution will be key to stabilizing
the North African country. The
Warfalla account for 1.5 million
out of six million Libyans, accord-
ing to the elders council.
“We are represented in all
regions. If the UN wants a solution
for Libya you need to talk (to us)
the tribes,” said Eftais, drawing
words of support from the assem-
bled tribesmen.
The UN Libya office said its
envoy, Ghassan Salame, met a
group of Libyan notables includ-
ing a Warfalla representative from
Bani Walid in late October, and
that other members of the UN mis-
sion had been in touch with town
officials on political, human
rights, humanitarian and eco-
nomic matters.
At least two Warfalla delegates
have also taken part in the latest
talks in Tunis, a UN official said, but
Eftais said the elders did not feel
represented by them, highlighting
Libya’s multi-layered divisions.
‘We were in paradise’
Bani Walid residents express their
loyalty to the old regime much more
openly than they did on a Reuters
visit to the town in 2014. In the main
square a Qaddafi-era green flag is
hoisted next to pictures of “martyrs”
killed in the 2011 violence and sub-
sequent fighting.
The elders govern Bani Walid
and control their own armed force,
in the absence of any national
authority or army. Asked if life was
better under Qaddafi, several
exclaimed: “We were in paradise.”
Cut off from Tripoli, they said
their town has suffered even more
than others from late public sal-
ary payments that have left people
across the country struggling to
get by, and from what they say are
arbitrary detentions for their sup-
port of Qaddafi.
“None of us 60 elders have been
to Tripoli since 2011 because we
fear getting arrested,” Eftais said.
Two elders died in an ambush by
unidentified gun men on the way
home from peace talks in a town
west of Bani Walid.
Some say claims of isolation and
discrimination are exaggerated.
“The problem with Bani Walid is
that they sided with Qaddafi and
Qaddafi lost, and they can’t live
with that,” said Abdulrahman
Swehli, the head Tripoli’s High
State Council who is from the rival
town of Misrata.
Economi troubles have deepened
in Libya since 2014, when a battle
for the capital led to rival parlia-
ments and governments being set
up in Tripoli and the east.
A 2015 agreement sought to unite
the two camps but instead created a
third, UN-selected government, led
by Prime Minister Fayez Seraj. It has
struggled to make an impact after
failing to win approval frommilitary
commander Khalifa Haftar, the
dominant figure in eastern Libya.
The new UN talks, held in Tunis,
were suspended last month as nei-
ther side could agree on what role
Haftar should play. He is said to
have presidential ambitions but is
a divisive figure.
The Bani Walid elders say they
do not support either camp.
“We are neither with Seraj nor
with Haftar. Since 2011 the same
people have been... in the GNC
(Parliament), government, play-
ing musical chairs,” said Eftais.
The elders want the talks to take
place in Libya, under the supervi-
sion of Libyans.
After negotiations between rival
parliaments, the UN says it is plan-
ning a “national conference” that
would gather hundreds of represen-
tatives from across Libya and make
any deal as inclusive as possible,
bridging deep communal rifts.
Bani Walid’s enmity with
Misrata, a wealthy port city 125 km
to the northeast, shows how deep
such divisions can run.
Historical hostility between two
communities that fought in the
early 20th century was reignited
when Misrata was shelled for
weeks by Qaddafi forces in 2011.
The following year, Bani Walid
was attacked by fighters from
Misrata and other towns, who
daubed slogans on the walls that
can still be seen today.
In 2014, Misratans became the
dominant force in Tripoli and the
main source of military opposition
to Haftar. But Misratan extremist
armed groups have been sidelined,
while Haftar has managed to con-
solidate power in the east.
As in other towns that forged
alliances with Qaddafi during his
42-year rule, many in Bani Walid
are nostalgic.
State employees are often unpaid,
schools and hospitals have been run
down, and citizens have been caught
up in the intermittent conflict.
Several residents said they
would vote for the late Qaddafi’s
most prominent son, Seif
Al-Islam, who made a last stand
in Bani Walid before disappearing
into the desert. His whereabouts
are not clear.
A Libyan man walks toward a damaged hotel in the city of Bani Walid, Libya. It was hit during
the NATO-backed campaign in 2011. (Reuters)
urds displaced by Iraq advance fear reprisals if they return home
— Reuters
ZINANA: Four hours after first hearing
gunfire outside his home, Abu Riwar
bundled his wife and six children into his
car and drove to a remote village 120 km
away.
“We left with the clothes on our back
and nothing else,” said Abu Riwar, a
member of the Kurdish security forces
from the ethnically mixed town of Tuz
Khurmato, seized last month by Iraqi
troops and Iran-backed Shiite paramili-
taries.
“If the militias found out I was
Peshmerga, they’d have slaughtered me.”
They burned his home to the ground
instead, his neighbors, who captured it
on camera, told him.
Tuz Khurmato was part of disputed
territory, outside the Kurdish region of
northern Iraq but held by Kurdish forces
known as Peshmerga, until last month,
when the central government recaptured
it in a lightning advance to punish the
Kurds for staging an independence refer-
endum that Baghdad called illegal.
The majority of Tuz Khurmato’s 50,000
Kurds — around half of the population
of the ethnically mixed city — fled the
Iraqi advance to Kurdish-held villages
and towns in nearby countryside, said
Mayor Shalal Abdul.
The mayor himself fled to the village
of Zinana, 120 km east of Tuz Khurmato,
where he spoke to Reuters.
Most residents have no plans to return
home, citing reports of continuing
attacks.
“We can’t cope if it continues like
this,” said the chief of police in Zinana,
adding that the government and aid
groups had been too slow to respond.
“Families have taken over school
buildings, houses and the hospital, but
we can’t turn them out on the streets.”
According to the UN, more than
180,000 people were displaced by the
Iraqi government offensive on disputed
territories last month. Aid agencies say
most of those displaced are Kurds, though
members of other minorities, including
some of Tuz Khurmato’s Sunni Arabs and
Turkmen, also fled.
Until Baghdad’s offensive, Tuz
Khurmato had been jointly administered
by Kurdish forces, local police and the
Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces
(PMF) paramilitaries, allied with the
town’s Shiite Turkmen population.
Though the Turkmen and the Kurds
had worked together to push Daesh mili-
tants out in 2014, the town’s fragile
coalition soon fell apart and led to open
hostilities. In the run-up to the Kurdish
independence referendum, tension esca-
lated between the communities.
‘Crushed by those monsters’
In Zinana, displaced Kurds told
Reuters stories of abuse at the hands of
the Shiite paramilitaries who captured
Tuz. One man showed a video he had
filmed depicting the crushed body of a
relative. Family members said the vic-
tim had been shot in his car, dragged
out alive by paramilitaries and run over
by a tank.
“He was crushed to death in front of
me, by those monsters,” said Abu Alan,
the relative who filmed the body. “He was
a good man from a good family.”
A video circulated on the Internet,
apparently of the same incident, shows a
tank running over a body while uni-
formed paramilitaries stand by.
The paramilitaries deny carrying out
any abuse.
“Joint patrols by the PMF and govern-
ment forces are securing the town, to
prevent any attacks against Kurds,” said
Ali Al-Hussaini, a spokesman for the PMF
in northern Iraq and a commander of
the largest of the armed groups, the Badr
Organization. “It’s our job to keep Tuz
safe for all sects.”
The mayor, who is collecting stories
and evidence of abuse, said seven people
were killed when the town was captured,
including the man who was crushed by
the tank and three other civilians. He
said he also knew of three women and
one man who had been raped. Reuters
could not verify those accusations.
More than 1,000 businesses and 2,000
homes were looted, burned down or
demolished, the mayor said.
He showed Reuters images of houses
and shopfronts in Kurdish areas, blown
up and scorched, their residents’ belong-
ings being carted away by men in mili-
tary fatigues. Other pictures showed
paramilitaries sitting in the mayor’s own
office, feet propped up on his desk and on
his Kurdish flag.
UN: Daesh’s
footprint
spreading
in northern
Somalia
— Reuters
NAIROBI: A militant faction loyal
to Daesh has increased its follow
ing in northern Somalia from
few dozen last year to up to 20
this year, a UN report said, day
after the group came under US ai
attack for the first time.
The increase in strength of the
Daesh spin-off group has attracte
attention because some security
officials fear it could offer a safe
haven for Daesh terrorists fleeing
military defeat in Syria or Iraq.
“The Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant (ISIL, also known a
Daesh) faction loyal to Sheik
Abdulqader Mumin — estimated...
in 2016 to number not more than a
few dozen..., has been growing sig
nificantly in strength, and (now)
consists of as many as 200 fight-
ers,” said the report by a panel o
UN experts obtained by Reuters.
“Even a few hundred armed
fighters could destabilize the
whole region,” said a regional dip
lomatic security source.
“It(air strikes) is a recognition
from the US that the situation in
terms of the (Daesh) faction in
Puntland is becoming increasing
ly critical.”
Somalia has been riven by civil
war and Islamist militancy, thoug
more in the south than in th
north where the Puntland regio
is located, since 1991 when cla
warlords overthrew a dictator
before turning on each other.
Friday’s airstrikes failed to kil
Mumin, the security source said
But Abdirizak Ise Hussein, director
of semi-autonomous Puntland’s
spy service, said the strikes kille
about 20 militants, including
Sudanese fighter and two Arabs.
Almost all Mumin’s fighters ar
Somali, the UN report said, thoug
the group is believed to include a
Sudanese man sanctioned by th
US.
The group also has contacts in
Yemen.
111 Daesh suspects arrested in Ankara police raid
Menekse Tokyay
ANKARA: A total of 111 Daesh suspects
were detained during a massive anti-
terror operation on Thursday in Ankara
involving 1,500 Turkish police.
Digital and other organizational
material belonging to the terror group
were confiscated in the operation, car-
ried out after detention warrants for
245 suspects were issued by the Ankara
Public Prosecutor’s Office.
As part of a long-standing campaign
against Daesh cells in Turkey, one of the
primary aims of the operation is to
counter an offshoot group within
Daesh, “Tatlibal Group,” named after
its Turkish leader Bayram Tatlibal.
Some 27 Daesh suspects were also
detained in the northwestern province
of Bursa through simultaneous opera-
tions at various addresses.
The operation followed a similar
one this week in the central province
of Kayseri in which four Daesh terror
suspects were arrested. One of the
suspects, an Iraqi man, recently
shared footage of him killing his own
brother — who opposed Daesh on his
social media account — on the
instructions of the terror group. The
man confessed to infiltrating Turkey’s
southern province of Hatay through
Syria 20 days ago.
Emel Parlar Dal, associate professor
in the International Relations
Department at Marmara University in
Istanbul, said that the main focus of the
operation was sleeping cells and the
recruitment network of Daesh in Turkey,
including Tatlibal Group.
“With the foreign fighters returning
from Syria and Iraq following the grad-
ual loss of their territories, there is a
risk that these cells may be reactivated,”
Parlar Dal told Arab News.
The downfall of Daesh in the Syrian
city of Raqqa did not signal the end of
the group, she said.
“This operation clearly shows that
the Daesh threat is still concrete and
serious for Turkey.”
She said: “In this new period, Daesh
is likely to use Turkey for a recruitment
center for its foreign fighters as well as
a logistics hub, which requires an
exhaustive analysis about its possible
strategies for using its networks in
countries like Turkey to reactivate
itself.”
According to Parlar Dal, this new
period requires a joint action plan
between Turkey and Western countries
to eradicate new security threats.
This is not the first time that Turkish
police have targeted the Tatlibal
Group, which has been under surveil-
lance since 2014, in its anti-terror
operations.
In January 2016, Ankara counter-
terrorism police detained 10 suspects
belonging to the group. But its cadre
recently made a decision to move to
Syria, and the leader of the group is on
the run.
Sertac Canalp Korkmaz, a researcher
in security studies at ORSAM, a think
tank in Ankara, said the territorial
losses of Daesh and the diminishing of
the so-called “caliphate” project might
traumatize its militants and sympathiz-
ers, which could push them toward
organizing some “sensational” terror
attacks.
“At this point, the active cooperation
between the intelligence and the police
forces has resulted in such successful
operations and it is very important for
maintaining Turkey’s domestic securi-
ty,” Korkmaz told Arab News.
The Tatlibal group is known as a
“takfir” group inside Daesh, and it is
tasked with recruiting militants to the
conflict zones.
“These people judge and accuse oth-
ers of being unbeliever, or kaafir, and
such terror groups abuse this concept.
For them, many values in Turkey —
such as republic, democracy, and secu-
larism — do not coincide with their
own interpretation of religion.
Therefore, they target Turkey and simi-
lar countries,” Korkmaz said.
Since Aug. 15, 2016, Turkish police in
Istanbul have launched 136 operations
against Daesh and arrested 968 sus-
pects.
Last month, Istanbul police foiled a
Daesh bomb attack in a crowded
shopping mall on the European side
of the city. As a result of the opera-
tion, two Daesh-linked cells were
brought down.
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