Libyan government boasts of new weapons despite arms embargo

A photo posted on the Facebook Page of the media bureau of 'Volcano of Anger' operation on Saturday, reportedly shows weapons, shipped to Libya's GNA, arriving at Tripoli port. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2019

Libyan government boasts of new weapons despite arms embargo

CAIRO/BENGHAZI, Libya: Fighters allied with the Tripoli government in Libya say they have received armored vehicles and “quality weapons” despite a UN arms embargo on the country.
A Facebook page linked to the Government of National Accord (GNA) posted photos appearing to show more than a dozen armored vehicles arriving at a port, without saying who supplied them.
The Facebook page is run by the media office for the GNA’s counter-offensive against Khalifa Haftar’s Libya National Army (LNA).
Supporters of the various militias allied with the government say the vehicles, which resemble Turkish-made Kirpi armored vehicles, were supplied by Turkey.
Spokesmen for Turkey’s military and Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month his government would stand by Tripoli authorities as they repel an offensive launched by the LNA
The battle for the Libyan capital has threatened to ignite a civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. The UN Security Council imposed an open-ended arms embargo on Libya in February of the same year.
Fathi Bashagha, the interior minister for the Tripoli-based government, also visited Turkey late in April to activate “security and defense agreements” between the two governments.
The offensive on Tripoli was launched April 4 by the LNA, which controls the country’s eastern half.
Haftar, who in recent years has been battling extremists and other militias across eastern Libya, says he is determined to restore stability to the North African country. He has received support from several countries in the region including the UAE and Egypt.
“The GNA supplies armor, ammunition and ... weapons, to its forces who are defending Tripoli,” read a statement published on Facebook.
The weapons embargo has been regularly violated by different groups in Libya, according to the UN. Haftar has accused Turkey and Qatar of supplying weapons to his rivals.
In a September report, the UN’s group of experts on the country noted an increase in the number of armored vehicles supplied to LNA.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month his government would stand by Tripoli authorities.
Initially controlling swathes of Libya’s east, Haftar launched an offensive in the south of the country in January before attacking the coastal capital last month.
His forces have been held back from the city center by pro-government forces, with fighting continuing on the outskirts of Tripoli and particularly in the southern suburbs.

Daesh attack
Two guards and a soldier were killed and four other people were kidnapped on Saturday in a suspected Daesh attack targeting Libya’s Zella oilfield, a security source said.
The death toll was confirmed by the National Oil Company (NOC) which condemned the attack in a statement on Saturday evening.
The attackers struck at an entrance gate to the field, which lies near the town of Zella about 760 km southwest of the capital, Tripoli, before fleeing, according to the source and local residents who asked not to be named.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through its Aamaq news agency later on Saturday.
The Zella field belongs to Zueitina Oil Company, which pumped 19,000 barrels per day on average in the last quarter of 2018 across all its fields.
An engineer told Reuters workers at the field were safe and facilities had not been damaged.
Libya’s NOC chief said on Saturday continued instability in the country could cause it to lose 95 percent of oil production.
Speaking in Saudi Arabia ahead of a ministerial panel gathering on Sunday of top OPEC and non-OPEC producers, Mustafa Sanalla also confirmed the Zella attack.
Islamic State has been active in Libya in the turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The militant group took control of the coastal city of Sirte in 2015 but lost it late in 2016 to local forces backed by US airstrikes.
In the last two years, the group has targeted three state institutions in Tripoli, home of the UN-backed government of national accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj.
Saturday’s assault took place as LNA, which is allied to a rival administration in eastern Libya, mounts an offensive to control Tripoli.


Thousands protest in Iraq to demand ouster of US troops

Updated 24 January 2020

Thousands protest in Iraq to demand ouster of US troops

  • A representative of Sadr took to the stage at the protest site and read out a statement by the influential Shiite cleric and populist politician
  • In the early hours of Friday, thousands of men, women and children of all ages massed under grey skies in the Jadiriyah district of east Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Thousands of supporters of populist Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr gathered in Baghdad on Friday for a rally to demand the ouster of US troops, putting the protest-hit capital on edge.

The march rattled the separate, months-old protest movement that has gripped the capital and the Shiite-majority south since October, demanding a government overhaul, early elections and more accountability.

In the early hours of Friday, thousands of men, women and children of all ages massed under grey skies in the Jadiriyah district of east Baghdad.

“Get out, get out, occupier!” some shouted, while others chanted, “Yes to sovereignty!“

A representative of Sadr took to the stage at the protest site and read out a statement by the influential Shiite cleric and populist politician.

It called for all foreign forces to leave Iraq, the cancelation of Iraq’s security agreements with the US, the closure of Iraqi airspace to American military and surveillance aircraft and for US President Donald Trump not to be “arrogant” when addressing Iraqi officials.

“If all this is implemented, we will deal with it as a non-occupying country — otherwise it will be considered a country hostile to Iraq,” the statement said.

Protesters then began peeling away from the square, tossing their signs in bins along the way, but thousands lingered in the rally camp.

The American military presence has been a hot-button issue in Iraq since a US drone strike killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary leader Abu
Mahdi Al-Muhandis outside Baghdad airport on January 3.

Two days later, parliament voted for all foreign troops, including some 5,200 US personnel, to leave the country.

The vote was non-binding and the US special envoy for the coalition against the Daesh group, James Jeffrey, said Thursday there was no “real engagement” between the two governments on the issue.

Joint US-Iraqi operations against IS have been on hold since the drone attack, which triggered retaliatory Iranian missile strikes against US troops in Iraq.

No Iraqi or US personnel were killed in Iran’s strike.

Long opposed to the US troop presence, Sadr seized on the public anger over the drone strike to call “a million-strong, peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations.”

Several pro-Iran factions from the Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force, usually rivals of Sadr, backed his call and pledged to join.

But separate anti-government protesters, who have braved violence that has left 470 people dead since October, fear their cause could be eclipsed by Sadr’s powerplay.

“Sadr doesn’t represent us,” one teenager said defiantly late Thursday on a blocked-off thoroughfare in Baghdad.

To head off Friday’s gathering and ramp up pressure on authorities to enact reforms, young demonstrators blocked streets in Baghdad and across the south this week.

There had been worries that angry crowds might attack the presidential palace or the high-security Green Zone, home to the US embassy and other foreign missions.

The move would not be without precedent for Sadr, who urged followers to storm the Green Zone in 2016 in a challenge to the government over undelivered reforms.

But there were no attempts on Friday morning to storm government buildings.

Sadr, 46, battled US forces at the head of his Mehdi Army militia after the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

He later branded himself a reformist and backed the recent anti-government protests when they erupted in October.

The cleric controls parliament’s largest bloc and his followers hold top ministerial positions.

Sadr is a notoriously fickle politician, known for switching alliances quickly.

His spokesman Saleh Al-Obeidy hinted that while others in Iraq unequivocally blamed either the US or Iran for instability, Sadr would choose a middle path.

“We believe that both are behind this ruin, and Sadr is trying to balance between the two,” he said.

Harith Hasan of the Carnegie Middle East Center said Sadr was trying to sustain his “multiple identities” by backing various protests.

“On the one hand, (he seeks to) position himself as the leader of a reform movement, as a populist, as anti-establishment,” Hasan told AFP.

“On the other hand, he also wants to sustain his image as the leader of the resistance to the ‘American occupation’,” partly to win favor with Iran.
Sadr may also have domestic motivations, Hasan said.

“This protest will show Sadr is still the one able to mobilize large groups of people in the streets — but it’s also possible he wants other groups to respond by giving him more space to choose the prime minister.”