UN experts: Libya is new focus of Daesh extremists

Libya has been in turmoil since a civil war in 2011 toppled Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 11 December 2019

UN experts: Libya is new focus of Daesh extremists

  • The country is considered by Daesh as “one of the main axes” of its future operations

UNITED NATIONS: UN experts say the interference of Chadian and Sudanese fighters in Libya is “a direct threat” to the security and stability of the war-torn country, which a leader of the Daesh extremist group has declared “one of the main axes” of its future operations.
The panel of experts said in a 376-page report to the UN Security Council released Tuesday that the presence of the Chadians and Sudanese “has become more marked” in 2019 as a result of the intensification of the conflict in Libya. It said their continued presence as organized groups or as mercenaries “may lead to further instability.”
Libya has been in turmoil since a civil war in 2011 toppled Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed. In the chaos that followed, the country was divided, with a weak UN-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, each supported by an array of militias and foreign governments.
Haftar launched a surprise military offensive April 4 aimed at capturing Tripoli despite commitments to attend a national conference weeks later aimed at forming a united government and moving toward elections. Fighting for Tripoli has stalled in recent months, with both sides dug in and shelling one another along the city’s southern reaches with increasingly sophisticated weapons.
While the LNA and the eastern government enjoy the support of France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries, the Tripoli-based government is backed by Italy, Turkey and Qatar.
“Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates routinely and sometimes blatantly supplied weapons, with little effort to disguise the source” in violation of a UN arms embargo, the report said.
The experts identified multiple cases of non-compliance with the arms embargo, the majority of transfers to Haftar’s LNA from Jordan or the United Arab Emirates and the majority to the Tripoli government from Turkey.
But, the panel said, “Neither side has the military capability to effectively decide the outcome to their advantage.”
The experts said counter-terrorism operations in Libya against Daesh and Al-Qaeda extremists by the government and Haftar’s forces, and an increase in activity by the United States Africa Command, continue to disrupt the structure of both groups and temporarily reduce their capacity to conduct operations.
But the panel also reported the new focus on Libya by Daesh, also known as ISIL, quoting a video in July by a Daesh leader in Libya, Mahmud Massud Al-Baraassi, also known as Abu Musab Allibi. In the video, the report said, “he highlighted that Libya was now one of the main axes of future ISIL operations, which are designed to compensate for the loss of ground” in Syria.
“ISIL in Libya finances its activities through robbery, kidnap for ransom, extortion of Libyan citizens and the cross-border smuggling of artifacts and other commodities,” the panel said. “Taxation of human trafficking networks continues to be a source of funding for ISIL in Libya.”
As for foreign fighters, the experts named five Sudanese armed groups operating in Libya — four in support of Haftar’s LNA and one backing the government’s forces. They named four Chadian armed groups — one supporting the LNA, two supporting the government, and one with 100 fighters whose factions support both side.
In one example, the panel estimated 1,000 Sudanese troops from Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces were deployed to Libya on July 25 by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, initially to guard critical infrastructure so Haftar’s troops could carry out offensive operations.
The panel said Sudan and Dagalo, who has command responsibility, both violated UN sanctions.
The Associated Press reported last week that Libyan government officials plan to confront Moscow over the alleged deployment of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside Haftar’s LNA. US officials also accuse Russia of deploying fighters through a private security contractor to key battleground areas in Libya in the past months.
The UN panel of experts, who monitor sanctions against Libya, made no mention of Russian mercenaries in the report. Several diplomats said they expect the Russian mercenary issue to be raised in the Security Council.


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 11 August 2020

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”