TIME Libya

Gunmen Storm Libya Hotel, Killing American, 9 Others

Mideast Libya
In this image made from video posted by a Libyan blogger, the Cortinthia Hotel is seen under attack in Tripoli, Libya, on Jan. 27, 2015 @AliTweel—AP

Ten people are dead, including an American, a French citizen and three people from Asia

(TRIPOLI) — In the latest sign of Libya’s descent into chaos, gunmen stormed a luxury hotel used by diplomats and businessmen in the capital on Tuesday, killing 10 people, including an American, a French citizen and three people from Asia.

Two attackers were killed following an hourslong standoff that included a car bomb that exploded in the parking lot of the seaside Corinthia Hotel. It was unclear if other gunmen were involved in the attack, which also killed five Libyan guards.

In Twitter posts and a statement on social media, a Tripoli affiliate of the Islamic State group was said to be behind the attack, but there was little evidence to back up the claims in a country that has been awash in armed extremist groups who would be equally suspect.

The SITE intelligence group reported that the two dead gunmen were identified online as sympathizers of IS and said the militants said the hotel was targeted because it houses diplomatic missions and “crusader” security companies. However, The Associated Press was unable to independently confirm the claims, which didn’t conform with the group’s earlier postings from Libya.

Militants claiming the attack on behalf of a group called the Islamic State of the Tripoli Province posted a brief video showing burned cars in the hotel’s parking lot and said it was to avenge the 2013 abduction by American commandos of a Libyan al-Qaida operative, Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Abu Anas al-Libi. Al-Ruqai died earlier this month in a New York hospital of complications from liver surgery while awaiting trial for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The assault highlights the growing threat from militant groups that operate with near impunity in a country torn between rival governments since the 2011 toppling and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Since Gadhafi’s ouster, the country has been torn among competing militias and tribes vying for power. Libya’s post-Gadhafi transition has collapsed, with two rival governments and parliaments — each backed by different militias — ruling in the country’s eastern and western regions.

Amid the bloody political rivalry, multiple armed groups have emerged, including radical Islamist militias who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, including one based in the eastern city of Derna, a stronghold of radical groups, as well as regional militias and groups loyal to the former regime.

Tripoli, which has been controlled by Islamist militiamen mostly from the western city of Misrata since the summer, has been hit with a series of car bombs and shootings. The internationally recognized government has been forced to relocate to the country’s east, where a former general has waged an offensive against Islamist militias, including Ansar al-Shariah, blamed for the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead.

A senior U.S. State Department official confirmed that a U.S. citizen was among those killed in Tuesday’s attack, but did not provide further details. Cliff Taylor, the CEO of a Virginia security company, Crucible LLC, identified the slain American as David Berry, a contractor with his company.

A French national and three citizens of a former Soviet republic were also among the dead, according to a spokesman for a Tripoli security agency, Essam al-Naas.

The Malta-owned Corinthia hotel, among the most luxurious in Tripoli, is frequented by diplomats and foreign businessmen visiting Libya, and is also where the United Nations support mission in Libya usually holds its meetings. The mission is currently hosting political talks with rival Libyan groups in Geneva, trying to resolve the country’s political and security crisis.

The hotel had Italian, British and Turkish guests but was largely empty at the time of the attack, according to hotel staff members. There was also a visiting American delegation.

The militia-backed government in Tripoli said the target was Prime Minister Omar al-Hassi, who normally resides at the hotel but was not there at the time of the attack. Spokesman Amr Baiou told reporters al-Hassi was unharmed.

A security official in Tripoli, Omar al-Khadrawi, said initial investigations pointed to a group of former Gadhafi loyalists.

Reports about how the attack unfolded were conflicting and it was not immediately possible to reconcile the different accounts.

Hotel staffers initially said that five masked gunmen stormed the Corinthia after security guards at the hotel’s gate tried to stop them, firing randomly at the staff in the lobby as guests fled out the hotel’s back doors into the parking lot.

One staffer said a car bomb exploded in the parking lot after a protection force entered the lobby and opened fire on the gunmen. Two guards were immediately killed, according to the staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being targeted by militants.

The car bomb incinerated at least five cars in the parking lot and damaged windows in the hotel’s facade, he said.

Al-Naas, the security agency spokesman, said after a standoff of several hours, the attackers threw a grenade at the security forces on the hotel’s 24th floor, killing themselves and a security guard. Ten people were also wounded in the attack, including security guards and guests.

“The operation is over,” al-Naas said but added that the streets around the Corinthia remained closed. He said an investigation was underway and the car used by the gunmen is believed to be the same one used in an assault on the Algerian embassy 10 days ago that wounded three guards.

The U.N. Security Council condemned the attack “in the strongest terms” and urged all countries to help bring “the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice.” In a statement approved by all 15 members, the council also urged all parties in Libya “to engage constructively” with U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon and resume “an inclusive political process aimed at addressing the political and security challenges” facing Libya.

The Corinthia previously came under attack in 2013 when gunmen abducted then prime minister Ali Zeidan, who was living there. He was released several hours later.

TIME Libya

Democrats, Republicans Spar Over Benghazi Investigation

Trey Gowdy, Elijah Cummings
Trey Gowdy, left, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, and Elijah Cummings, the ranking member, confer as the panel holds its first public hearing to investigate the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 17, 2014 J. Scott Applewhite—AP

Finger pointing and accusations of political grandstanding mar the third public hearing on the investigations into the Benghazi attacks

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — A special House committee investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, began last year with promises of bipartisanship and cooperation.

Eight months later, the panel has devolved into finger pointing and accusations of political grandstanding and power plays.

As the panel holds its third public hearing Tuesday, Democrats complain that the panel’s Republican chairman has excluded them from crucial steps in the investigation, while Republicans say Democrats are playing politics.

In a strongly worded letter, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, said the panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., has used different standards for Republicans and Democrats and has held secret meetings with witnesses from the State Department and other agencies.

“Perhaps most importantly,” Cummings wrote in a letter last week, Gowdy has “withheld or downplayed information when it undermines the allegations we are investigating.” The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter and two others sent by Democrats to Gowdy.

Gowdy said in response late Monday that he has the authority to unilaterally subpoena witnesses, but he promised to give Democrats a week’s notice before issuing such a subpoena.

“Bipartisanship is a two-way street,” Gowdy said in a letter to Cummings. “I have known you to be a fair partner and expect for that cooperation to continue.”

Committee spokesman Jamal Ware was less diplomatic.

He said Gowdy was disappointed that Democrats had released “correspondence that attempts to politically characterize sources’ private discussions with the committee.”

As chairman, Gowdy “has operated the Benghazi Committee in a more-than-fair and fact-based manner,” Ware said, adding that Gowdy will continue to address any legitimate Democratic concerns.

“He will not, however, allow the committee’s investigation to be hamstrung by politics.”

Such an outcome appeared increasingly likely, as a bipartisan tone set last May when the 12-member committee was created appeared to dissipate.

Gowdy and Cummings continued the bipartisan tone at a hearing in September and again in December, but behind the scenes have disagreed sharply.

Gowdy has said he will pursue the facts of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. post in eastern Libya that killed Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador, and three other Americans.

“Facts are neither Republican nor Democrat,” Gowdy said when the panel was created last May.

Gowdy’s approach has drawn criticism from some conservatives, who accuse him of failing to stand up to what they see as resistance from the Obama administration to produce documents and witnesses related to the events in Benghazi, a topic that has been the subject of numerous congressional investigations.

A report by the House Intelligence Committee report last fall found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attacks. Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the panel determined there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

Cummings, who has clashed with Republicans such as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., over Benghazi and other issues, has previously praised Gowdy for a bipartisan approach to the Benghazi inquiry.

But he said in a letter sent Friday that he and his colleagues have grown increasingly concerned that they are being shut out by the GOP majority. Cummings cited a GOP-approved rule that allows Gowdy to meet privately with committee witnesses and unilaterally issue subpoenas for witnesses or documents “without any public discussion or debate, even if there is significant disagreement from other members of the committee.”

He and other Democrats “simply ask for a public debate and a vote by committee members on these actions when there is significant disagreement,” Cummings wrote.

The Jan. 23 letter is the third Democrats have sent to Gowdy since November. None of the letters had previously been made public.

In one letter, dated Nov. 24, Cummings told Gowdy the committee inquiry has “taken a sharp turn for the worse and is becoming what you strenuously insisted it would not – another partisan investigation of the Benghazi attacks that blocks Democrats from meaningful participation.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said he was “deeply skeptical” that the Benghazi committee would operate fairly, but nonetheless agreed to serve on the panel as one of the Democratic members.

“Now, after learning that we have been excluded from parts of the investigation, and that the majority has held secret interviews with key witnesses and withheld information . I fear this skepticism may have been all too justified,” Schiff said.

He called on Gowdy to lay out the scope of his investigation immediately and adopt a set of rules “that will give Congress and the country the assurance that this will not be yet another politicized and partisan exercise at taxpayer expense.”

TIME energy

Could Libyan Militants Spark an Oil Price Rebound?

Oil Storage tank
Getty Images

Militants target oil export terminals

Violence in a major oil producing country may finally halt the oil price slide.

Analysts have speculated whether the slump in oil prices would be reversed by an uptick in demand, a buying spree by investors in cheap commodities, or high-cost producers being forced out of the market. But it may be a sudden burst of violence in Libya that provides the spark to oil prices that the markets have been looking for.

Libya has experienced several waves of violence in recent years, violence that has caused periodic disruptions in Libya’s oil sector.

Prewar oil production topped 1.6 million barrels per day, a level that fell to nearly zero in early 2014. But violence receded in the summer as militant groups reached a political breakthrough with the internationally-recognized government. That allowed Libya to ramp up its oil output, contributing to market oversupply and the fall in prices.

However, the country’s fortunes have quickly taken a turn for the worse once again. Militants attacked Libya’s main oil export terminal in mid-December, launching rocket attacks on oil storage tanks. After two weeks of fighting, several storage tanks were set ablaze on December 25. Around 850,000 barrels of oil were destroyed in the fires.

Two major oil ports – Es Sider and Ras Lanuf – are shuttered due to violence. The government has already declared force majeure on the ports, citing the violence as a justification for its inability to export oil.

Then on December 28 the government launched airstrikes on the militant groups in response. And reports surfaced on December 29 that fires were raging at several oil storage tanks at the Es Sider port. The Libyan government requested assistance from the governments of Italy and the United States to help extinguish the blazes.

“Three fires are burning and three others have been put out,” Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said by phone on December 29. There are a total of 19 storage tanks on site with the capacity to hold 6.2 million barrels of oil.

Oil production has fallen from 900,000 barrels per day in October down to just 350,000 barrels per day. Other estimates peg Libya’s oil production at just 230,000 barrels per day.

The turmoil in Libya may help oil prices rebound from their five-year lows. Futures for Brent crude were up 1.3 percent in intraday trading on December 29.

To be sure Libya is still a relatively minor oil producer compared to other countries, and the oil markets have no doubt come to see the country as an unreliable source of production when predicting future supply and demand. In fact, analysts are predicting that there will still be around 1.5 to 2 million barrels per day of excess supply heading into 2015.

But it is not as if the 700,000 barrels per day or so that have been suddenly knocked offline in Libya are meaningless. That could amount to about a third of the glut predicted for the coming year, and given the uptick in prices on the news, keeping this oil off the market would certainly lead to higher prices.

Even still, it is far from clear if it will significantly move the needle on prices. On the same day as the Libyan government launched airstrikes, Algeria, a fellow member of OPEC, said that it was necessary for OPEC to step in and correct for the supply and demand mismatch. “For us, OPEC has to intervene to correct the imbalance and cut production to bring up prices and defend the income of its member states,” Youcef Yousfi, Algeria’s Oil Minister, said on December 28.

That is because despite the uptick in oil prices on news from Libya’s burning oil port, Brent crude prices are still hovering near five-year lows. It may take more than an outage in Libya to force oil prices back up in a major way.

This post originally appeared on OilPrice.com.

Read more from Oilprice.com:

TIME Libya

France Says Ready to Strike Extremists on Libya Border

Francois Hollande
French President François Hollande prepares to answer a reporter's question during a live interview on French radio station France Inter in Paris on Jan. 5, 2015 Remy de la Mauviniere—AP

President Hollande said French forces will strike Islamic extremists "every time they leave these places where they are hiding"

(PARIS) — France said Monday its troops south of Libya are ready to strike extremists crossing the border, but the speaker of Libya’s internationally recognized parliament rejected any Western military intervention in his country.

International concern has been mounting over Libya, which is mired in its worst fighting since Western and Gulf-backed rebels overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi and killed him in 2011.

Today two rival governments are each backed by an array of militias fighting it out across the country, and extremists in the east have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

U.N.-sponsored talks between the rival governments did not take place Monday as scheduled.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said recent development on the ground “have not been conducive in any way to holding a dialogue.” He said the U.N. is urging the rival governments to agree on the timing and a venue “that complies with the necessary security requirements.”

French President Francois Hollande urged the United Nations to take action to stem growing violence in the North African country and the transit of arms from Libya to militant groups around the Sahel region.

“We are making sure to contain the terrorism that took refuge there, in southern Libya. But France will not intervene in Libya because it’s up to the international community to take its responsibility,” Hollande said Monday on France-Inter radio.

While he ruled out unilateral intervention inside Libya, he said French forces will strike Islamic extremists “every time they leave these places where they are hiding.”

To do that, France is setting up a military base in northern Niger, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the lawless Libyan border region. About 200 troops are deployed in the desert outpost at Madama. French and U.S. drones are already operating out of Niger’s capital, Niamey.

African leaders urged Western countries to intervene in Libya at a security summit in Dakar last month. On Monday, Libyan leaders called on the Arab League for help but rejected armed Western intervention.

“I call formally on the Arab League to intervene to protect the vital installations in all of Libya and to prevent all these terrorist formations from using violence,” Libyan parliament speaker Aqila Issa told reporters in Cairo after a meeting on the subject.

“Foreign military intervention in Libya is rejected. If we need any military intervention, we will ask our Arab brothers,” he added.

Issa did not elaborate on what type of aid he sought, but the Arab League, which supports the internationally recognized government based in the eastern city of Tobruk, called for a U.N. arms embargo to be lifted.

“We are now talking about how to restore security and stability in Libya and lift the embargo on arming the Libyan army in a way that will stabilize security,” Deputy Secretary General Ahmed bin Helli said.

Mohammed Bazzaza, spokesman for the internationally-recognized government, told the Dubai-based al-Hadath TV station that his government welcomes international cooperation to fight terrorism, but did not mention outright military intervention.

French airstrikes helped drive Gadhafi from power. Later, French troops largely expelled al-Qaida-linked insurgents from northern Mali in 2013, with some fleeing to Libya. France has now launched a military operation against Islamic extremists in five of its former colonies in the Sahel region, with 3,000 troops, 200 armored vehicles and six fighter jets in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mali.

In the time since Gadhafi’s overthrow, rival militias widely believed to be backed by regional powers have fought for control of Libya. An alliance of Islamist and other militias captured the capital Tripoli last year and revived an earlier government and parliament.

The Tripoli government accuses Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates of backing its rivals in Tobruk, including by carrying out airstrikes. The Tobruk government says Turkey and Qatar back Islamist militias.

Dujarric, the U.N. spokesman said the bombing of a Greek-owned tanker at an eastern city controlled by Islamist extremists Monday by fighter jets from the internationally recognized government “underscores the need for all parties to reach an agreement.” Libyan and Greek officials said two crew members were killed and two wounded.

___

Rohan reported from Cairo. Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations

TIME Libya

Oil Prices Rise as Conflict Rocks Libya

Smoke rises from an oil tank fire in Es Sider port
Smoke rises from an oil-tank fire in the Sidra port in Libya on Dec. 26, 2014 Reuters

Ongoing hostilities between militants and government forces is stoking concern

Oil prices jumped as markets opened on Monday morning, after falling during two consecutive sessions, as ongoing hostilities between militants and government forces stoked concerns about crude supplies from the North African nation.

Fighting in Sidra late last week was responsible for causing a fire at one of the country’s main export terminals, resulting in the destruction of 800,000 barrels of crude, according to Reuters.

Over the weekend, the central government struck back at militant fighters in retaliation, launching air raids over the city of Misratah, where one of the country’s strongest rebel groups is based, reported the BBC.

Libya has been in a state of perennial instability since the overthrow and murder of former strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

[Reuters]

TIME Libya

Egyptian Involvement Sparked Libya Oil Port Battle, Expert Says

General view of the industrial zone at the oil port of Ras Lanuf on March 11, 2014.
General view of the industrial zone at the oil port of Ras Lanuf on March 11, 2014. Esam Al-Fetori—Reuters

Islamists suspected Libya's government in Tobruk was receiving reinforcements from Egypt

An ongoing battle for two of Libya’s key oil ports began last weekend because Islamist-leaning militias feared Egypt planned to reinforce the Libyan elected government based in the eastern city of Tobruk, according to a Tripoli-based analyst.

The fighting that has closed the oil terminals at Ras Lanuf and Sidra underscores how fears of Egyptian meddling in Libya is leading to an escalation of the country’s armed conflict. “They had information or belief that the Tobruk side was being reinforced in its military capacities,” says Claudia Gazzini, senior Libya analyst based in Tripoli with International Crisis Group. “The more evidence there is of Egyptian involvement, the greater the risk the opposing side might make abrupt strategy choices, like the one we saw over the weekend.”

Libya’s internationally-recognized government in Tobruk is locked in armed conflict with a rival government run by the Islamist-leaning Libya Dawn movement, based in Tripoli. The Tobruk government is allied with Khalifa Heftar, a general who declared war earlier this year against Libya Dawn. Heftar’s campaign, dubbed Operation Dignity, has triggered some of the deadliest fighting since the 2011 armed uprising that overthrew the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.

Egypt is concerned about instability from Libya spilling over into its territory. Egypt shares a long desert border with Libya that has been used to smuggle weapons, particularly since the 2011 uprising. More broadly, the Egyptian government led by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who led the military’s 2013 overthrow of Egypt’s elected Islamist government, regards the Tobruk government as one ally in what they see as a regional struggle against political Islam in which policy is guided primarily by religious rather than practical considerations.

“They want to reshape Libya’s political landscape where the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islamists don’t have a powerful role,” says Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington D.C. “The larger fear of having a country next door or where the Brotherhood is dominant is a real political concern for them.”

Though Egyptian officials deny direct military involvement, Egypt has taken a number of steps to aid the Tobruk side. In August, U.S. officials confirmed that Egypt allowed its airbases to be used in surprise airstrikes by the United Arab Emirates on targets in Libya. In November, Egypt sent special forces on two raids inside Libya, according to Western officials quoted by the New York Times.

In addition, forces allied to the Tobruk government have received weapons from Egypt. Gazzini says that in October she observed an Egyptian ship unloading in Tobruk port and that officials there confirmed that the ship delivered light arms.

In interviews in Cairo, Egyptian officials acknowledge that Egypt shares intelligence with the Tobruk authorities, but deny direct military operations. “Our position on the crisis in Libya is clear: to provide information, expertise and training,” says Hossam Khairallah, a former general in Egypt’s intelligence service. “But the conditions do not permit or favor intervention in Libya.”

Libya is just one arena where Egypt joins the wealthy Gulf monarchies of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in what Egyptian officials see as a regional power struggle with the forces of political Islam. Opposing them are other states, including Qatar and Turkey who are regarded as more sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. The rivals also back competing rebel groups in Syria, as well as rival factions in Lebanon and in Palestinian politics.

“It’s clear that Egypt is involved in supporting Heftar’s forces in some respects,” says Chris Chivvis, a senior political scientist at the Santa Monica-based Rand Corporation. “Libya is at risk of becoming a proxy war for this conflict between authoritarian militarism and conservative Islamism, with different regional powers backing different sides.”

Inside Libya, analysts say the perception of Egyptian assistance for the Tobruk government is driving the calculations of the warring factions. “It has a very damaging effect for the country, because if it’s not true it gives the impression to the Heftar side that they have the military capacity, or will have the military capacity to carry out this military strategy for the liberation of Tripoli,” says Gazzini.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Badr Abdelatty says Egypt is prepared to offer training and capacity building for the internationally-recognized government and its military forces, but denied reports of direct intervention. “We are coordinating with neighboring countries to empower the legitimate government, legitimate institutions, namely the House of Representatives and current government in Tobruk,” he says. “We are not going to intervene militarily in Libya. This is not our business.”

Alaa Youssef, the spokesman for Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, also denied Egyptian intervention in Libya. “President Sisi has made it clear several times that the Egyptian army will only secure the borders. In no way could it go beyond that,” he says.

Egypt is also concerned about the emergence of a militia in the eastern Libyan city of Derna that proclaims its allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the militant group that overran large parts of Iraq and Syria this year. The group is just one of dozens of individual militias operating throughout the country since the implosion of Libyan state institutions following the 2011 civil war. Since 2011, insurgents have exploited Libya’s vast desert borders to smuggle weapons into Egypt and other neighboring countries. “It’s on the top of our priorities here in Egypt. We cannot afford having a failed state on our western border,” says Abdelatty.

In Egypt, the military and police face persistent deadly attacks carried out by insurgents based in the Sinai Peninsula who also pledged loyalty to ISIS this year. Those attacks accelerated following the military’s July 2013 overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since the takeover, the authorities have jailed thousands in a vast crackdown on the Brotherhood and other political opponents.

As a result, some Egyptian officials characterize the battle in Libya as an extension of the domestic fight against political Islam. “It’s imperative to deal with all terrorist groups with the same firmness,” says Abdelatty. “There is no difference from our point of view between ISIS, Fajr Libya [Libya Dawn], the Muslim Brotherhood, Jabhat An-Nusra, or Ansar Al-Sharia. They are all the same.”

Heftar, the general spearheading the current assault on the Islamists, is a former commander in Gaddafi’s army who trained under the CIA in the 1980s with the aim of toppling the Libyan dictator. In his current campaign against the Islamists, Heftar has modeled his rhetoric on that of Egypt’s President el-Sisi, a popular former military commander viewed by some Egyptians as a national savior and reviled by others as a new despot. Framing his campaign as an assault on terrorists, Heftar has said the viability of his campaign depends on the level of outside support, according to Wehry.

But after more than six months of fighting, Heftar’s forces have failed to dislodge the Islamists, and some Egyptian officials have lost their enthusiasm for the general. “I’m somehow disappointed,” says Sameh Seif el-Yazal, a retired general from Egypt’s General Intelligence service. “He should have interfered in some occasions where he did not,” he says, naming as an example the Libyan town of Derna, which was taken by extremists in late November. “We saw Derna falling to ISIS without any work from his side.”

Analysts say that Egyptian policy has also been influenced by lobbying from members of the former Gaddafi regime. “We know that senior members of the old regime are very close to the Emirati royal family and also to Egyptian security officials,” says Gazzini. “They are part of this process of creating the movement for the support for the Tobruk faction.” Gaddafi’s cousin and former aide Ahmed Gaddaf Al-Dam, lives in exile in Egypt.

For the Tobruk government and its allied forces, a victory on the battlefield would only yield more problems. “These Islamist groups are not going to go quietly,” says Wehrey. “They’ll probably shift to a different set of tactics, a terrorist campaign. They’ll go underground. It’s entered a dangerous phase.” In Libya, the only certainty is continued bloodshed.

TIME Libya

ISIS-linked Camps in Libya Fan Concerns About Growing Militant Threat

Libya Derna's Islamic Youth Council ISIS
An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, which pleged allegiance to the Islamic State, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya, Oct. 3, 2014. Stringer—Reuters

With the elected government struggling to enforce its writ in the north African country, a top U.S. general has confirmed the presence of ISIS training camps in eastern Libya

When the commander of U.S. armed forces in Africa confirmed the presence of what he described as training camps linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in Libya this week, he threw a spotlight on a growing source of anxiety in the Middle East: namely the erosion of the Libyan state and its consequences for both Libyans and the wider region as militants fill the vacuum.

General David M. Rodriguez’s remarks followed the news earlier this year that a local militant group called the Islamic Youth Shura Council had declared its allegiance to ISIS’s self-proclaimed state in Iraq and Syria. The group operates in eastern Libya, which is where the American general said ISIS had “begun its efforts.”

When asked about the possibility of ISIS also moving into western Libya, Gen. Rodriguez said, “We’re continuing to watch that. But most of it is over in the east right now.” ISIS’s activities in eastern Libya, he added, were “mainly about people coming for training and logistics support right now.” “As for as a huge command-and-control network, I’ve not seen that yet.”

Although Gen. Rodriguez did not name the Shura Council, Issandr El Amrani, the head of the North African Project at the non-profit International Crisis Group, says he understood the remarks as a reference to the group. “That’s the only group we know of that has publicly made such an allegiance.”

Based in the eastern town of Derna, the group emerged as Libyan state institutions unravelled amid the ongoing conflict between the country’s elected government and Islamist militias, who have seized the capital Tripoli and proclaimed their own rival administration. More than three years after a NATO-backed uprising toppled the dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s elected representatives have been forced to flee to the small port city of Tobruk.

With pro-government forces focusing on fighting the Islamist militias in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi, much of the rest of the country has come under the control of a patchwork of other militias of various sizes and ideologies. In Derna, the Shura Council and other militants have been terrorizing the local population, carrying out at least three summary executions and ten public beatings in recent months, according to Human Rights Watch. In August, the Shura Council is reported to have overseen the public execution of an Egyptian man accused of murder, while more recently, eight men caught drinking alcohol were said to have been publicly flogged in a Derna square in late October.

“The real danger that the international community is concerned about is where does this lead over time?” says El Amrani. “How do places like Derna and the deep south look in five years time? Are these going to be hubs not just for Libyan radicals but for radicals from across the region?”

For now, though, the militants in towns like Derna operate on relatively small scale, according to El Amrani. “Generally speaking, this is people who have a few pickup trucks and guns on them and not much more than that, and there’s such a power vacuum that they’re able to do what they want sometimes,” he says.

There are, as a result, questions about the level of the Shura Council’s control over Derna, which was long a center of political resistance and virtually disregarded under the Gaddafi regime, with no representation in Tripoli. Some observers have also characterized the group’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS as little more than a bid to raise its profile.

But it’s existence serves to underline the growing chaos inside Libya. “It’s very divided on the ground,” adds El Amrani. “The local police force and state authority is so weak that they’re not really able to stop them from coming in and stop them from shooting people and holding executions.”

TIME China

China Tumbles in Annual Corruption Index

Chinese one-hundred yuan banknotes
Jerome Favre—Bloomberg/Getty Images

See where countries rank from most corrupt to least

China fell 20 spots in this year’s corruption rankings, despite President Xi Jinping’s massive campaign to weed out graft that has disciplined more than 60,000 government officials.

Transparency International’s annual study, released late Tuesday, scored 175 countries and territories based on how corrupt experts perceive them to be. The lowest rankings indicate the highest amounts of corruption. China, the world’s second largest economy, placed 100 on the Index, down from 80 in 2013.

“Fast-growing economies whose governments refuse to be transparent and tolerate corruption, create a culture of impunity in which corruption thrives,” José Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International, said in a statement released with the report. Brazil, Russia and India, the other members of the so-called BRIC developing nations, all placed in the lower two-thirds of the rankings.

Denmark held onto first place as the country seen as least corrupt, while recent and current conflict zones represented some of the poorest-faring countries, including Syria (159), Libya (166) and Somalia, which tied North Korea for last place.

Iraq, where the government said on Monday that an internal review had found some 50,000 soldiers were on the payroll but not showing up for duty, placed 170.

Read next: Hong Kong Protest Leaders Attempt to Surrender to Police

TIME Libya

Report: ISIS Takes Control of a Libyan City

An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya
An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya on October 3, 2014. Reuters

Derna is just hours from Tobruk, where what's left of the central government is based

Militants loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) are now in control of a Libyan city of near the Egyptian border, according to a new report.

CNN, citing unnamed Libyan sources, reports that militants control Derna, a city only a few hours from Tobruk, where the remnants of Libya’s central government fled to after being forced out of the capital this summer. Approximately 300 of the 800-strong force in control of Derna are reportedly hard-line Libyan jihadists who fought with ISIS in Iraq an Syria.

The report is the latest sign of ISIS looking to expand its footprint across the Middle East despite U.S.-led air strikes against it in Iraq and Syria. Libya has been in turmoil since the fall of former strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011

Read more at CNN

Read next: Terrorism-Related Deaths Up 60% Last Year, Study Says

TIME On Our Radar

Battle-Scarred: Sebastian Junger’s Last Patrol Premieres on HBO

The Last Patrol, Sebastian Junger’s third and final chapter in a trilogy of films about war and its devastating effects on soldiers, came to fruition after he and documentary photographer Tim Hetherington made plans to walk from Washington D.C. to New York City along railroad lines.

The trip would mimic the long patrols both men were accustomed to when covering the war in Afghanistan, on embeds with the U.S. military. The only difference being that they wouldn’t be shot at, wouldn’t have to run for cover, wouldn’t fall into an ambush.

Their trip never came to be. In April 2011, Hetherington was killed in Misrata, Libya, while covering the people’s uprising against their dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.

Washington, D.C. Amtrak Guillermo Cervera—HBO

Hetherington’s death shocked an entire industry of journalists and photographers, and convinced some of them to give up on war, Junger included.

This year, Junger went on that “last patrol”, reigniting the plans he had made with his friend and colleague to walk along America’s railways. Accompanied by combat veterans Brendan O’Byrne, who appeared in Junger’s Restrepo, and Dave Roels, as well as Spanish photographer Guillermo Cervera, who witnessed Hetherington’s death, he walked from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia and to Pittsburgh.

Together, the four men, all war veterans in their own ways, discussed “why combat is so incredibly hard to give up,” they say. The resulting documentary, which chronicles their “last patrol” premieres on Monday, November 10 on HBO.


The Last Patrol by Sebastian Junger is available on HBO and HBO GO from November 10 at PM (CET).

An exhibition of Guillermo Cervera’s images from The Last Patrol and from 20 years of documenting armed conflicts and social issues around the world is on show at Anastasia Photo in New York City.

Phil Bicker, who edited this photo essay, is a senior photo editor at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent


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