TIME Libya

Suspected ISIS Car Bombs Kill at Least 30 in Libya

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

The blasts hit Qubba, 19 miles from the ISIS-held town of Darna

TRIPOLI, Libya — A massive car bombing struck an eastern Libyan town under control of the country’s internationally recognized government, killing at least 30 people on Friday, an army spokesman said.

However, there were conflicting reports on the blast in Qubba, located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the city of Darna, a stronghold of Libya’s branch of the Islamic State group, which has been gaining a foothold in this North African nation, far from the battlefield of Iraq and Syria.

According to army spokesman Mohammed Hegazi, the car bomb exploded next to a gas station in the town as motorists lined up to fill their tanks. The explosion also wounded scores of people, Hegazi told The Associated Press. He added that the gas station is close to the town’s security headquarters.

But a security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said that the gas station blast was only one in a string of attacks in Qubba on Friday. He said one other attack targeted the home of Parliament Speaker Ageila Saleh, who represents the elected government, based in eastern Libya.

A third attack targeted the security headquarters building itself, said the official, who also gave a different casualty figure, putting the total death toll at around 25.

Such conflicting tolls are common in the aftermath of large attacks. Hospital officials and others in Qubba could not immediately be reached for comment.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which Hegazi said bore the hallmarks of Islamic militants who have battled the army for months in and around the eastern city of Benghazi.

Libya has sunk into chaos, four years since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster and death.

The country is split between two rival parliaments and governments. One is based in the capital, Tripoli, and is backed by militias allied with Islamist factions, while the other is the elected parliament, which has been forced to relocate and old sessions in the far eastern city of Tobruk, near the Egyptian border.

TIME Libya

Libya to U.N. Security Council: Lift Arms Embargo to Fight ISIS

Mohamed Elhadi Dayri
Mary Altaffer—AP Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Elhadi Dayri speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Libya, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at United Nations headquarters

"If we fail to have arms provided to us, this can only play into the hands of extremists"

(UNITED NATIONS) — Libya’s foreign minister on Wednesday demanded that the U.N. Security Council lift an arms embargo so his country can fight the Islamic State group as it establishes a presence in north Africa and moves closer to Europe.

Foreign Minister Mohammed al Dairi spoke to an emergency session of the council amid regional alarm after the Islamic State group over the weekend posted a video of the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.

Al Dairi stressed that Libya is not asking for international intervention. But he said the international community has a “legal and moral responsibility to lend urgent support” and that the region, including the Mediterranean, is in danger.

“If we fail to have arms provided to us, this can only play into the hands of extremists,” he said. He told reporters he wanted to see the same attention paid the danger in Libya as has been paid to Iraq and Syria, where a U.S.-led coalition is battling the Islamic State group.

The foreign minister of neighboring Egypt, Sameh Shoukry, called for a naval blockade on arms heading to areas of Libya outside the control of “legitimate authorities.” He did not rule out troops on the ground in Libya and said his country was seeking international support “by all means.”

Jordan was circulating a draft resolution on the issue to fellow council members later Wednesday.

Egypt responded strongly to the beheadings, carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State group positions in Libya and saying it was in self-defense. Shoukry has said those airstrikes could continue.

Energy rich Libya is wracked by the worst fighting since long-ruling dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. Two rival governments and parliaments — each backed by different militias — rule in the country’s eastern and western regions. After Islamic and tribal militias took over the capital, Tripoli, the elected parliament has been forced to function in the eastern city of Tobruk.

On Tuesday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had called on the United Nations to approve a new coalition for airstrikes in Libya, where the extremists have set up their first major affiliate outside of Iraq and Syria.

But U.N. diplomats said Egypt’s initial demands eased during talks later Tuesday.

It’s possible for Libya to apply for weapons imports under an exemption in the arms embargo for the Libyan government, but the U.N. committee that considers such requests has been cautious about giving approval amid concern that weapons might be leaked to armed groups. The U.N. embargo has been in place since 2011.

Countries in the region have been stepping up to offer support since the video of the beheadings emerged. Both Italy and Algeria during the council meeting expressed their willingness to participate in international efforts.

Italy is especially worried. The country’s islands on the Mediterranean are only a few hundred miles fromLibya, and Italian officials worry that militants will mingle with the waves of migrants being smuggled across from Libya and arrive in Italy by sea.

France, a lead player in the campaign to oust Gadhafi in 2011, has campaigned for months for some kind of international action in Libya.

TIME Libya

ISIS Sets Sights on Europe in Latest Beheading Video

Relatives of Egyptian Coptic Christians purportedly killed by ISIS militants in Libya react after hearing the news on Feb. 16, 2015 in the village of Al-Awar in Egypt's southern province of Minya.
Mohamed El-Shahed—AFP/Getty Images Relatives of Egyptian Coptic Christians purportedly killed by ISIS militants in Libya react after hearing the news on Feb. 16, 2015, in the village of Al-Awar in Egypt's southern province of Minya

Brutal killing of 21 seems an attempt to provoke retaliation

The executioner speaks in English and points his knife toward the Mediterranean. “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission,” he says.

The video released by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) on Sunday showing the killings of 21 Egyptian Christian workers, appeared to be directed at the Christian world, the continent of Europe and gloried in its brutality.

It was filmed in Libya on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The video made no reference to the other powers in Libya’s civil war, in which both of the country’s rival governments claim to be combating ISIS.

Unlike the statements of other Islamist groups in the region, the video also made no mention of the Egyptian state, which has cracked down on political Islam since the removal of elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Egypt’s government is also participating in the fight against Islamists in Libya.

Instead, the five-minute film is concerned with more international themes. The targets are not modern states, but rather “Rome” and Christians, who are labeled “the people of the cross, the followers of the hostile Egyptian Church.” The message was phrased in religious terms intended to transcend national boundaries. The video ends with the Mediterranean waves dyed red from the blood of the murdered men.

The spectacular appearance of ISIS on the Mediterranean’s southern shores alarmed European governments. Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano called for NATO to intervene in Libya. “ISIS is at the door,” he was quoted as saying. “There is no time to waste.” If the country’s conflict is not resolved soon, U.K. special envoy Jonathan Powell declared, Libya risks becoming “Somalia on the Mediterranean.”

In response to the murders, Egypt launched air strikes against what it said were ISIS positions in eastern Libya on Monday. It was the first time Egypt acknowledged military operations in Libya, although the government has secretly backed the internationally recognized government in Libya’s civil conflict since last year.

But in spite of ISIS’ self-aggrandizing rhetoric, experts say the best solution is the formation of a unified Libyan government rather than international intervention. “You will not be able to effectively solve the counterterrorism problem, which may involve some external support, without addressing the political conflict,” says Issandr El Amrani, director of International Crisis Group’s North Africa Project.

“Both sides in the political conflict are against ISIS,” he says. “It’s a common problem. The thing is, they’re not going to focus on doing that, all these various militias in both camps, if they’re too busy fighting each other.”

El Amrani says calls for NATO, European, or U.S. intervention were unlikely to result in a large-scale intervention. “There’s not a lot of countries that are very excited about spending more resources on a new military adventure in Libya. Its footprint is likely to be very modest,” he says.

Bill Quandt, a former member of the U.S. National Security Council and professor emeritus in the Department of Politics at the University of Virginia, argues that Western options in Libya are limited. “After all we’ve been carrying out air strikes every day in Syria and Iraq and it’s hard to say how much difference it’s making.”

“Iraq and Syria are different in that there are geostrategic stakes involved, particularly with Iraq,” he says. “We’ve invested so heavily there that there’s a sense of sunk costs that we can’t let it totally go down the drain. I don’t think there is that feeling about Libya.”

Read next: Pope Francis Condemns ISIS Killing of Coptic Christians

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME conflict

Pope Francis Condemns ISIS Killing of Coptic Christians

VATICAN-MASS-POPE-CARDINALS
Andreas Solaro—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis leads a mass on February 15, 2015 at St. Peter's basilica in Vatican.

'The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out'

Pope Francis on Monday condemned the killing of 21 Coptic Christians hostages in Libya by militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), according to a Vatican Radio report.

“The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out,” he told a delegation from Scotland on Monday. “If they are Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it is not important: They are Christians. The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ.”

Read More: Beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya Shows ISIS Branching Out

The hostages, believed to be laborers from Egypt, are now “martyrs,” Francis said.

The Libyan extremist group, which swears fealty to ISIS, released a five-minute video Sunday showing militants with knives killing 21 people wearing orange jumpsuits on a beach.

Egyptian authorities confirmed the authenticity of the video, and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi launched air strikes against targets in Libya hours after vowing to avenge the deaths.

TIME Italy

More Than 2,000 Migrants From Libya Have Been Rescued by the Italian Coast Guard

Italy Migrants
Francesco Malavolta—AP Migrants wait to disembark from a tugboat after being rescued in the Pozzallo harbor in Sicily, Italy, on Feb. 15, 2015

They were attempting a perilous journey in just 12 small boats

The Italian coast guard rescued more than 2,000 migrants who got into difficulty between the Libyan coast and the Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday.

The rescue teams were also threatened by four men armed with Kalashnikov rifles who approached them by speedboat from Libya, reports the BBC.

The gunmen forced the rescuers to return one of the boats after the migrants had been taken off it to safety, said Italy’s Transport Ministry.

Local media reported that all 2,164 migrants aboard 12 boats had been saved and taken to Italy.

The stretch of Mediterranean between Northern Africa and Italy is a perilous crossing for those in unseaworthy vessels. The U.N. said almost 3,500 people died attempting the voyage in 2014.

Last week, at least 300 migrants perished in the Mediterranean as their overcrowded boats sank in stormy weather.

On Friday, another 600 migrants, on board just six dinghies, were rescued by the Italian coast guard after their rubber craft got into trouble.

[BBC]

TIME Egypt

Egypt Launches Air Raids Against ISIS Bases in Libya

Islamic State Copts
Hassan Ammar—AP Coptic Christian men whose relatives were abducted by ISIS militants gather in the village of el-Aour, near Minya, Egypt, on Feb. 13, 2015

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt had the right to punish “those inhuman criminal killers”

Egyptian warplanes launched fresh sorties against militants allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) on Monday after the jihadists released a gruesome video showing the apparent execution of more than a dozen Egyptian hostages over the weekend.

Egypt’s air force reportedly targeted ISIS training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya at dawn, reports Reuters.

“The air strikes hit their targets precisely, and the falcons of our air forces returned safely to their bases,” read a statement released by the nation’s military on Monday.

Hours before the strikes began, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi promised during a televised address to retaliate against the militants responsible for the murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been working in Libya as laborers.

“Egypt reserves the right to respond at the proper time and in the appropriate style in retaliation against those inhuman criminal killers,” al-Sisi said, according to the BBC.

Fighters associated with ISIS have flocked to the group’s strongholds in eastern Syria and swaths of northern Iraq. However, years of instability in war-torn Libya have also allowed the group to expand its influence into pockets of North Africa.

TIME Libya

Beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya Shows ISIS Branching Out

Egyptians demonstrate demanding the Government do more to rescue Copts kidnapped by IS in LIbya
Ahmed Masri—Almasry Alyoum/EPA Egyptians protest in Cairo what they characterise as government inaction in reaction to the kidnapping of Coptic Christians in Libya, Feb. 13, 2015.

Militants in Libya represent a "second front" in ISIS's war against the West

The Egyptian government said Sunday that a video apparently showing the execution of Coptic Egyptian hostages in Libya by militants allied to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) was genuine, underscoring the group’s global reach and the unity of message among its adherents.

The five-minute clip, published online on Sunday, depicts the hostages — believed to be 21 Christian Coptic laborers from Egypt, kidnapped from the city of Sirt — being marched onto a beach where they are forced onto the sand and then killed by knife-wielding executioners.

One of the killers, dressed in camouflage, speaks in English. “We will conquer Rome,” he declares, pointing his knife toward the sea.

The video has similar qualities to the filmed executions of ISIS hostages in Iraq and Syria. The hostages wear the same orange jumpsuits as the Western hostages, intended as a reference to the uniforms worn by prisoners in the U.S. detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

In a televised address, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said his country reserved the right to retaliate for the killings. He also reiterated an offer to facilitate Egyptians’ evacuation from Libya and imposed a ban on citizens traveling to Libya. The President also convened a meeting of senior security officials to discuss a response to the crisis.

The mass killings by a group that identified itself in the video as the “Tripoli Province” of ISIS gives a stark illustration of the group’s influence in Libya, a country consumed by upheaval since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in an uprising backed by NATO in 2011. Two rival governments and a variety of militia groups are currently locked in a multipolar fight for control of the country.

“I think it’s possible that there are currently more Daesh adherents in Libya than in any other country in the world except for Iraq and Syria,” says Christopher Chivvis, a senior analyst at the Santa Monica–based Rand Corp.

“It’s possible that Libya is now emerging as a sort of second front in [ISIS’s] effort to expand from a regional into a global organization,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a direct command-and-control kind of relationship where core ISIS is able to, with any degree of confidence, order specific operations in Libya. I think there’s moral and probably also financial and potentially other forms of support.”

A militia group in eastern Libya declared its affiliation with ISIS last year. Since then, fighters allied to the group have claimed responsibility for attacks across the country, including an assault on a luxury hotel in Tripoli in January.

“The problem is that overlaid on this ISIS threat is a deeply divided country, a civil war. And ISIS is exploiting the fissures of that civil war,” said Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Analysts say ISIS is seeking to attract the support of existing militia groups in Libya in hopes of gaining an upper hand over rival organizations like al-Qaeda or local insurgent groups like Salafist militia group Ansar al-Sharia. The Institutions of the Libyan state have eroded, leaving control of specific cities in the hands of a range of separate armed groups.

“[ISIS] is benefiting from the decline of jihadist groups in the east, like Ansar al-Sharia,” said Wehrey. “It’s co-opting or luring many members of the jihadist movement in the east into its ranks. It’s trying to carve out new turf.”

TIME Libya

Egypt Says Video Showing Beheading of Coptic Christians Genuine

Egyptians demonstrate demanding the Government do more to rescue Copts kidnapped by IS in LIbya
Ahmed Masri—Almasry Alyoum/EPA Egyptians protest in Cairo what they characterise as government inaction in reaction to the kidnapping of Coptic Christians in Libya, Feb. 13, 2015.

Militants claim to be allied with Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS)

A video purporting to show the mass beheading of Coptic Christian hostages has been released by militants in Libya claiming loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

The killings raise the possibility that the Islamic militant group — which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq in a self-declared caliphate — has established a direct affiliate less than 500 miles from the southern tip of Italy. One of the militants in the video, speaking English, makes direct reference to that possibility, saying the group now plans to “conquer Rome.”

The Associated Press could not immediately independently verify the video. But the Egyptian government and the Coptic Church, which is based in Egypt, both declared it authentic.

The Egyptian government declared a seven-day mourning period and President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi addressed the nation late Sunday night, pledging resilience in the fight against terrorism.

“These cowardly actions will not undermine our determination” said el-Sissi, who also banned all travel to Libya by Egyptian citizens. “Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups carrying extremist ideology and sharing the same goals.”

The Coptic Church in a statement called on it followers to have “confidence that their great nation won’t rest without retribution for the evil criminals.”

Militants in Libya had been holding 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians hostage for weeks, all laborers rounded up from the city of Sirte in December and January. The makers of the video identify themselves as the Tripoli Province of the Islamic State group. A still photo, apparently taken from the video, was published last week in ISIS’ Dabiq online magazine — indicating a direct connection between the Libyan militants and the main group.

The video, released Sunday night, depicts several men in orange jumpsuits being led along a beach, each accompanied by a masked militant. The men are made to kneel and one militant, dressed differently that the others, addresses the camera in North American-accented English.

“All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes, especially if you are fighting us all together. Therefore we will fight you all together,” he said. “The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama Bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”

The men are then laid face-down and simultaneously beheaded.

The militant speaker then pointed northward and said, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.”

Qalini Sanyout, whose two nephews were among the hostages, answered the phone Sunday night amid the sound of wailing in the background.

“What can we say? Can someone tell us if this is true.” he said repeatedly. “The whole village is in mourning. Men are covering their heads with dust and mud.”

TIME Behind the Photos

Meet the Photographer Who Found How to Balance a Life of Love and War

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario has published her first memoir

“I would never think of myself as a role model,” says Lynsey Addario. The 41-year-old, twice-kidnapped, mother-of-one, award-winning photojournalist has released, this month, her first book: an autobiography of her life as a Connecticut-born photographer who has spent the last 15 years witnessing the true human cost of war, particularly for women across the world.

And yet, even if Addario declines to be defined as a role model, with It’s What I Do, she hopes that her own experience, fraught with doubts about her intertwined professional and personal lives, will encourage other women to define their own paths. “[This book is the continuation of my work] as a messenger of experiences,” she tells TIME. “In this case, they are my own experiences.”

Addario didn’t set out to write an autobiography. Her goal, at first, was to produce a monograph of her work. “I’ve always wanted to do a photo book but I’ve never done one because I’ve never felt ready, I just didn’t feel my work was good enough,” she says. “I’ve seen so many photographers rush to do books the minute they start shooting but one great thing about photography is that the images don’t go away, so the more I sit with these images, the more I learn which ones have had the most impact.”

In a career that spanned two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and saw Addario travel to Cuba, India, Pakistan, Israel and Libya, the photographer has had many close calls. She was briefly abducted in Iraq in 2004, and was injured in a car accident in Pakistan in 2009. But, it’s her second abduction, in Libya in 2011 that has come to define, for better or worse, her career as a woman photographer – bringing with it worldwide attention to Addario’s work and the impetus for her memoir.

When Addario was released after five days in captivity, she took a step back from the frontlines, she says, and started contemplating the idea of producing her first monograph. “I was having conversations with Aperture about trying to do a photo book [until] I found out [the photojournalists] Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros had been killed in Libya. It threw me for a loop,” she says. “I had survivor’s guilt. It sort of brought back the trauma of my own experience in Libya in a way that was even exacerbated. I didn’t shun photography, but I felt I needed to tap in into something different.”

The thought of writing a book was, at first, daunting “but it wasn’t as daunting as doing a photo book,” she says. “With photography, I always think that it’s not good enough,” while writing simply involved getting the facts down on paper. “I kept journals for many years,” Addario tells TIME. “I also relied pretty heavily on email correspondence between my family, my friends and myself. So it was more of a matter of pulling all of it together.”

The result is a series of vignettes and moments that “really struck in my mind,” she says. From her first trips in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where she had to play a game of cat-and-mouse with a clerk at an Islamabad embassy in order to get a visa, to her delicate relationships with men over the years, It’s What I Do, is about the difficult, and often unattainable, balance that most photographers struggle with in their professional and personal lives.

But, it’s also a book about a photographer’s commitment to her subjects, especially women, who, as Addario says, are victims of their birthplace.

“As a photographer and as a journalist, I am privy to people’s most intimate moments and it’s always been surprising by how much people open up to me,” she says. “All of these moments – women giving birth, women talking about rape – are incredibly personal and incredibly private.”

Being afforded this kind of access, Addario feels she has a responsibility to show the world what she’s seen. “I feel a huge pressure to be successful in communicating their trauma. I have to make sure that I take this information and disseminate it in a way that’s useful to them in the long term; that will prevent other women from going through what they went through. I can’t imagine not dedicating my life to trying to stop those things from happening.”

But Addario also feels guilt, she says. “Why was I so lucky to be born in Connecticut and to be offered this privileged life when so many people around the world are born into lives of extreme labor and hardship. I constantly struggle with this. Why are some people luckier than others?”

Luck almost ran out for the photographer when she was abducted, alongside her colleagues Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell and Tyler Hicks in Libya on March 16, 2011. But, the experience, recounted in great details in It’s What I Do, only reinforced Addario’s commitment. “It actually gave me strength to realize that I’m not a victim,” she tells TIME. “I am a woman who makes these decisions to go to war zones. I know what the risks are. I know it’s possible that I could to get kidnapped. I know it’s possible that I could get assaulted. Those are the risks I take in order to tell these stories.”

She continues: “When I was in Libya, there are distinct moments and images that are seared in my brain that I’ll never forget: being tied up, blindfolded and groped, begging for my life, and begging for someone not to rape me. In these moments, I’ve thought so much about all the women I photographed over the years and how unbelievably strong they were. That was such a source of strength because I thought that if they could get through it when they’ve gone through so much worse, [I could get through it too].”

After her kidnapping, Addario developed a more comprehensive understanding of the people she had been covering all these years. Similarly, she says, becoming a mother was also a defining moment in her life as a photographer. “When I became a mother, I realized so much more about the mothers I’ve photographed and that love that is inexplicable for someone that doesn’t have a child.”

But Addario was ambivalent about becoming a mother, she tells TIME. “I just thought that my life was going to end and I would never be able to photograph again. I couldn’t figure it out because I didn’t have any role models, I didn’t know a single woman conflict photographer who had children.”

This lack of female role models, which has constantly plagued the male-dominated world of photojournalism, is best exemplified in the comments Addario has received over the years from readers. “Everyone is having a field day judging what a horrible woman I am, what a bad mother I am,” she says. “I find it fascinating that anyone feel like they have the right to tell me how to live my life.”

“All of these people,” she adds, “seem to forget that the places I’m photographing are rife with women and mothers. Why are they not up in arms about those women and how they have to live? I think it’s very easy to judge.”

Before writing this book, Addario knew she’d become, once again, the target of such commentary. “I knew every single person would come out of the woods and feel they have a right to judge a pregnant woman, a mother,” she says. “But where are all the people screaming at all the men who leave their pregnant wives at home and go off to a war zone? Why is there no uproar about that?”

And while Addario hopes her book will foster a dialogue, for her, the most important goal was to be honest and open about her life and her struggles. “Sometimes I’ve made mistakes,” she says, “and sometimes I haven’t, but I’ve always learned something, and that’s what I want to teach my son.”

Lynsey Addario is a photojournalist represented by Getty Images Reportage. Her memoir, It’s What I do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, is published by Penguin Press.

Cubie King, who produced this video interview, is a senior producer at TIME.

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

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