SAHEL: Displaced Malians burden food-insecure hostsPhoto: ReliefWebMap of areas affected by fighting and subsequent displacement
BAMAKO/DAKAR, – Some 12,000 Malians have fled fighting in the towns of Ménaka and Anderamboucane in northern Mali and reached already food-insecure villages around Tillabéri in western Niger, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Niger’s capital, Niamey.
The Malian refugees are spread across the villages of Mangaizé, Chinégodar, Koutoubou, Yassan and Ayorou in Niger, according to the Malian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the bulk of them – an estimated 7,000 – in Chinégodar, which is usually home to 1,500, according to Franck Kuwonu at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Niamey.
Fighting broke out between Touareg rebels and former soldiers from Libya, and the Malian army in mid-January. Rebel groups and former Libya fighters have reportedly acquired fresh weapons as a result of the Libya conflict and have launched a new movement, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which calls for the creation of an independent state encompassing the regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu in northern Mali.
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By SYLVIA HUI Associated Press
LONDON January 31, 2012 (AP)
Two Libyans who claim that British spies were involved in their torture and rendition are launching legal action against the former director of counterterrorism at the U.K.’s foreign spy agency, lawyers representing them said Tuesday.
Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, both opponents of Moammar Gadhafi‘s regime, claim that MI6 ex-director Mark Allen was complicit in torture and want to examine his role in their renditions to Libya. They have sent a letter of claim to Allen to seek his response to the allegations, and to claim damages from him personally for the trauma they said they suffered.
“We are taking this unusual step of preparing a legal action against an individual as the documents we have in our possession suggest Sir Mark was directly involved in the unlawful rendition of our clients and their families,” said Sapna Malik of Leigh Day & Co., who is representing the Libyans.
The men are also launching legal challenges against Britain’s spy agencies, the Foreign Office, and the Home Office, the law firm said.
Belhaj, Tripoli’s military council commander and a former fighter in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which had opposed Gadhafi, claims both British and U.S. intelligence may have played a role in his 2004 detention in Thailand’s capital Bangkok and transfer to Tripoli.
His accusations are based on a document uncovered during the fall of Tripoli that allegedly contained a message from Allen referring to his rendition. The message, dated March 2004, was purportedly addressed to Gadhafi’s former intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa.
Despite its proximity to Europe and its status as a major African oil producer, Libya‘s sparse population and relative isolation from its neighbors make the stakes of civil unrest much lower than in other regions of the Arab world.
Libya returned to the headlines Saturday when a protest in front of the headquarters of the National Transitional Council (NTC) turned violent. A group of demonstrators in Benghazi broke into the building, vandalized and looted the property and reportedly drove NTC head Mustafa Abdel-Jalil to flee through a back exit. A leading member of the council has since resigned, and Abdel-Jalil has warned that the country risks heading toward civil war if protests continue to intensify. The euphoria many Libyans felt at the death of former leader Moammar Gadhafi last October has faded, and though elections for a constituent assembly are scheduled for June, it is hard to see a stable, democratic government on the horizon in Libya.
The young men at the protest shared a general feeling of discontent with Libya’s direction more than three months after Gadhafi’s death. But they also share another trait: they all live in Benghazi, the city where the NTC was formed and is supposed to have the highest level of support. Benghazi is where the Libyan revolution started, and many of the NTC leaders come from the city. In less than a year, the council’s self-appointed leaders — many are still involved in the governance of the country — have gone from beloved to vilified in the eyes of many who supported the revolution, including those from Benghazi. Continue reading
Qatar’s Sources of Strength
The liberal, Saudi-owned online daily Elaph, in an article published on November 15th titled “Arab Diplomatic Vacuum Opens the Field to Qatari Influence,” gathered three distinguished Arab political analysts and published their insight to Qatar’s recent successes. In short, Qatari foreign policy can be characterized as having two arms: one is “dynamic diplomacy” and the other is “the long arm of the al-Jazeera (satellite) channel.” Furthermore, Qatar’s “strong support for the Arab revolutions, while a number of Arab countries have been absent diplomatically, has presented Qatar an opportunity.”
Abdullah al-Shamri, a Saudi researcher in international relations, noted that in 1995 Qatar’s GDP doubled, bringing about new political and economic power. It was against this strong economy that Al Thani deposed his father, and less than a year later in 1996 al-Jazeera was founded. Ever since, the satellite station has “surpassed the abilities of Gulf embassies.” Continue reading
The U.S. and NATO are poised now to shift focus from Arab North Africa to the Arab Levant to deal with the last Syrian obstacle to their regional hegemony. The U.S. administration of President Barak Obama seems now determined to make or break with the al-Assad regime, distancing itself from decades long policy of crisis management pursued by predecessor U.S. administrations vis-à-vis Syria, which stands now in the Middle East as former Yugoslavia stood in the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Union when a series of ethnic and religious wars wrecked it, creating from its wreckage several new states, until the Serbian core of the Yugoslav union was bombed by NATO in 1999 to make Serbia now a hopeful member of the alliance.
However international and regional strategic geopolitical factors are turning Syria into a border red line that might either herald a new era of multipolar world order, which puts an end to the U.S. unipolar order, if the U.S. led alliance fails to change the Syrian regime, or completes a U.S. – NATO total regional hegemony that would preclude such a long awaited outcome, if it succeeds:
- Internally, the infrastructure of the state is strong, the military, security, diplomatic and political ruling establishment stands coherent, unified and potent, and economically the state is not burdened with foreign debt and is self-sufficient in oil, food and consumer products. Imposing a complete suffocating economic and diplomatic siege on the country seems impossible. What is more important politically is the fact that the pluralistic diversity of the large Syrian religious and sectarian minorities deprives the major and better organized Islamist opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood of the leading role it enjoys in the protests of what has been termed the “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.
- Contrary to western analyses, which expect the change of regimes by the “Arab Spring” to be a motivating drive for a similar change in Syria, the changes were bad examples for Syrians. The destruction of the infrastructure of the state, especially in Iraq and Libya, and leaving their national decision making to NATO and U.S., at least out gratefulness to their roles in the change, is not viewed by the overwhelming majority of the Syrians, including the mainstream opposition inside the country, as an acceptable and feasible price for change and reform. The Arab Egyptian veteran and internationally prominent journalist, Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, in an interview with the Qatar based Aljazeera satellite TV Arabic channel, cited these bad Iraqi and Libyan examples as alienating the Syrian middle class in major city centers away from supporting the protests demanding change of regime; he even accused Aljazeera of “incitement” against the Syrian regime of al-Assad.
- This overall internal situation continues to deter outside intervention on the one hand and on the other explains why the opposition has so far failed to launch even one protest of the type that moved out millions of people to the streets as was and is the case in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, especially in major population centers like the capital Damascus, Aleppo, both which are home to about ten million people.
- Moreover, the resort of a minority of Islamists to arms allegedly to defend the protesters has backfired, alienating the public in general, the minorities in particular, and highlighting their external sources of funds and arming, thus vindicating the regime’s accusation of the existence of an outside “conspiracy,” but more importantly diverting the media spotlight away from the peaceful protests, weakening these protests by driving away more people from joining them out of fear for personal safety as proved by the dwindling numbers of protesters, and dragging the opposition into a field of struggle where the regime is definitely the strongest at least in the absence of external military intervention that is not forthcoming in any foreseeable future, a fact that was confirmed in the Libyan capital Tripoli on October 31 by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “NATO has no intention (to intervene) whatsoever. I can completely rule that out,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
- Geopolitically, it is true that western powers after WW1 succeeded in cutting historical Syria to its present day size, but Syrian pan-Arab ideology and influence is still up to historic Syria, and is still consistent with what the late Princeton scholar Philip K. Hitti called (quoted by Robert D. Kaplan in Foreign Policy on April 21, 2011) “Greater Syria” — the historical antecedent of the modern republic – “the largest small country on the map, microscopic in size but cosmic in influence,” encompassing in its geography, at the confluence of Europe, Asia, and Africa, “the history of the civilized world in a miniature form”. Kaplan commented: “This is not an exaggeration, and because it is not, the current unrest in Syria is far more important than unrest we have seen anywhere in the Middle East.” The change of the regime in Syria will not bring security and stability to the region; on the contrary, it will open a regional Pandora box. Continue reading
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, held in a secret location by the men of Zintan who his family fought, must wonder if he will get a fair trial – and then execution.
In an anonymous concrete house, in the back streets of the mountain stronghold of Zintan, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi sits alone, with no access yet to a lawyer, friends, or even the four men captured with him.
“For sure, he is just sitting there, thinking about his fate,” Osama Jueili, the head of the Zintan Brigade and the man responsible for Saif al-Islam’s security, told The Sunday Telegraph.
He does have 20 brigade men on permanent station to guard him. It is doubtful they have much in common with the man who pursued the bright lights of Europe in white tie and tails and once thought he was destined to rule over them.
The capture of the late dictator’s son was a happy moment for Libya. A clean operation, it was performed without the bloodlust attendant on his father, Muammar, and brother, Mutassim.
Yet unlike their deaths, Saif al-Islam’s fate will linger in the international consciousness for months as he is brought to trial and, most likely, convicted and hanged. Endless questions will be raised – not least by his own lawyers – about his character, his relationship to his father, and his close contacts with politicians and businessmen like Tony Blair, and fellow partygoers Peter Mandelson, Nathaniel Rothschild and Oleg Deripaska.
The process will be a test too of the stability of the new Libya, and of whether a country held in thrall to the whim of one man can unite to the difficult cause of building peaceful, prosperous institutions.
His immediate concern will be the interrogation that awaits him at the hands of a committee of investigators being established by the Attorney General’s office in Tripoli, according to both Mr Jueili and the head of Zintan’s civilian council, Taher al-Tourki, an urbane lecturer in engineering recently returned from completing a PhD at De Montfort University in Leicester. Continue reading
His name is one with a very powerful and well-respected meaning – “Sword of Islam”. Yet the most prominent son of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, has never truely lived up to the meaning of his name. Maybe for that reason the Libyan opposition fighters labeled him “Saif al-Kufr” instead – Sword of Disbelief.
Today Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi was captured by captured by the forces of the Transitional Council in Obari in the South of Libya and taken to Tripolis in a plane.
For months the Gaddafi son had been living in hiding, releasing audio tapes in which he called the opposition enemies of Libya. “Go to hell you rats and NATO”, he said in a audio tape released in October. Continue reading
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi sits in an airplane in Zintan, LIbya, on Saturday after being captured in the southern desert and flown to the northern city.
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – Moammar Gadhafi’s son has been captured in the desert by fighters who plan to hold him until there is a Libyan administration to which they can hand him over, according to media reports Saturday.
Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, 39, had been accused of crimes against humanity.
Saif al-Islam was captured near the southern desert city of Obari and flown to the fighters’ base in Zintan, in northern Libya, the BBC reported.
It was unclear Saturday whether al-Islam will face trial in Libya or whether he will be transferred to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, for a trial there for his alleged involvement in the killings of civilian protesters. Continue reading
Sunday, November 13, 2011
NISIDA, Naples – Unpredictable and intense periods of maritime operations aimed at disrupting any attempt by terrorists to maneuver in the Mediterranean Sea are one of the tools employed by NATO to help deter, defend, disrupt and protect against terrorism. Known as Deterrent Surges, these operations involve NATO assets converging on defined areas for a pre-planned period of time so as to deter terrorists but also to build and extend the Alliance’s Maritime Situational Awareness of the area.
Beginning Nov. 12 NATO will concentrate assets in the Eastern Mediterranean for more than a week’s intense patrolling:
“The backbone of this Surge is the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 and maritime air reconnaissance. To this we are adding ships made available specifically for this operation,” said Captain Olivier Bodhuin Chief of Operations at Headquarters Maritime Command, Naples. Continue reading
Recent days have seen a spate of stories about a mysterious flag appearing in Benghazi, Libya: a black banner that reads “No god but God” in distinctive white lettering with what could be a reproduction of the Prophet Mohammad‘s seal underneath.”Were it not for the deficiencies of reporting on Libya in the mainstream Western media,” writes John Rosenthal in the National Review, “the appearance of al-Qaeda flags in the capital of the anti-Qaddafi rebellion should come as no surprise.” Writing for Vice, Sherif Elhelwa reports that he even saw the flag flying atop the famous Benghazi courthouse that became a hotbed of resistance in Muammar al-Qaddafi‘s waning days, and that his efforts to find out why it was there were met with suspicion and threats. Continue reading