Away from the media spotlight, extremist militias in western #Libya continue campaign of terror and criminality, aided by foreign powers

| April 25, 2019

An array of hard-line and extremist militias in western Libya, centred around the capital of Tripoli, continue to be responsible for an escalation of violence and terror across the country, threatening the wider region as well. There are increasing concerns that efforts to bring the conflict to a peaceful solution are being undermined by these groups, which have an ever-looser affiliation with the Government of National Accord.

International attention on Libya has recently concentrated on General Khalifa Haftar’s forces in the East, especially given their lightning fast advance to the outskirts of Tripoli in recent weeks. However, trouble is brewing in the other half of the country, as extremist groups continue to tighten their grip on policing and security apparatus, to brutal effect.

For example, it was reported that the Special Deterrent Forces, one of the biggest of these militias, kidnapped four journalists working for Reuters and Agence France Presse, apparently in response for critical articles they published on their involvement in people trafficking.  Elsewhere, the Jamestown Foundation has described the prisons this group runs as akin to ‘dens of torture’.

Many of these violent militias have their roots in the migrant trafficking trade. A key figure in this respect, Ahmed al-Dabbashi, more colloquially known as ‘Al Ammu’ (the uncle), has found himself subject to both United Nations and US Treasury Department sanctions, after being accused of illegally ferrying thousands of migrants a week across the Mediterranean to Italy, cramming boats to overcapacity, often resulting in numerous deaths by drowning. He is now believed to be a key figure among this criminal militia cabal.

Increasingly, these groups have found supporters, in terms of funding, resources and weapon supplies, in both Qatar and Turkey. Often these weapons are provided directly to the militias, circumventing, and undermining, the Government of National Accord. Estimates place the total value of Qatari weapons provided to Islamist hardlines in Libya at approximately €750m between 2011 and 2017.

Qatar has previously come under scrutiny for allegedly channelling billions of dollars into extremist and terrorist organisations across the Middle East and beyond. In April of last year, BBC News reported that the country allegedly paid more than $1bn ransom for members of a royal hunting party kidnapped in Iraq. Much of this money was believed to end up in the hands of the extremists Kataib Hezbollah. These latest moves in Libya suggest their proclivity for funding hard-line Islamists continues.

European governments rightly look on with concern at the prospect of Libyan Islamist extremists increasing their governing influence and flexing their military muscles on the continent’s doorstep.





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Category: A Frontpage, Lybia, Politics

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