Libyan war spreading south

One solider was killed in northern Mali Jan. 17 in a clash with Tuareg fighters of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA)—who authorities said were backed up by former pro-Qaddafi Libyan soldiers. The army said it beat back the Tuaregs and Libyans with a helicopter assault, destroying six vehicles in the skirmish at Menaka in the Gao region. (Reuters, Jan. 17) National Transitional Council forces in Tripoli are meanwhile preparing an offensive against Qaddafi-loyalist strongholds in Libya’s south. Rival militias clashed near the town of Gharyan left four dead and 50 wounded before a prisoner swap was brokered to end the fighting. The clash began when a man was stabbed and stripped naked at a vegetable market. The fighting pitted the Martyrs Brigade of Gharyan against the Assaba militia, said to be Qaddafi loyalists. (AFP, BBC World Service, Jan. 17)

A kidnapped Algerian regional governor, Mohamed Laid Khelfi of Illizi province, was been freed after his captors were intercepted by authorities 150 kilometers inside Libya. Algeria’s government said the captors were aligned with al-Qaeda. (Reuters, Algeria Press Service, Jan. 17)

Protests greeted Egyptian interim leader Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi on his visit to Libya Jan. 16, with demonstrators demanding that he turn over of Qaddafi-era officials who have taken refuge in Egypt. The protest was organised by the Co-ordinating Committee of Civil Society Organizations and the Organization of Libyan Rights Activists. Libyan Foreign Minister Ashour Ben Khayal to stop the protest, lecturing that the field marshal was Libya’s guest and that sit-ins should be staged at public squares and not at the hotel. (Magharebia, Jan. 17)

Even more controversial (at least outside Libya) was the visit days earlier by Sudan‘s President Omar Bashir. Eighty Holocaust and genocide scholars signed a petition calling on US President Barack Obama to condemn Libya’s new government for hosting Bashir—who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for his role in the Darfur genocide. “Especially in view of the role the United States played in bringing about the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime,” the petition says, “the US has a right, and a moral obligation, to demand that the new Libya join us in treating perpetrators of genocide as pariahs.” (JTA, Jan. 17)

Asked in Tripoli if he was worried he might be arrested and handed over to the ICC, Bashir answered: “By God, No. Not in Libya, I am ready to move around Libya without security guards.” During the visit, Bashir stressed the need to secure Libya’s southern borders, noting Qaddafi’s support for the Darfur rebels. (Reuters, Jan. 8)

Meanwhile at the UN, Sudan’s permanent representative, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, accused South Sudan of sheltering Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels now that they have lost their shelter in Libya. (Inner CIty Press, Jan. 11)

See our last posts on Libya and the Arab revolutions.


  1. An angle I hadn’t considered.
    I hadn’t thought the war in Libya might spread to other parts of the Sahara, but that seems a real possibility now.
    It’s sad that the Tuaregs appear to be caught in the middle again – as they have so often in the last few hundreds of years.
    Together with the huge refugee camps in Chad for the Darfurians – which many will probably be born and grow up in, it seems a hellish stew is brewing in the desert.