North Africa
abu salim massacre

Survivors of Libya prison massacre demand justice

A group representing families of the victims of Libya’s Abu Salim Prison Massacre protested in Tripoli on the 28th anniversary of the killings, decrying the failure to achieve justice in the case. The association urged “that the secrets of the crime be revealed, justice be established, retribution be imposed, and that everyone who participated in this horrific massacre receive their deserved punishment.” Thirteen years after the fall of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi’s regime, there has still been no legal judgment or even serious investigation in the case. It is believed that over 1,000 were killed by prison guards in the 1996 incident, sparked by an inmate protest over poor conditions. (Photo: Libya Observer)

Greater Middle East

Podcast: from Palestine to Western Sahara

Benjamin Netanyahu’s gaffe on French TV, displaying a map of the “Arab World” that showed the occupied (and illegally annexed) Western Sahara as a separate entity from Morocco, sparked a quick and obsequious apology from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. But the snafu sheds light on the mutual hypocrisy at work here. There is an obvious hypocrisy to Moroccan protests that demand self-determination for the Palestinians but not the Sahrawi, the indigenous Arab inhabitants of Western Sahara. The hypocrisy of Israel is also obvious: Israeli commentators and hasbara agents are the first to play the “whataboutery” game—relativizing the plight of the Palestinians by pointing to that of Kurds, Berbers, Nubians, Massalit and other stateless peoples oppressed under Arab regimes. But, as we now see, they are just as quick to completely betray them when those regimes recognize Israel and betray the Palestinians. Yet another example of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system. Bill Weinberg breaks it down in Episode 229 of the CounterVortex podcast. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Kirby Gookin/Western Sahara Resource Center)

Greater Middle East

Netanyahu’s new map flap: multiple ironies

Israel was forced to apologize to Morocco after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seen in a video displaying a map of the Middle East and North Africa—that failed to show the occupied (and illegally annexed) territory of Western Sahara as within the kingdom’s borders. Netanyahu brandished the map in an interview with a French TV channel, showing what he called “the Arab world” in green, a swath of near-contiguous territory from Iraq to Mauritania—contrasting small, isolated Israel, “the one and only Jewish state.” The goof was especially dire because in 2020 Israel joined the US as the only two countries on Earth to recognize Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara, in exchange for Moroccan recognition of the Jewish state under the Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords. This was a cozy mutual betrayal of both the Palestinians and Sahrawi Arabs, the indigenous inhabitants of occupied Western Sahara. (Image: Twitter via Middle East Eye)

North Africa

Tunisia: lawyers strike amid crackdown on dissent

In an unprecedented move, striking lawyers from across Tunisia rallied in front of court buildings in Tunis, effectively bringing all proceedings to a halt. The unified action comes in response to what legal professionals are describing as a dangerous escalation by the government targeting their community. The Tunisia Lawyers Council called for a nationwide strike after police conducted a raid on the headquarters of Tunisia’s bar association and arrested Sonia Dahmani, a prominent attorney and critic of the government. The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) joined other civil society organizations in lending their support to the striking lawyers. (Photo: Abir Khlif/Jurist)

North Africa
Khalifa Haftar

War crimes suits against Libya’s Haftar dismissed

A US judge dismissed a group of civil lawsuits accusing Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar of war crimes. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she had no jurisdiction to preside over a case concerning crimes committed in Libya—even though Haftar has US citizenship and lived for more than 20 years in the DC suburbs of northern Virginia. In the suits, first filed in 2019 under the Torture Victim Protection Act, the plaintiffs charged that family members were killed in bombardments conducted by Haftar’s forces on civilian areas of Tripoli that year. Plaintiffs noted that Haftar’s extensive properties in Virginia could have been used to compensate the survivors. The head of the Libyan-American Alliance, Issam Omeish, expressed his regret over the court’s decision, calling it a setback in the groups’ work seeking justice and accountability for rights abuses in Libya’s civil war. (Photo: Haftar with US embassy ChargĂ© d’Affaires Leslie Ordeman and USAF Lt. Gen. John Lamontagne, January 2023. Via Wikimedia Commons)


Italy detains rescue ship after sea confrontation with Libya

At least one person drowned after a group jumped overboard from a migrant boat as the EU-supported Libyan coast guard fired shots into the water to stop an NGO vessel from carrying out a rescue operation. The rescue vessel Humanity 1 was subsequently seized and ordered detained for 20 days by Italy—over the protests of the German non-governmental organization that operates it, SOS Humanity. Italian authorities invoked the Piantedosi Decree, a new legal provision that imposes a stricter set of requirements for charities that rescue migrants at sea, with potential penalties of stiff fines and impoundment of ships. The Humanity 1 is currently being held at Crotone, a port in Italy’s southern region of Calabria. (Photo: Teddybär500 via Wikimedia Commons)


Russia creates new Africa Corps

Following the death of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian ministries of defense and foreign affairs quickly moved to reassure African client states that business as usual would continue—meaning that Moscow’s unofficial boots on the ground would keep operating in these countries. Now reports indicate a transformation, with Wagner’s estimated force of 5,000 troops—deployed from the Sahel to Libya to Sudan—to be brought under Defense Ministry command as a new Africa Corps. (Photo: Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic. Credit: Corbeau News Centrafrique via Wikipedia)

El Hamma

Synagogues attacked in Germany, Tunisia

Unknown assailants targeted a Berlin synagogue with Molotov cocktails, while rioters in Tunisia burned down the country’s historic El Hamma synagogue. There was no significant property damage at the Kahal Adass Jisroel synagogue in Berlin, but El Hamma in the Tunisian city of Gabes was effectively destroyed. Although El Hamma no longer functioned as a house of worship, it held major symbolic significance for Tunisian Jews, who are still shaken from a May shooting at the Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba, the oldest in Africa. (Photo showing damage to Tomb of Rabbi Yousef al-Maarabi at El Hamma synagogue via RadioJ)

North Africa

Shock, anger follow North Africa disasters

The death toll from catastrophic flooding in northeast Libya continues to climb, with reported numbers now ranging as high as 12,000—and thousands still unaccounted for. People across Libya have stepped up to help, sending convoys of aid across the politically divided country and opening their homes to strangers. Meanwhile, anger is spreading about why two dams in the port city of Derna—which collapsed under the weight of flooding, leading to the destruction of entire neighborhoods—were allowed to decay. There have also been accusations that authorities ignored warnings about the severity of the storm, contributing to the massive death toll. Similar charges are heard in Morocco after a deadly earthquake struck in mountains south of Marrakesh, with the government accused of bottle-necking relief efforts to the marginal area. (Map: USGS via DirectRelief)

North Africa

Algeria: ex-defense minister faces war crimes charges

Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General announced that it has formally charged former Algerian defense minister Khaled Nezzar in relation to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Algeria’s civil war. In the indictment submitted to the Swiss Federal Criminal Court, prosecutors said “Nezzar is accused of violating the laws of armed conflicts in accordance with the Geneva Conventions between 1992 and 1994…and of committing crimes against humanity.” The indictment alleges that Nezzar “condoned, coordinated or ordered” acts of torture committed by his subordinates. (Map: PCL)

North Africa

Libya: new inter-factional clashes shake Tripoli

Months of relative peace in Libya’s capital were shattered as clashes erupted between two militia factions aligned with the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU). The fighting began when the Special Deterrence Force, which controls the city’s airport, seized 444 Brigade commander Mahmoud Hamza as he attempted to fly out. Calm was restored two days later when the SDF turned Hamza over to a “neutral security party.” By then, some 25 had been killed, over 100 injured, and hundreds of families displaced as fighting tore through their neighborhoods. The SDF is said to be a “former” Islamist militia now integrated into the GNU’s “official” security forces. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Greater Middle East

Podcast: from the West Bank to Western Sahara

In Episode 184 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to Congress was happily boycotted by members of the “Squad,” and comes as even establishment voices are calling for a cut-off of US aid in light of the deep political crisis in Israel. Unhappily, Rep. Pramila Jayapal was forced to issue an apology for having called Israel a “racist state”—which is a mere statement of political reality. In contrast, Ron DeSantis was not forced to issue any such apology for openly embracing Israel’s illegal annexationist designs on the West Bank—even as they are protested by UN international law experts. All this comes as Israel has joined the US as the only countries on Earth to recognize Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara, a condition of the so-called Abraham Accords. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Kirby Gookin/Western Sahara Resource Center)