North Africa

Libya: ‘official’ regime to lose control of Tripoli?

Armed street clashes have rocked Tripoli over the past week, as militias linked to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) have vied for control of the Libyan capital with rival militias that have launched an offensive on the city from the southeast. The most significant of these is the 7th Brigade from the town of Tarhuna, which has rejected a truce, vowing to continue fighting until it "cleanses Tripoli of militias." The city's electricity has intermittently gone out amid the fighting, and access to Facebook—the only news source for most Libyans—has been blocked, although it is unclear by whom. The GNA has declared a state of emergency in the city, and Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has formed a "crisis committee" to try to broker peace. But warlord Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi, who is loyal to Libya's unrecognized eastern government, anticipated the fall of Tripoli, saying that "liberating the Libyan capital is inevitable." (Photo: Libya Observer)

North Africa

Libya sentences 45 to death over 2011 massacre

A Libyan appeals court sentenced 45 former pro-Qaddafi militiamen to death by firing squad for their involvement in murders that occurred during the 2011 uprising. The defendants were accused of opening fire on a crowd of demonstrators calling for the end of Moammar Qaddafi’s regime in the Abu Salim district of Tripoli. An additional 54 people were handed five-year prison sentences, and 22 of the militiamen were acquitted. The Abu Salim massacre was part of the wave of repression that tipped Libya into civil war in February 2011. (Photo: 2011 protests in Libya via WikiMedia Commons)

North Africa

Berber language rights at issue in Libya, Morocco

The Libyan Amazigh Supreme Council, representing the country's Berber ethnic minority, has decided to boycott the referendum on the country's newly released draft constitution, in protest of the lack of provisions for their language and cultural rights. Berbers want their language to be official in the Libyan constitution, given equal status with Arabic in administration and education. Meanwhile in Morocco, Berber leaders are protesting a move by the city of Agadir to remove street names in the Berber language, Tamazight. The Agadir city council voted to change Tamazight street names to the names of Palestinian cities, ostensibly as a show of support for Palestinians. Abdullah Badou, head of Morocco's Amazigh Network, said: "We do not have a problem with Palestine. Certainly, we support the Palestinians, but we do not agree with those who ignore the nature of the area and the history of Morocco." (Photo of Agadir port via Morocco World News)

North Africa

Crisis resolved at Libyan oil terminals —for now

Libya’s Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) lifted the state of force majeure it had declared at four export terminals in the country's eastern "oil crescent," after the forces of eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar agreed to withdraw from the facilities. Exports are set to resume, and global oil prices began to fall as the news broke. The ports were all handed back to NOC control without any obvious concession being made to Haftar. The Guardian reports that Haftar had been pressing privately for Saddek Elkaber, the governor of the Libyan central bank, to step down, claiming that Elkaber was funnelling monies from the oil industry to militias opposed to him. A warning from Donald Trump that he would take legal action against those responsible for the impasse may have prompted Haftar's capitulation. (Photo: Libya Observer)

North Africa

Paralysis at Libya oil ports jacks up global price

Oil prices rose above $75 a barrel for the first time since November 2014, as Libya's National Oil Corporation declared force majeure at its principal oil ports, which continue to be battled over by rival armed factions. Prices for West Texas Intermediate crude rose to $75.27 a barrel before dropping back down to $72.73. After years of depressed global oil prices, analysts are again talking of a possible new "oil shock." Growing tensions between the US and Iran, and other factors, were also cited. Libya's Union of Oil and Gas Workers meanwhile issued a statement saying that the country's oil is the collective property of all Libyans, and should be removed from all political, regional and tribal disputes. (Photo: Libya Observer)

North America

SCOTUS overturns injunction on travel ban

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 in Trump v. Hawaii that President Donald Trump's proclamation restricting entry from particular Muslim-majority countries was "squarely within the scope of presidential authority" under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The court also found that plaintiffs challenging the proclamation were unlikely to succeed on their claim that the ban violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The ruling overturns a preliminary injunction issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which blocked the policy from taking effect. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower courts for "further proceedings." (Photo of protest at Foley Square, Manhattan, by Syria Solidarity NYC)

North Africa

Podcast: Homage to Lounes Matoub

In Episode 12 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg pays homage to the martyred Berber singer and songrwiter Lounes Matoub on the 20th anniversary of his assassination. It remains unclear to this day if Matoub was killed by agents of the Algerian state or militants of the Islamist opposition—as both were equally opposed to the Berber cultural renaissance that he represented. The Berbers, or Imazighen (singular: Amazigh), are the indigenous people of North Africa, whose language and culture have been suppressed to varying degrees by Arab-dominated regimes from Morocco to Libya. The 1980 "Berber Spring" in the Kabylia region of Algeria was key to Matoub's politicization, and his assassination was followed by a second round of "Berber Spring" protests in 2001. This presaged the international Arab Revolution that broke out a decade later—which in North Africa was really also a Berber Revolution. The 2011 ptotests and uprisings resulted in advances for Berber cultural rights and autonomy in Algeria, Morcco and Libya alike—a sign of hope amid the current atmosphere of counter-revolution and reaction throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image via Le Matin d'Algéria. Lounes Matoub shown accosted by Algeria's ruling generals on one side and the Islamist opposition on the other.)

North Africa

‘Disaster’ seen as Libyan oil facility burns

Libya's National Oil Corporation is warning of an "environmental disaster" following clashes at the country's Ras Lanuf oil terminal that set storage tanks on fire. “Further damage to these oil sites could have a huge impact on the Libyan oil sector and the national economy.," the statement said. The Petroleum Facilities Guard launched an operation in Libya's "oil crescent" last week to take the Ras Lanuf and Sidra terminals from the Operation Dignity militia alliance, which they termed a “a terrorist entity.” Operation Dignity and the affiliated "Libyan National Army," led by commander Khalifa Haftar, are loyal to Libya's unrecognized eastern government. (Photo: Libya Observer)

North Africa

Libya: protest against siege of Derna

Protesters marched in Libya's capital Tripoli demanding that renegade general Khalifa Haftar lift his siege of the eastern city of Derna. Demonstrators gathered outside the headquarters of the UN mission to demand an international response. Protesters demanded UN pressure on Haftar to open a corridor at Derna to allow evacuation of the wounded and ill. Derna has been under siege for nearly two years, but the situation has worsened since Haftar launched a new offensive this month against the Islamist factions that control the city. (Map: IRIN)

North Africa

ICC to Libyan authorities: hand over ‘executioner’

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor called upon Libyan authorities to surrender military commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli, who is accused of war crimes including mass executions and summary killings. Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council that Werfalli, along with Saif al-Islam Qaddafi and Al-Tuhamy Khaled (intelligence chief under the Qaddafi dictatorship), has yet to be handed over to the court. Despite the warrant out for his arrest, she said there are now "credible allegations" that he has committed further murders which may also be prosecuted as war crimes. "The Libyan people deserve answers," Bensouda said, adding that suspects cannot continue to be "sheltered." (Photo via Middle East Eye)

North Africa

UN decries arbitrary detentions in Libya

A UN report detailed the conditions of thousands of people are being held in Libya, describing them as human rights violations. According to the report, released by the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, about 6,500 people are held in official prisons, but thousands more detained in facilities controlled by armed groups, with varying degrees of loyalty to official authorities. One facility, which holds about 2,000, is run by a militia nominally loyal to the internationally recognized government, at Mitiga airbase in Tripoli. It is said to subject detainees to torture and unlawful killings, while denying adequate medical care. Additionally, the report asserts that people are arbitrarily being detained because of their tribal or family background or perceived political affiliations. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

North Africa

Environmental protester shuts Libyan oil-field

The company operating Libya's biggest oilfield, Sharara, announced that it had been shut down after a citizen closed the pipeline that pumps the field's oil. The field is run by a joint venture between Libya's National Oil Corporation and several multinationals. The individual claimed the pipeline caused environmental damage to his lands, and had also closed the pipeline last year to press his demands for a clean-up. With this latest closure, Libya's oil output dropped to a six-month low of 750,000 barrels per day. National Oil Corporation chairman Mustafa Sanallah described those who shut down oil-fields as "terrorists." (Photo: Libya Observer)