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Showing posts from June, 2016

GNA foreign minister meets with top NATO officials in Brussels

Mohamed Siala, foreign minister in the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), met today in Brussels with the head of NATO, and the EU policy chief to discuss how each organization could help improve security in Libya and on its borders.
NATO Secretary General,Jens Stoltenberg,said he was encouraged by the progress being achieved by the GNA.He focused on how NATO could help in terms of defense and security. At the 2014 NATO summit in Wales NATO said it would help Libya build its defense and security capacity if it were asked by the GNA to do so and was in harmony with the EU and UN. No details of the discussions have been released although a statement noted that the meeting followed a recent conversation between Stoltenberg and the PM of the GNA, Faiez Serraj. as well as contacts between NATO and other GNA officials. The meeting of Siala with Federika Mogherini, EU policy chief, concentrated on discussion of security on Libya's southern borders. Human trafficking is one con…

Protesters demand Government of National Accord solve urgent problems

Many took to the streets of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, to protest against the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNC) headed by Faiez Serraj.
 1 of 2 Some tireswere set ablaze and some roads were blocked such as Ghout Al-Shaal, Al-Saba crossroad and in the Al-Firnaj neighborhood. Many protesters had signs protesting the government and its Presidential Council headed by Faiez Serraj. They demanded solutions to the problems they face including long power outages, a cash crisis and now a water shortage. The situation is exacerbated by high temperatures. As noted in an article a few days ago in Digital Journal, militia determine how power is distributed in Tripoli. Militia force the electrical company GECOL to leave power on to areas they control. As the length of power outages increase more and more areas see protests. They started in the Driebi and Bab Ben Gashir districts but have now spread to five more different areas. In some areas the power was off for 12 hours and returned…

Divisions begin to appear in the eastern Libyan National Army forces of Khalifa Haftar

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Divisions appear within the LNA, commanded by Khalifa Haftar, as the unity government defense minister Barghathi supports the Solid Structure forces, mainly Misrata militia, and also the Petroleum Facilities Guard led by Haftar's foe, Ibrahim Jodhran.
The Defense Minister of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA),Mahdia Barghathisaid that his ministry will provide full support for the Solid Structure forces and also the Petroleum Forces Guard (PFG) in their fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Sirte and elsewhere. In a meeting with Jodhran in Ras Lanuf, as well as Colonel Bashir Budafira of the Ajdabiya-Sirte operations room, Barghathi called on Libyan forces to end their divisions and fight against IS and other extremists in the country. At the same time, he reportedly ordered Jodhran's PFG to secure oil fields in the area. Some are said to be in the hands of pro-LNA forces loyal to Haftar. This order is likely to cause combat rather than heal divisions. Barghat…

Newly released documents give more information on CIA torture techniques

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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has released 50 documents giving details of its brutal interrogation and torture techniques used on terror suspects after 9/11.
The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The CIA used interrogation techniques that President Obama has called "torture" but the CIA refers to either as "expanded interrogation" or "enhanced interrogation techniques." Under "Description of Pressures" are discussed facial slaps, use of diapers, "insects" and "mock burial." Under insects there is the suggestion to use the threat of stinging insects being placed within a confined box with suspects but non-stinging insects would be released. In the "mock burial" the suspect was placed in a cramped confinement box resembling a coffin but the box had hidden air holes to prevent suffocation. One much redacted communique …

Measure to ban transfer of cluster bombs to Saudis defeated in US House of Representatives

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The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly defeated a measure to ban the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. The vote was 204 for and 216 against. The vote against the measure was made up of 200 Republicans but only 16 Democrats.
TheObama administration had urged Democrats to vote against the measure. The closeness of the vote shows the growing opposition against Saudi Arabia's conduct of the war which shows that cluster bombs were used several times and fragments show that some at least came from the U.S.This vote comes just as the Obama administration is reported to have quietly put a hold on transfer of cluster bombs to the Saudis. However, the administration is obviously dead against a ban on sending the weapons to the Saudis. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, chair of the House Committee on Defense Appropriations, said during debate:“The Department of Defense strongly opposes this amendment, They advise us that it would stigmatize cluster munitions, wh…

Forces loyal to Libyan unity government continue to encircle the Islamic State in Sirte

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The media office of the Albunyan Almarsoos (Solid Structure) that is in charge of the battle in Sirte against the Islamic State, announced that 10 of its forces were killed and seven injured in a suicide car bomb attack by ISIS in Abu Grein.

The report saidthat the attack on the Abu Grein police station was at dawn on Thursday. The killed and injured were from Abu Grein, Misrata, and Sebha. Abu Grein was liberated almost three weeks ago by Solid Structure forces, mostly militia from Misrata. The town is about 140 km west and south of Sire.On Twitter there is a video of the event. The attack shows that there are sleeper cells of IS ready to launch attacks even though the IS no longer controls significant territory. One can expect that IS will resort to attacks in major cities and launch guerrilla-type warfare rather than holding territory. Forces loyal to the GNA claim they have consolidated their siege around the Islamic State in Sirte. The IS controls only a 15 to 20 square mile area…

Libyan National Army's bombing of Libyan city of Derna condemned by many

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Some time ago the Libya city of Derna and adjacent areas were cleared of all Islamic State fighters. This was mostly the result of actions by the fighters of the Shura Council of Derna Jihadists.
The Libyan National Army (LNA) under commander in chief General Khalifa Haftar has also claimed credit for clearing the Islamic State out of the surrounding areas but it is not clear how much they helped. Even after the Islamic State had retreated Haftar's forcescontinued airstrikesagainst Derna. Haftar considers the Shura Council to be allied with Al Qaeda even though they deny any such connection. He has carried on the attacks since he consider the Shura Council to be radical Islamists and his enemy. He says the attacks are part of what he calls his Operation Volcano, part of Operation Dignity.Operation DIgnity was begun back on May 16, 2014, with attacks on Islamist militia bases in Benghazi but then involved the burning of the Libyan parliament as shown on the appended video. Haftar c…

Egyptian president will have power to appoint members of Higher Press Council

A bill that allows Egyptian President Abdel el-Sisi the power to appoint the leaders of the Higher Press Council the group that controls state-owned media outlets. The bill represents just one more move by el-Sisi to crack down on any opposition. The Egyptian government has long been trying to stamp out any opposition to the government in the media. On May 1 only two days before World Press Freedom Day, Egyptian police raided the Press Syndicate in Cairo. Amnesty International reports on the event as follows: " 1 May up to 40 heavily armed members of the National Security agency stormed the Press Syndicate for the first time since it was established in 1941. They attacked journalists, beating security guards and detained two journalists Amro Badr and Mahmoud Al-Saqqa. They are being held in Tora prison and have been charged with forming an illegal group with the aim of overthrowing the government, inciting protests and publishing false news, and belonging to the April 6 Movement…

El-Wefaq, largest Shia political party in Bahrain suspended

El-Wefaq, the largest Shia political party in Bahrain was suspended yesterday. The assets of the party were frozen as well. The move is part of a crackdown on activists after more than five years since a pro-democracy uprising first started in Bahrain. The official news agencypublished a statement from the Justice and Islamic Affairs Ministry. The statement said that a Bahrain court had ruled El-Wefaq should be suspended to "safeguard the security of the kingdom." This is not the first suspension for the party. The party demands a transition to democracy and the end of the rule of King Hamad al-Khalifa. Ever since an uprising that began on 14 February 2011, the monarch has been faced by continuing protests even though he insists he has reformed.

 The monarchy is dominated by Sunnis who are a minority in the country while the majority Shia claim they are marginalized. Activists are constantly placed under arrest. Zainab al-Khawaja who was held in jail until recently fled th…

Operation Sophia extended to allow interception of illegal arms shipments to and from Libya

The United Nations Security Council voted to allow naval forces of EU countries to intercept ships in Libyan waters suspected of carrying weapons to or from the country. According to Bloomberg, the new authorization, approved Tuesday, is part of the war against the Islamic State terrorist group and other militias fighting the UN-brokered Government of National Accord. The new motion expands the power of the existing Operation Sophia to allow the navies involved to intercept boats in Libyan waters. Enforcing the arms embargo may bolster the GNA government of Faiez Sarraj, which is struggling to control much beyond the borders of the naval base where it is headquartered. Militia in the west as well as the forces of Khalifa Haftar in the area controlled by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) appear to be able to receive arms without much trouble. A large shipment of trucks and ammunition for Haftar landed at Tobruk in April.

The GNA appears to have little control over milit…

Militia determine how electric power is distributed in Tripoli

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In a speech last night, Prime Minister-elect of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA), Faiez Serraj admitted that militias are controlling the distribution of electricity in Tripoli.

In a short 15-minute TV speech, Ferraj said that " many challenges started prior to our (GNA's) arrival in March." He claimed the challenges had accumulated over the years. On the electricity shortage, he described the problem as multifaceted. Many power stations were damaged since the revolution. The foreign technicians performing maintenance have left the country. It is not clear why the GNA is not able to get them back to help the electrical company and the new government. As a result many stations are not performing at full capacity. There are rolling blackouts.
The Libya Herald then reports: He then admitted that his GNA still had no control in Tripoli, let alone the whole of Libya, outside its Baghdad-like ‘’green zone’’ of the Bu Sitta Naval base by confirming that Tripol…

Libyan Sovereign Wealth Fund sues Morgan Stanley

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Lawyers for Libya's sovereign wealth fund claim that Goldman Sachs exploited inexperienced staff members to close inappropriate deals which cost the fund a humongous $1.2 billion.
The accusation was made at London's High Court at a high profile trial launched by the fund against the prestigious U.S. investment bank. The allegations of shady dealings include the use of prostitutes back in 2008. Goldman Sachs denies that it did anything wrong and that the losses to the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) sovereign fund were simply due to the 2008 financial crash and had nothing to do with the relationship of the LIA to Goldman Sachs. The lawyer for LIA, Roger Masefield, read out an internal memo that was sent by Driss Ben-Brahim a Goldman Sachs partner: Ben-Brahmin said that the fund was "very unsophisticated" and that anyone could "rape them." Youssef Kabbaj, a Goldman Sachs employee gained the trust of "young and impressionable staff" and was able to…

Islamic State counter-attacks in Libyan stronghold of the Islamic State Sirte

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Three vehicles driven by Islamic State suicide bombers, targeted Albinyan Almarsoos (Solid Structure) forces in Sirte. The forces are loyal to the UN-brokered Government of National Accord.

The forces, mostly militia from Misrata, have hemmed in the Islamic State within a5 square kilometer area of Sirte. They have captured the port, the airport , and several military camps. However, they have had to fend off a counter attack at the port. There are numerous booby traps and suicide bombings. The Solid Structure forces entered Sirte on Wednesday. Forces from the Petroleum Facilities Guard are advancing from the east as well. Sirte was seized by IS last year and had become its main base of operations after Derna a city it also held for some time saw the Derna Shura Council drive them out. The Islamic State has also been losing ground in Syria and Iraq.
A spokesperson for the government forces, Reda Issa said that two of the bombings hit gatherings of pro-government forces and that the thi…

Over 50 US State Dept. diplomats want US to strike Assad forces in Syria

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More than 50 U.S. State Department diplomats signed an internal memo that is critical of the Obama administration policy in Syria.

In the memo, the diplomats urge Obama to carry out military strikes against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad to stop what the diplomats claim are persistent violations of the cease-fire in the civil war that has lasted five years already.

A draft of the memo was obtained by the New York Times from a State Department official.

The draft claims that U.S. policy has been "overwhelmed" by unrelenting violence in Syria and calls for "a more judicious use of stand-off and air weapons which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process."

Such a move would no doubt result in an increased confrontation with Russia and would represent a radical shift in U.S. policy which is at present emphasizing the battle against the Islamic State rather than the overthrow of the Assad regime. However, diplomatic attempt…

At ninety, Hugh Heffner sells Playboy Mansion for over $100 million

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Hugh Heffner, 90, the owner of the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills California in the Los Angeles area has sold it for a contract that is worth more than $100 million. The buyer is the 32-year old son of a billionaire who already owns the property  next door. Daren Metropoulos is principal at the investment firm Metropolous and Co. and co-owner of Hostess Brands that produces the famous Twinkies. Daren is the son of equity investor Dean Metropoulos 70 who bought the next door property in 2009 for  $18 million as his personal residence. He hopes to eventually join the two properties. The Playboy Mansion was listed earlier in the year for $200 million.

​Daren said that he was pleased to have Mr. Hefner continue as his neighbor and felt it was a privilege to have the opportunity to serve as a steward for the historic property. As part of the deal, Heffner will be allowed to stay at the mansion as long as he lives. The Metropoulos family has owned and sold brands such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, …