A US air strike recently in Libya may have killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar. At first, officials of the internationally-recognized Tobruk government insisted on Sunday that Belmokhtar had been killed in the attack but later said they were unsure who was killed.
The strike was on a farm near the city of Benghazi. According to different reports, 3 to 7 people have now been reported killed but none have been identified. US officials believed that Belmokhtar was at a meeting at the farm. Belmokhtar is not just a jihadist but a leading drug smuggler and arms dealer and has extensive connections among tribal leaders in areas where he operates. He is married to a woman from Timbuktu, Mali. If this was a business meeting with important local tribal leaders present this will make the Tobruk government even more a target of revenge attacks for allowing the US strike. American officials said the strikes were carried out by multiple F15E fighter jets. Multiple bombs were said to have been dropped on the site. Colonel Steve Warren, a defense department spokesperson confirmed that Belmokhtar was the target of the attack.
Belmokhtar is perhaps best known for claiming credit for the incident in 2013 in Algeria in which 39 hostages and 29 militants ended up dead. He was prominent in the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb(AQIM) movement. Belmokhtar fought in Algeria, Afghanistan, and has been long active in the Sahara area including Mali, in smuggling, hostage-taking for ransom, and various insurgencies. Some reports say that his meeting was with members of the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al Sharia , the group often blamed for the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Often called the Prince, Belmokhtar has a reputation for being killed in attacks only to re-emerge in public and in jihadist videos. US officials may be less insistent this time that he has been killed until they have better evidence. Often jihadists themselves announce when one of their leaders are killed. I have often wondered if such reports are always reliable although in some cases there is independent evidence as well. Jihadists could announce the death of a leader to ensure that the leader is safe from further targeted killing attempts.
The air strikes indicate that the US is now extending the range of its targeted killing to Libya. The attacks will be seen by Islamists within the rival Tripoli government as support for the Tobruk government and its armed forces chief Khalifa Haftar who has had previous ties with the CIA. There are peace talks ongoing between the rival government hosted by the UN. The UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon hoped to reach a deal before Ramadan this Thursday but so far there is silence about what is happening.
The armed men who had been protesting outside the HoR actually tried to storm the building, firing shots into the air, and shouting demands that al-Thinni resign. The government spokesperson said that the men were financed by "corrupted political financiers" linked to powerful local tribal leaders. He did not elaborate or give any more specific information. The session was postponed until next week.
Earlier on local TV, Faraj Akhatabia, a member of the dominant Obiedi tribe in Tobruk, threatened Al-Thinni: “This prime minister must resign, if he doesn’t I will smash his head. Either he leaves or we won’t let the house of representatives stay in Tobruk.” An anonymous security adviser to the government linked the threat to Hassan Tatanaki, a prominent businessman and oil magnate who also belongs to the Obiedi tribe and owns the TV station on which Ahkatabia made the threat. Apparently, Tatanaki wanted to be appointed foreign minister but so far Al-Thinni has not done so. The Tobruk government faces threats not just from the Islamic State and its rivals in the GNC but from local tribes who are unhappy with its performance and are demanding a greater share of power.
" During the course of the discussions in Morocco, one of the parties requested that UNSMIL convey to the other participants a proposal for the resolution of the Libyan crisis. UNSMIL expressed the view that the proposal represented a departure from the agenda which all the participants had previously agreed to."
Note that the statement does not say who the party was who made the proposal or what the proposal was. There appears to be no press reports of what these proposals might be that I could find. The only proposals I found that were covered had to with the nature of the unity government, which a Muslim Brotherhood associated group suggested could be a transitional council. This proposal fits in with the agenda item of a unity government. I expect that the proposal might have come from the Tobruk government and had to do with concentrating upon a campaign against terrorism. Terrorism especially that of the Islamic State is a real problem in Libya but it needs to be tackled by a unity government since both competing parties are suffering from those attacks in areas they control. I expect that Haftar and the Tobruk government are hoping that western countries will support them and they will wage a campaign not just against the Islamic State but all Islamists as Haftar has been doing for some time. This includes the Tripoli government. So far fortunately most western countries notably the US and UK have not thrown their support behind Haftar but for now at least demand that the dialogue process continue. Jason Pack has an interesting article on these issues that I include in the references.
Like this writer's work please donate:
Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.
Running a news based website is fun, time consuming and can be costly. If you would like to help the site keep afloat please use the donate button