Libya. Since an agreement on a new national unity government was signed during the mediation of the UN in 2015, a presidential council with its seat in Tunisia was set up as a first step. In January, the Council presented a proposal for Ministers to the Unity Government, with Fayez al-Sarraj as the head of government.
The current population of Libya is 6,871,303. Libya has had two rival governments and parliaments since 2014: an Islamist-led government based in the capital Tripoli and an internationally recognized government in the port city of Tobruk in eastern Libya. The UN-backed unity government was supposed to replace the other two, but when the agreement was signed in December last year, only some of the representatives from the two camps approved it and none of the country’s armed groups had been involved.
But with support from the EU, the UN, neighbors from neighboring countries and leaders in ten Libyan cities, Fayez al-Sarraj and six ministers, despite protests from both Tobruk and Tripoli, set up a temporary headquarters at a heavily guarded naval base in Tripoli in late March. To the base, al-Sarraj and his ministers arrived by boat, since the Islamist-led regime’s leader Khalifa al-Ghwell closed the airspace over the capital. In connection with the arrival, the government in Tobruk warned “foreign parties” to try to get the Unity Government (GNA) in place. In Tripoli, al-Ghwell accused the GNA of being “infiltrators who do not know Islamic law”.
According to countryaah, the situation was confused when, shortly after GNA’s arrival, the Tripoli-based government unexpectedly stated that they would resign in order to “prevent bloodshed and fragmentation”. According to analysts, the oscillation was due to the fact that the leaders in ten cities that had previously supported the Islamist-led government changed loyalty in the hope that the country’s economy would improve. Important bodies such as the central bank and the state oil company NOC had begun to support al-Sarraj’s government, which, according to a politician close to al-Sarraj, meant a severe blow to the Tripoli government, whose armed groups’ loyalty rests on bribery. “Some members of armed groups are no longer paid and others fear the same fate,” said the politician, who wished to remain anonymous.
In January, IS conducted a series of attacks against two of Libya’s largest oil facilities, Ras Lanuf and Es Sider. After the attacks, fighting broke out and over four oil storage tanks caught fire, which according to the oil company NOC led to the loss of around 1 million barrels of oil.
The same month, at least 60 people died and nearly 200 were injured when a truck full of explosives detonated at a police school in the city of Zliten in northwestern Libya. IS took on the deed, which in the media was described as the worst since the collapse of Muammar al-Khadaffi in 2011.
In February, the United States bombed an IS stronghold near the city of Sabratha west of Tripoli. Nearly 50 people were killed in the attack. Among them was Tunisian Noureddine Chouchane, who is accused of being behind two deadly attacks on tourists in Tunisia in 2015.
From the coastal city of Surt, which IS entered in 2015, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported abuse and unjust executions. A publication based on interviews with residents of the city described “public beheadings, bodies in orange overalls hanging from scaffolding and masked warriors tearing people off their beds at night and removing them”. The interviewees also talked about monitoring the residents with “spies on every street” and punishing those who, for example, smoked or listened to music. Even for the Muslims who followed IS’s despotic laws, according to HRW, the group suffered a terrible suffering.
In May, for example, during a meeting in Vienna, the United States, the EU, the Arab League and the African Union decided to support GNA’s request to purchase weapons to fight IS. This made an exception to the arms embargo applicable to Libya since 2011.
In the same month, a major offensive against IS began in Surt, which intensified during the summer.
In August, the Libyan forces were backed by US combat aircraft, which carried out upwards of 30 flight attacks against IS targets in Surt for just over a week. A month later, it was hopefully talked about “the last battle of IS-controlled Surt”, after Libyan government forces loyal to GNA, with support from US attack aircraft, took control of almost the entire city.
Alarming figures from the UN in August indicated that over 2.4 million Libyans were in need of humanitarian aid, while close to 300,000 children did not attend school and nearly 350,000 Libyans were on the run in the country. According to the International Migration Organization (IOM), more than 270,000 migrants and refugees from other countries were waiting on the coast of Libya to flee across the Mediterranean to Italy.
According to thereligionfaqs, in September, forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar took control of the oil ports of Ras Lanuf, Es Sider, Zueitina and Brega in eastern Libya, since forces loyal to GNA were removed. Shortly thereafter, the United States and several allies urged all military forces transferred to the oil belt to withdraw immediately. In March 2015, Khalifa Haftar was appointed Army Chief of the Tobruk Government.
With two months left of the year, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR, 3,800 people had lost their lives in the Mediterranean. The figure corresponds to the number of deaths for the whole of 2015. In light of the fact that last year there were around three times more people who flew across the Mediterranean, the risk of death had increased dramatically. One explanation was that more and more people took the longer and more dangerous route between Libya and Italy following the EU refugee agreement with Turkey in March. Furthermore, the smugglers had started to use poorer inflatables, which were also fuel-poor.
Like the smugglers, armed criminal groups benefit from refugees by demanding ransom. In a report by Amnesty International, migrants and refugees testified about being subjected to torture, sexual violence and pure slavery in overcrowded camps on the coast of Libya. According to several testimonies, those who could not pay enough risked being beaten or in the worst case risked murder.
In parallel, major rescue efforts were made on the Mediterranean. At the end of August, the Italian coastguard rescued several people during one and the same day over 6,500 people, 20 kilometers off the coast of Libya. In October, a similar effort was made when over 5,600 people were rescued during one day.
In December, Libyan security forces reportedly took over the last remaining buildings from the IS terror group in the coastal city of Surt.