Category Archives: Tunisia
Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and Mediterranean Sea to the north and east.
Ansar al-Sharia running training camps in Benghazi and DarnahAugust 28, 2013 BY: Bill Gertz
U.S. intelligence agencies earlier this month uncovered new evidence that al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Benghazi are training foreign jihadists to fight with Syria’s Islamist rebels, according to U.S. officials.
Ansar al-Sharia, the al Qaeda-affiliated militia that U.S. officials say orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound and a CIA facility in Benghazi, is running several training camps for jihadists in Benghazi and nearby Darnah, another port city further east, said officials who discussed some details of the camps on condition of anonymity.
The officials said the terror training camps have been in operation since at least May and are part of a network that funnels foreign fighters to Syrian rebel groups, including the Al-Nusra Front, the most organized of the Islamist rebel groups fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.
The officials said the jihadist training is a clear indication that Ansar al-Sharia continues to conduct terrorist activities and is linked to jihadists in both Syria and North Africa.
Disclosure of the terror training camps also bolsters earlier intelligence assessments that Libya, following the death of Muammar Qaddafi, is now a focal point for al Qaeda terrorist activity in North Africa.
Information about the terrorist training camps in northeastern Libya was uncovered after the arrest of several jihadists near the port city of Darnah in early August.
Other information about the camps appeared online at jihadist social media outlets around the same time.
Two men identified as Tunisians disclosed the existence of the training camps in Benghazi after they were interrogated by a local militia group in northern Libya.
At the time of their arrest, the Tunisians stated that they were trained in small arms use and were on their way to join Syria rebels by traveling first to Benghazi, then Istanbul, and over land across Turkey and into northern Syria.
According to the officials, the Tunisians were arrested Aug. 3. Inside their car, the militia found six passports, an AK-47 assault rifle, and foreign currency. A total of four people traveling in the car, including two Libyans, clashed with guards at a security checkpoint at the time of the arrest.
One of the men said he was an associate of Ansar al-Sharia’s leader Sufian Ben Qumu, an al Qaeda terrorist released from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007.
Details of the number of jihadist training camps and jihadists was not disclosed, but the officials said there are several training camps.
The Ansar al-Sharia Brigade in Benghazi was formed in early 2012 from several Islamist militias that fought during the 2011 revolution that ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. The group was forced to relocate its operating bases based on local opposition to the group’s role in attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound.
Ansar al-Sharia is engaged in overt charitable activities and armed patrols in Benghazi, in addition to the covert terrorist training. The group has sought to play down its role in jihadist activities to avoid both the Libyan government and international scrutiny.
Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah was founded by former members of the terrorist Salim Martyrs Brigade and operates a base west of Darnah.
Libyan officials told Britain’s Arabic language newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat earlier this month that some type of covert U.S. military action was taken against al Qaeda bases in Darnah. However, Pentagon spokesmen said they had no information about such attack that reportedly took place Aug. 11.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe Libya has produced more jihadist rebels for the Syrian conflict than any other outside nation. Some 20 percent of foreign jihadists in Syria came from Libya and that several hundred are currently in the country.
Over 100 Libyans were reported killed in Syrian fighting for such rebel groups as Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Umma Brigade, Muhajirin Brigade, and Ahrar al-Sham, an Al-Nusra offshoot.
The jihadist training highlights the danger that Libya is becoming a breeding ground for al Qaeda terrorists. Officials said the weak central government in Tripoli has allowed Islamist militias to flourish, including in Benghazi and Darnah where the two factions Ansar al-Sharia groups operate.
The Ansar al-Sharia Brigade was blamed by U.S. officials for carrying out the deadly Benghazi terrorist attack Sept. 11.
The Obama administration sought to cover up the terrorist attack in the weeks before the presidential election by initially claiming the action was the result of a spontaneous demonstration triggered by an anti-Islamic Internet video.
Four Americans were killed in the attack, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
A Pentagon report from August 2012 published by the Library of Congress stated that al Qaeda senior leaders and the group al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) “have sought to take advantage of the Libyan Revolution to recruit militants and to reinforce their operational capabilities in an attempt to create a safe haven and possibly to extend their area of operations to Libya.”
The report said al Qaeda is developing a “clandestine network” in Libya that could be used in the future to destabilize the government and offer logistical support for al Qaeda activities in the region.
The report said that AQIM has formed sleeper cells that “are probably connected to an al Qaeda underground network in Libya, likely as a way, primarily, to secure the supply of arms for its ongoing jihadist operations in Algeria and the Sahel.”
“The al Qaeda clandestine network is currently in an expansion phase, running training camps and media campaigns on social-media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube,” the report said. “However it will likely continue to mask its presence under the umbrella of the Libyan Salafist movement, with which it shares a radical ideology and a general intent to implement sharia in Libya and elsewhere.”
To avoid attacks, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya “could be the new face of al Qaeda in Libya despite its leader’s denial.”
Speaking yesterday on Bitna al-Kibir, a live TV show, Tahani al-Gebali, Vice President of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Egypt, said the time was nearing when all the conspiracies against Egypt would be exposed—conspiracies explaining why the Obama administration is so vehemently supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose terrorism has, among other atrocities, caused the destruction of some 80 Christian churches in less than one week.
Al-Gebali referred to “documents and proofs” which Egypt’s intelligence agencies possess and how “the time for them to come out into the open has come.” In the course of her discussion on how these documents record massive financial exchanges between international bodies and the Muslim Brotherhood, she said: “Obama’s brother is one of the architects of investment for the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Here the confused host stopped her, asking her to repeat what she just said, which she did, with complete confidence, adding “If the matter requires it, then we must inform our people”—apparently a reference to Obama’s support for the Brotherhood against the state of Egypt, which is causing the latter to call all bets off, that is, causing Egyptian officials to spill the beans as to the true nature of the relationship between the U.S., the Brotherhood, and Egypt.
She did not mention which of the U.S president’s brother’s she was referring to, but earlier it was revealed that Obama’s brother, Malik Obama, was running an African nonprofit closely linked to the Brotherhood as well as the genocidal terrorist of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir.
NZOG (New Zealand Oil & Gas Ltd) has executed an agreement to take a 40% stake in a Tunisian concession that contains an oil field which could be brought into production as early as 2014. The Cosmos Concession in the Gulf of Hammamet, offshore Tunisia, contains the Cosmos South oil discovery. The concession was held by a joint venture comprising Storm Ventures International (80% and Operator) and Tunisia’s state-owned oil company L’Enterprise Tunisienne d’Activites Petrolieres (ETAP) (20%).
Storm is a wholly owned subsidiary of Toronto exchange-listed Chinook Energy Inc, and will reduce its share of the concession to 40% under the farm-in agreement.
A formal signing of the agreement by NZOG and Storm has been completed in Tunis.
Under the terms of the farm-in agreement, NZOG is paying a US$3m contribution to past costs, securing the right to participate and earn an interest in the development of the Cosmos concession.
A development plan is in preparation. If the development is approved through a Final Investment Decision (FID), NZOG will pay the first US$19m of Storm’s share of the development costs.
Independently evaluated proved and probable oil reserves of 6.3 million barrels have been attributed to the Cosmos South block, with additional potential from adjacent lobes. Further work on assessing the recoverable oil resource will take place ahead of FID.
The development plan is currently based on three wells, a small platform and a floating production and storage offtake vessel (“FPSO”), with initial production rates of 15,000-20,000 barrels of oil per day.
The partners intend to decide on FID in mid-2012. If the project proceeds, first oil production is anticipated in mid-2014.
NZOG CEO Andrew Knight says Cosmos is a good fit for NZOG.
“NZOG’s initial cost exposure is relatively small. If the numbers stack up we will commit to the Final Investment Decision and will be able to comfortably fund the capital commitment from our balance sheet. This is a near term, low risk development opportunity, with both production upside and exploration potential. This is a promising step forward in the expansion of our overseas interests.”
By Andrew Hammond and Tarek Amara
(Reuters) – Islamists are expected to do well in Tunisia‘s first democratic election Sunday, 10 months after the ouster of autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising that set off protest movements around the Arab world.
The Ennahda party will almost certainly win a share of power after the vote, which will set a democratic standard for other Arab countries where uprisings have triggered political change or governments have tried to rush reforms to stave off unrest.
Sunday’s vote is for an assembly which will draft a new constitution to replace the one Ben Ali manipulated to entrench his power. It will also appoint an interim government and set elections for a new president and parliament.
Polls open at 2 a.m. EDT and close at 2 p.m.
The mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young man whose self-immolation last December set off the Tunisian revolt, said the elections were a victory for dignity and freedom.
“Now I am happy that my son’s death has given the chance to get beyond fear and injustice,” Manoubia Bouazizi told Reuters. “I’m an optimist, I wish success for my country.”
Ennahda, banned under Ben Ali who is now in exile in Saudi Arabia, is expected to gain the biggest share of votes. But the Islamist party will probably not win enough to give it a majority in the assembly and will seek to lead a coalition.
The North African country’s elite fear the rise of Ennahda puts their secular values under threat. The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) has centered its campaign on stopping the Islamists, vowing to seek alliances to keep it out of power.
Ennahda has been at pains to assuage the concerns of secularists and Western powers, fielding several women candidates including one who does not wear the hijab, or Muslim head scarf, and promising not to undermine women’s freedoms.
Tunisia was a pioneer of secular modernization among Arab and Muslim countries in the post-colonial period, banning polygamy, equalizing inheritance rights, giving women the right to vote and discouraging the veil.
Fundamentalist Islamists known as Salafists have attacked a cinema and a TV station in recent months over artistic material deemed blasphemous. Ennahda says they have nothing to do with them, but liberals do not believe them.
Observers says Ennahda’s intentions are not clear. Its election campaign has scrupulously avoided offering policy details that mark it out as much different from its rivals.
At a final election rally Friday, Suad Abdel-Rahim, the female candidate who does not wear a veil, said Ennahda would protect women’s gains.
But illustrating the party’s contradictions, many of the books on sale on the fringes of the rally were by Salafist writers who believe women should be segregated from men in public and that elections are un-Islamic.
“In the country’s interior, where it’s more conservative, they use different rhetoric,” said commentator Rachid Khechana. “It’s about stopping culture from outside, moral corruption of youth, defending Islam, which they say has Shura (consultation), not democracy.”
“ARAB SPRING” REPERCUSSIONS
An Ennahda victory would be the first such success in the Arab world since Hamas won a 2006 Palestinian vote. Islamists won a 1991 Algerian election the army annulled, provoking years of bloody conflict.
Ennahda’s fortunes could bear on Egyptian elections set for next month in which the Muslim Brotherhood, an ideological ally, also hopes to emerge strongest.
Libya hopes to hold elections next year after a protest movement that transformed into an armed rebellion with NATO backing managed to oust Muammar Gaddafi. Unresolved violent conflict continues in Syria and Yemen, and many other governments have begun reforms to avoid civil unrest.
With so much at stake, there are concerns that even the smallest doubt over the legitimacy of the Tunisian vote could bring supporters of rival parties onto the streets.
Ennahda’s leader, Muslim scholar Rachid Ghannouchi, riled opponents this week when he described the party as Tunisia’s biggest and warned that the Tunisian people would start a new uprising if they suspected any poll rigging.
Prime Minister Beji Caid Sebsi said in a televised address Thursday that Tunisians should vote without fear of violence or cheating, a feature of Ben Ali’s police state.
“No one can doubt the elections, they will be transparent and clean. Rigging will not be possible. The ballot boxes will be open to everyone,” Sebsi said.
The government says 40,000 police and soldiers are being deployed to prevent any protests escalating into violence. Shopkeepers say people have been stockpiling milk and bottled water in case unrest disrupts supplies.
- Tunisian Islamists to do well in first “Arab Spring” vote – Reuters (news.google.com)
- Tunisian Poll To Provide Bellwether For Arab Spring (npr.org)
- Tunisia to vote in historic poll (bbc.co.uk)
- Campaigning ends for Tunisia’s first free elections (ctv.ca)
- Pride, tears as Tunisians in Canada vote in first ‘real’ election (thestar.com)
- Enthusiasm builds for Tunisia’s 1st free elections (seattletimes.nwsource.com)