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Libya

Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution by Lindsey Hilsum
Reviewed by Emily Millard

"He seemed so small and I found myself thinking that he was just a man, nothing more," says Huda Abuzeid upon seeing the corpse of Muammar Gaddafi.
But then she is reminded of the dead body of her father, a Gaddafi opponent brutally murdered in London possibly by Libyan agents, and she starts to cry.

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Four years after the rebels and NATO air campaign overthrew Kaddafi, the cohesive political entity known as Libya does not exist as such anymore. The Central government is only a name and tribal and different religious factions are struggling for the power and above all to own and manage the country's oil wealth.

As a country it has broken up and therefore its original components, before the forced Italian colonial unification, has newly emerged. There are two power centres: one in the Eastern region or Cyrenaica and another one in the Western part or Tripolitania. These two halves are in the Northern part of the country while the South or Fezzan is a huge barren and lawless land where all kind of traffics are flourishing.
The civil war that is raging is the outcome of the warring powers: "Dignity" and "Dawn". It has destroyed the social and economic structure and made the oil production to be reduced dramatically. This has paralyzing consequences as oil revenues had been the only source of income that has allowed the functioning of the state institutions until 2013.
As the war goes on the consequences for Libya are appalling and can worsen because of the following reasons:
1.-The economic devastation is leading to a very serious humanitarian crisis since the functioning of the country is entirely based on its oil wealth that in normal times stands for 90% of the GNP.
Now this percentage has dropped because the fighting has reduced the crude output and damaged the export facilities. In 2010 the output was 1, 6 million barrels per day and now is only about 300.000 barrels per day since the attacks to the Ras Lanuf and al-Sidr oil ports created high insecurity among the foreign companies that are extracting hydrocarbons. As an aftermath the National Oil Corporation has lost 80% of its capacity and if the war continues there is a possible outright suspension of oil extraction.
The slump of 60% in the crude world prices is also a threat to the revenues that constitute Libyan GNP. For 2015 those revenues are only 10% of what they were in 2012 and because the national budgets are based on oil wealth its reduction has a direct impact on the population income as 85% are state employees. That figure means that 42% of the annual budget is spent in salaries for civil servants. From the budget another 30 billion have to be spent to import food. Libya only produces 10% of the food it consumes and therefore has to import 90 % of foodstuffs. All these figures make the budget deficit rise to 15 billion and growing. As foreign currency reserves are needed to cover the deficit and cannot be replenished due to the shortfalls in oil revenues it is feared that in the near future they might entirely disappear. For the time being, it is becoming more and more difficult to deliver basic public services and salaries are long time overdue.
This situation calls for a rapid reaction of the International Community because there is already famine in the whole Libya.
2.-The increasing activity and number of jihadists groups that contemplate Libya as a "Land for the Jihad".
The lack of central authority has given way to a lot of factions that are fighting for the political and economic power. The surge of radical elements and their spreading began in 2014 when hardened Libyan fighters returned from Syria where they had founded the "Battar Brigade". The Jihadists in Libya can be classified between supporters of the Islamic State (IS) and followers of al-Qaeda and its regional affiliates mainly al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar-al-Shariah. Another troubling outcome is that Islamic State followers are expanding its presence from Darna thanks to the civil war chaos and has inserted itself between the rivals "Dignity" and "Dawn". The IS in Libya has declared its allegiance to the Bagdad Caliphate moving its base from Darna to Sirte, declaring this territory in February 15th the "Province of Tripolitania" as they had earlier named the Eastern part of former Libya the "Province of Cyrenaica". The terror of IS has expanded to the South by establishing there the "Province of Fezzan". Their main aim is to dominate other Islamic groups, mainly in Tripoli and Misrata, to bring then under the rule of IS.
In the three "Provinces" the IS has created recruiting and training centres to help other jihadists active in North Africa and the SAHEL to overthrow regimes they consider as heretics. The porosity of the frontiers is helping the IS with this aim.
3.-The absence of effective control along the Libyan frontiers is a fact that is worsening the control of the country and increasing the consequences of the civil war. Terrorist movements, smuggling, and all kind of traffics are taking place in the whole territory that has also become a source for traffic of arms of all kinds from the huge deposits Kaddafi had established along the Libyan Southern frontier. These arms reach as far as Nigeria, Somalia, Kenia and the SAHEL. Former elements of Kaddafi regime and terrorists receive from these illicit trades a lot of money that is not only used for increasing its capabilities but also to attract the population by supplying them with goods and food.
4.-Libya has transformed itself in the biggest platform for illegal immigrants arriving from Africa and the Middle East attempting to reach Europe thanks to the absence of frontier control mainly in the North shores and ports.
In fact in the present situation in Libya there are no means to stop the flow of immigrants that are encouraged by militias and terrorist groups because this trade is very lucrative. Besides within the immigrants jihadists can be inserted to commit terror acts on our soil.
Two years ago the EU created a mission to control the arrival and departure of immigrants to Libya but its members have moved to Tunisia due to the insecurity and the fear of being kidnapped.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY EFFORTS TO MAKE LIBYA A UNIFIED COUNTRY

The international organizations are striving to make possible an agreement among several Libyan factions in order to recreate a stable and effective central government. The United Nations (UN), through its Special Representative has organized several meetings to bring an end to the civil conflict and the creation of an effective authority.
However the negotiating positions of the Tobruk and Tripoli "authorities" are so far apart that it is almost impossible to reach any agreement. Moreover because the jihadists have great influence in the "Dignity" and "Dawn" movements by means of supporting them in the civil war, their interest is only peace if it is based on the "sharia".
The Organization of African States and the Arab League are supporting the UN mediation but their role is limited.
The EU considers that today's Libya constitutes a real threat for the Maghreb countries and also for Europe The civil war, the militias and jihadists are not only hindering the UN peace efforts but are encouraging extremists to carry out violent actions in the neighbouring countries. The barbaric assassinations in the Tunes Museum are a token of their aims because the perpetrators came from Libya.
The EU High Representative for External Affairs and Security has well perceived the danger for Europe if the Libyan chaos goes on. She has declared that: "We should have no illusion on the fact that we can stay away from Libya. Libya will not stay away from us"
The Chairman of the European Council in the meeting of March 20th stated that: "Events in the Southern Mediterranean are dangerous for Europe...We remain committed to Libya transition and the work of the UN Special Representative. There must be an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and rapid agreement on a Government of National Unity... It is vital to continue talks about what more we can do together with our Southern neighbours to stabilize the whole region".

POSSIBLE WAY AHEAD

Therefore it should be considered carefully the nature of a possible European Union intervention in Libya to prevent that the present chaotic situation gets even worse and could even destabilize the whole North African region and the Sahel.
Perhaps the moment has arrived for the International Community to consider extreme measures to stop the bloodshed and anarchy in Libya. The partition of Libya might be one of the unwanted possible solutions to the existing chaos. There is a precedent with Sudan.

 

This paper prepared by retired Ambassador Mariano García Muñoz of EURODEFENSE - Esp

 

By Nick Watts, Great North News Services Correspondent

You can't help feeling that the RAF is enjoying the Libyan situation, just a little bit. Before and immediately after the SDSR, the inter-service back biting got to the point where the other two services were asking what all those fast jets were for? History as Mark Twain once said, doesn't repeat itself but sometimes it rhymes. Many may remember that the Nott defence review which threatened to do damage to the Royal Navy was followed by the Falklands war. Now along comes a situation which the RAF must be hoping will drag on, and on, and on. Just like the Iraqi no fly zone which endured for 12 years.

The MOD briefing given in London this morning by the AOC of No 2 Group Air Vice Marshall Phil Osborne went to great lengths to stress to the assembled media just how professional / flexible the aircrews were being and how the utility of air power was just what was needed to enforce the UN's resolution 1973. There was some reference to two RN warships in the Mediterranean and to the Tomahawks which had been fired by HMS Triumph, but the story was undoubtedly about Typhoon and Tornado.

In fact the RAF has every reason to be flagging this as operation "told you so" as the utility of the Tornado has been amply demonstrated by the mission from Marham to strike targets in Libya, a round trip of some 3,000 miles. The Harrier had neither the endurance nor the weapons carrying capability to undertake such a mission. The absence of any naval aviation has not been a show stopper. The Treasury must be watching this with great interest.

The unspoken story, however, is a bit more worrying. We learnt that the Tornadoes were re-fuelled in flight by Tri-star and VC 10 tankers, both venerable aircraft. We have also learnt that the aerial surveillance has included such assets as the Nimrod R1, which provides signals intelligence, and the sentinel which provides ground surveillance. Both of which are due to be withdrawn from service. The replacements for all of these assets are not yet ready. Neither the Tankers, nor the replacement Boeing 707 style Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft which are due to replace the Nimrod R1. The Sentinel and the RAF's AWACS aircraft were able to assist the USAF locate and rescue the aircrew from their crashed F 15 Eagle.

The logistic support for this operation has been provided by the RAF's C 17s and the C 130s of the transport fleet. How much additional pressure is this putting on the airbridge to Afghanistan? It must be hoped that the advocates of air power will take heart from these developments and renew their case both with the MOD and the Treasury, so stave off some of the cuts demanded by the SDSR. The RAF is now involved in one enduring medium scale operation and a small one at the same time. No doubt the aircrews are working very hard, but the RAF must be at or near its operating limit. If the UK is going to be a player on the world stage, there cannot be any scope for further reductions in the front line RAF, and some of those announced must be re-visited.

There is just time to stop all those P45s going out!

 

The French are grabbing the headlines with up to 20 sorties, but despite appearing to hang back, the US is doing the heavy lifting in the enforcement of the UN no-fly zone over Libya.

Their Odyssey Dawn operation  launched 110-112 Tomahawk land attack missiles at over 20 air defence systems; communications and SA-5 surface to air missile sites. F-18s supported by C-17s and a C-130 arrived at Aviano in Italy.

 No bomb damage assessment will be possible until it is light over Libya. No Reaper or Predator unmanned planes are currently deployed.

The naval task force in the Mediterrranean consists of 11 US ships (of which 3 are submarines) 11 Italian, 3 UK (one submarine which also launched Tomahawks, HMS Cumberland and HMS Westminster), and one each from France and Canada. But the French carrier Charles de Gaulle isalso  reported to be on her way.

French aircraft - believed to be Rafales - were in the first wave. There is an unconfirmed Gaddafi regime claim to have shot down a French plane.  As part of Op Ellamy British Tornado GR4 bombers from RAF Marham flew overnight direct to lauch Storm Shadow stand off missiles and up to 18 Typhoon fighters from RAF Coningsby and RAF Leuchars. Antique 3 VC-10 refueling planes are being positioned at the sovereign base of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. 2 Nimrod R1s, destined for the scrap heap as recently as a fortnight ago, and 3 Sentry AWACS have also been deployed from there by the RAF.

Denmark and Norway are both sending six F-16 fighters, probably to the US base of Sigonella in Sicily, , and Spanish F-18 Hornets are also expected to be in operation, as are the Dutch. 6 Canadian CF-18s were refuelled in Scotland en route south. No info yet on the specifics of Arab involvement.

Read more...  

Reviewed by Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Between 1986 and 1998 STRATFOR'S Fred Burton was at the forefront of the United States' counterterrorism efforts. As part of the relatively low-profile Diplomatic Security Service's (DSS) Counterterrorism Branch, Burton gained first experience of religious terrorism and extremism. 'Ghost' is his attempt to take the reader into his – and the West's – struggle against terrorist atrocities. This is a journey into what Burton calls the 'Dark World' and as such throws light on the response to terrorism that is seen by all but a few.

Ghost is divided into three sections, each reflecting stages of Burton's career with the DSS and also developments within the international system. Part 1 details Burton's transition from a beat cop into a counterterrorism professional. It also covers the Beirut hostage crisis and the beginnings of Libya's support for Middle East terrorism. From the outset it is absolutely staggering just how inadequately prepared the United States was for international terrorism. Initially, the Counterterrorism Branch was comprised of just three federal officers. There were no set guidelines or standard procedures and you get the sense that Burton and the team truly made it up as they went along.

To begin, Burton applies a beat cop mentality to the task at hand. At times part 1 reads a little bit like a counterterrorism manual. It is full of anecdotes about lessons learned, advice to take out into the field and 'do's and don'ts'. Part 1 also provides the reader with the side of intelligence and counterterrorism that is regularly played out in Hollywood movies. Burton introduces us to the FOGHORN messenger facilities, the standard uniform and accessories of a federal agent and the near constant stream of intelligence that needs to be sifted and made sense of quickly. There is also a sense that because the Counterterrorism Branch was so small and compartmentalised they were a breed apart from Washington's other federal agencies. Yet all this is forgotten when it is discovered that they have lost one of their own.

As hostages are gradually released in Lebanon it becomes clear that William Buckley, the former CIA Bureau Chief in Beirut, died in captivity. Burton's memoirs capture the overall despair that all federal agencies felt in not saving the life of a colleague. Indeed the death of Buckley is one of many acts of extremism that Burton and his own take very personally. In doing so the Counterterrorism Branch shifts from being a regular place of work to almost the cornerstone of Burton's very existence. Holidays are lost, family commitments are overlooked and weekends merge into the working week.

A further demonstration of how all consuming counterterrorism became to Burton is his 'hit-list' of terrorists. For twelve years, Burton did not rest in his attempts to bring each and every name on that list to justice. Indeed many names were added to the list throughout his career. The bombing of the TWA Flight over Greece, the Lockerbie disaster and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre all bring the same heartfelt response from Burton. They also take him to the safe-houses and the back streets of the world in his attempts to capture those responsible. When Burton slips off the scene almost entirely, the reader joins him on a journey into the murkiest parts of the 'Dark World'.

Read more...  

Here's the full text published on 17 February 2012. It covers Libya, Combined Joint expeditionary force and headquarters, defence equipment and industry, research and technology, nuclear issues, cyber, counter terrorism, security, Iran, Somalia, and Burma 

    

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By Dr Robert Crowcroft, Senior Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

The United Nations-sanctioned military intervention in Libya is only a few days old, but already its execution is looking cack-handed. Listening to the news, every politician or military officer has their own perspective. Usually this contradicts what someone else has said just an hour before. 'Message' indiscipline is rife; no single narrative unifies the mission. Nor is there much in the way of strategic vision either. At the moment there seems to be a worrying lack of clarity as to what we are doing in Libya in the first place, how we are going to do it, and how we are going to get out. The Daily Telegraph rightly called it 'an unedifying muddle'. Such interventions require conceptual clarity, and in the campaign to bludgeon Colonel Gadaffi this is sorely lacking. Considering that the operation has only just begun, this raises serious issues about the effectiveness of our political leadership.

Some preliminary questions:

[1] Why are we there?

For the last month, David Cameron has been spoiling to launch military strikes against Gadaffi. To be sure, when he was slapped down by the United States the prime minister had to row back for a little while. But Cameron has pushed for the intervention more than any other leader, with the possible exception of Sarkozy. This is odd, because there is no obvious British national interest in Libya and military action in the Islamic world generates all kind of political headaches.

If we were being cynical, we might recall that prior to the outbreak of civil war in Libya, the British press were, for the first time, starting to land really heavy blows on the government about 'cuts'. Then, when the Libyan crisis began, Cameron leapt into it with a rather baffling eagerness. The prime minister would, without question, have recognised the domestic advantages of deflecting media attention abroad; and what better way to do that than engaging in a 'moral' military campaign against a tin-pot tyrant? Mr Cameron has spent the last month playing the role of 'international statesman', 'good liberal', and 'defender of human rights'. Politically speaking, this is far more appealing than being 'the man who freed the criminals' or 'the man who cut the police'. I know which I'd prefer.

There is a long tradition of British politicians using foreign affairs as a pawn in domestic calculation (most obviously Lord Palmerston, for whom being the scourge of Johnny Foreigner was a recurrent ticket to political success at home). It would be naïve to think that such manoeuvring is not at work here. The problem, however, is that while a month ago it seemed plausible that the Gadaffi regime would fall (and hence a few airstrikes in assistance would represent an easy political win for Cameron) now it looks likely that Gadaffi will survive in some shape or form. Launching an intervention when the rebellion has been pushed back to a small enclave is arguably a grave error; we should either have gone in much earlier, or not at all. Yet Mr Cameron remained eager to drive the policy forward, despite the fundamental changes on the ground. If the mission is now disconnected from easily achievable strategic goals, then serious questions must be asked about his leadership.

[2] Joined-up government

Sir Peter Ricketts, the National Security Adviser, should be awarded an Academy Award. Time and again he informs us that the National Security Council is the best thing since sliced bread, that the NSC is now bridging gaps across Whitehall, and that policy is more co-ordinated as a result. Unfortunately, in the two big tests the NSC has faced since its inception, it has failed to produce anything resembling joined-up government, let alone coherent policy. The SDSR process last autumn was a rushed exercise driven by the Treasury, and in which crucial strategic decisions were blatantly avoided. And now, in Libya, the lack of leadership and grip at the heart of government has been exposed. Cameron and Liam Fox (unlikely allies it must be said) are at loggerheads with General Sir David Richards over whether or not Gadaffi himself is a legitimate target for airstrikes. Fox said that targeting Gadaffi was 'potentially a possibility'. When the question was put to Richards, however, he declared 'absolutely not' and added that 'It is not allowed under the UN mandate'. Downing Street responded by asserting that Richards was 'wrong'. In the House of Commons, Cameron then said that the UN resolution 'does not provide legal authority' to get rid of Gadaffi, but then qualified this by stating that 'there is no decent future' for Libya under the current ruler. I shall translate his statement: 'We want rid of Gadaffi but couldn't get that idea past the UN'. Political leadership in war is supposed to inspire confidence. Can anyone say they have confidence in the British government at the moment?

More worryingly, there is a lack of clarity over whether we should simply be enforcing a no-fly zone, or interpreting the UN resolution in such a way as to pursue regime change on the cheap. Are we there to ensure Gadaffi's planes don't fly, that he doesn't attack civilians (and how is this to be done from the air in urban areas), or to get him out of power? The discord is already building.

This lack of leadership is just as clear in the case of President Obama. He has suggested that the US is going to 'tone down' its role in the coming days, which could simply mean a ceremonial transfer of control to NATO. But it might also mean that the coalition collapses into ineffectiveness without US leadership to drive it forward. Any attempt to toss the problem to the Europeans is unlikely to produce a positive result. Such an outcome would be far, far worse politically than not having become involved in Libya at all. In both foreign and domestic policy, Obama has repeatedly displayed a worrying inability to take any decisions. Don't bet against the same thing happening here.

[3] What is the exit strategy?

If Gadaffi holds on to power, the most likely outcome is a stalemate and the effective fracturing of Libya into two entities. In such circumstances, how long do we have to remain in Libya for? It is probably impractical to do a no-fly zone over the long term, given the logistical constraints. But how do we get out without losing face? Is the West putting itself in a position where it assumes a duty to protect the rebel enclave indefinitely?

Moreover, how do we know that the rebel leaders are any better than Gadaffi? If this is essentially a civil war between the regions of Libya, then it seems unlikely that the rebel leaders are good Guardian-reading liberals in disguise. The incident at the weekend, when the rebels shot down one of their own jets and tried to depict it as a Gadaffi violation of the ceasefire, should make us deeply cautious about them.

There is no clear exit strategy from Libya and so, given the likelihood of a stalemate on the ground, there is much potential for embarrassment. After the British failure in Basra, which saw the US forced to ride to the rescue, the UK cannot afford another blow to its military credibility.

[4] The indulgence of left-wing dogmas

Cameron has shot himself in the foot here. He has stressed repeatedly how the international community 'has given its permission' for the military action. The problem is this: what happens in six months if British, or Western interests, mandate action elsewhere that is not rubber-stamped by the UN? Without this 'permission', can we not defend our national interests? Everyone with common sense knows that the UN is not a collection of virtuous do-gooders but individual states (usually led by gangsters and criminals) looking out for themselves. In the long-term, employing such left-wing language in justifying military conflict is simply self-defeating. The fact that the UN is driven by power-politics was demonstrated vividly in 2003. So why should sovereign democracies permit it such importance? On BBC Radio 4, William Hague stressed that the UN is the world's 'highest moral authority'. Don't make me laugh. The UN refused to sanction the Kosovo war. Should we have stood aside?

Pretending that international politics functions in this way is a feckless thing for politicians to do. If they are so stupid, they deserve their fate.

[5] The duplicity of the Arab states

Long-time observers of the Middle East will know that Arab states are about as trustworthy as a convicted conman. The support of the Arab League for military action was a positive sign. But the League's lapse into ambiguity once the airstrikes actually began was entirely predictable. The narrative which will be spun in mosques across the Middle East is of 'Crusaders' killing Muslims for oil. Arab leaders, hard pressed with their own internal problems, will no doubt make enthusiastic appeals for national unity on the grounds that civil strife opens the door to the Jews and Christians.

So, in conclusion, there is cause for serious concern about the quality of political leadership currently on display, particularly in London. It is, of course, plausible that secret intelligence reports indicate the Gadaffi regime is on the verge of collapse. It would be sensible for the government to keep quiet about this. But as far as we can detect in public, at any rate, the big story is the lack of clarity about the campaign. Imposing discipline on Whitehall would be a start. Mr Cameron needs to come up with some answers – and quickly.

 

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi began to approach the eastern rebel capital of Benghazi on March 19, with the BBC reporting that loyalist armor already is inside the city, though this may have been only a reconnaissance element. Soon after these reports, word of impending international military operations against Gadhafi's forces began to emerge, with French and Italian aircraft reportedly beginning to conduct combat air patrols.

Though Gadhafi declared a unilateral cease-fire in response to the U.N. Security Council's (UNSC) authorization of the use of force against Libya on March 17, it is becoming apparent that this was simply a stalling tactic in an attempt to consolidate gains ahead of airstrikes. The military incentive for Gadhafi is to reach Benghazi before any airstrikes begin. If a "no-drive" zone between Ajdabiya and Benghazi were to come into effect, military vehicles and supply convoys would be vulnerable to any coalition aircraft orbiting overhead, making it far more difficult for Gadhafi to project force across the large open terrain that separates the two cities. Airpower can also make it difficult to move and resupply forces, so the heavier elements of Gadhafi's forces — tanks, tracked vehicles and artillery — already operating at the end of extended lines of supply, may quickly face logistical issues. However, while airpower can attempt to prevent forces from approaching the city, it cannot force the withdrawal of those forces from within the city without risking significant civilian casualties.

Relevant political negotiations and military planning now taking place in Europe continues and more time is needed to mass forces for the impending air campaign against Libya. Nevertheless, if the European-led effort is to stop Gadhafi from reaching Benghazi, it will have to begin soon, with what forces have so far been moved into place — though given Libya's distance from mainland Europe, the presence of U.S. Marine Corps and Italian Harriers and cruise missile-armed warships off the coast, there already is a considerable amount of coalition airpower in place.

As nightfall approaches, loyalist forces with little night-vision capability may slow operations, and any air campaign against them will likely begin under the cover of darkness, consistent with longstanding U.S. and NATO operational practice. Targets are prioritized, so available airpower will begin to work down the list with the suppression of enemy air defenses as well as command, control and communications likely to be at or near the top of the list, though SA-7 MANPADS and anti-aircraft artillery will remain a persistent threat.

Rules of engagement will be an important question. While Gadhafi's forces have been led by a vanguard of T-72 main battle tanks and supported by BM-21 rocket artillery, his infantry is often videotaped using civilian vehicles for transportation. While the intention will likely be to stop all traffic between Ajdabiya and Benghazi, whether coalition aircraft are willing to fire on civilian vehicles remains to be seen. If so, they risk considerable civilian casualties. If not, they may deny the use of tanks and artillery but risk not stopping Gadhafi's infantry.

The use of airpower has been authorized, forces are being massed and Gadhafi appears to be acting as though its use is inevitable and so is moving while he can. However, the application of airpower entails civilian casualties, and it remains unclear if that application can be translated into the achievement of political objectives in Libya. So while there are many tactical questions moving forward, there is only one strategic one: How has the European-led coalition translated the UNSC authorization into military objectives, and what are the operational parameters and rules of engagement that govern them?

Reprinted from Red Alert by STRATFOR with permission. All rights reserved (c) www.stratfor.com

 

A Falklands veteran who was working on a clean water project in Libya, a Cardiff contracts manager and a couple of Yorkshire teachers has thanked the Royal Navy for their safe rescue.

Mike Wilson, 61, was among the 207 exhausted civilians delivered to Malta on Saturday by HMS Cumberland.

The former sailor from Stamshaw in Portsmouth, Hampshire made his way from Brega in the desert south of Libya to meet the British warship in Benzaghi.
He said: "I can't speak highly enough of how we were treated and cared for in getting out of Libya.

"It was a very dangerous situation which was escalating and all of us onboard were glad to be rescued."

Mr Wilson was working on the Great Man Made River project in the town of Brega. Dozens of British workers have been involved in building a pipeline from a giant underground water source to the rest of Libya.

He said: "It's a really important programme for the people and it's a real shame that we have had to come out. But we were getting reports about looting and militias and it was best to get out of there."

Mr Wilson travelled north by car past fighting factions in Libya, and spent more than 30 hours in HMS Cumberland as she crossed rough seas to Malta.

He said: "I served in HMS Broadsword which was a frigate that was in the 1982 Falklands conflict. The seas in the South Atlantic are renowned for being choppy and dramatic but this was just the same as back then.

"We were in a small Junior Rates mess room and there were several people who were ill. But it was fine given the situation we were leaving and we're very happy to be safe.

"We were in a compound of buildings back in the desert and we had looters trying to get in, armed with knives.

"It was potentially terrifying situation and it's sad for Libya, where I've been for three years."

Mr Wilson's son David is in the Royal Navy and serves on HMS Illustrious and his other son Mark is an army corporal based in Germany.

Richard Weeks, a 64-year-old contracts manager from Sully near Cardiff, who had also been working on a clean water project, had been robbed at knifepoint..

The father of two said: "We were faced with looters rushing into the property where we were holed up and there was nothing we could do. It had been getting more risky for the ten days before and there was no
prospect of it easing.

"They were armed with knives and knew they could take what they wanted, so it was better to let them get on with it. It was a very sad and terrifying situation. I've lived between Cardiff and Benghazi for 20 years and the hope is that the country can return to peace soon."

The government sent HMS Cumberland to Benghazi to collect Britons and civilians from more than 20 nations. RAF planes and commercial airliners have rescued people from the north african country.

Mr Weeks said: "The Royal Navy has really impressed me during this journey. Space and resources were obviously limited but people were kind and considerate and we were kept warm and fed."

Cumberland's Commanding Officer, Captain Steve Dainton, said: "Ten days ago the ship was off the coast of Somali which shows how flexible we can be."

Keith and Sue Rodgers are bound for Settle in North Yorkshire but said they were reluctant to leave Libya.

Mrs Rodgers, 54, who teaches primary pupils at the British School in Benghazi, said: "It was very surreal because we could hear gun fire but could still pop to the shops to get items.

"It was in the last few days that the situation really worsened and we knew we had to go. We live in a normal apartment block in the city and had never had any trouble before; the Libyan people are incredibly friendly.

"We don't know if we will go back yet, for the moment we will go back home to Yorkshire."

HMS Cumberland is continuing to offer assistance in getting people out of Libya, and the Type 42 destroyer HMS York is also nearby to help if required.

Editor's note : Both ships are destined for the scrap heap under recently announced defence cuts. But this proves that 19's not enough.

 

 

 

 

 

By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

On Aug. 24, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill addressed a special session of the Scottish Parliament. The session was called so that MacAskill could explain why he had decided to release Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of terrorism charges in connection with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, and who had been expected to spend the rest of his life in prison. MacAskill said he granted al-Megrahi a compassionate release because al-Megrahi suffers from terminal prostate cancer and is expected to live only a few months.

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