Video: Gaddafi’s toxic Libyan legacy

There is a growing concern over Gaddafi’s legacy as tons of dangerous chemical waste is found in the country. In southern Libya, 10,000 drums of radioactive ‘yellowcake’, an essential ingredient in the uranium enrichment process, have been been found.

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September 28th Updates

New York: London: Tripoli:

Al Jazeera08:20 Al Jazeera English At least 7 Gaddafi fighters were killed and more than 40 wounded in the NTC’s push for Sirte.

Reuters08:20 Reuters A television station broadcast footage dated Sept. 20 of what it said was Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam apparently rallying his forces in one of the last strongholds of the Libyan leader.

“This land is the land of your forefathers. Don’t hand it over,” Saif al-Islam shouted to a crowd of followers in an unidentified location, according to the footage broadcast by Arrai TV on Tuesday.

Saif al-Islam has not been seen in public since the Libyan capital Tripoli was overrun by rebels in August.

Brandishing an automatic rifle and wearing a military uniform, he said: “Brothers, you need to enter Tripoli today by force.”

It was not immediately possible to verify the footage.

Reuters08:16 Reuters Intense sniper and artillery fire from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi holed up in Sirte kept fighters with Libya’s new rulers at bay in the deposed leader’s hometown on Wednesday.

Sirte, one of the last two bastions of support for Gaddafi, is encircled by Libyan forces and under attack from NATO.

Lack of coordination and divisions at the front have been hampering their attempts to capture Sirte and Bani Walid, which lies 180 km (110 miles) south of Tripoli.

A commander leading the attack on Sirte said on Tuesday he was in talks with elders inside the city about a truce, but the head of another anti-Gaddafi unit rejected negotiations.

Al Jazeera08:00 Al Jazeera English Algeria has told off Gaddafi family members who are in the country seeking refuge for taking part in political activities. Meanwhile a Tunisian appeals court has freed the former prime minister of Libya under Gaddafi, Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahdoudi.

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Video: Sue Turton on the latest from Sirte

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September 26th Updates

New York: London: Tripoli:

Reuters21:42 Reuters Libya’s new rulers plan to abolish the state security courts used by Muammar Gaddafi to imprison political dissidents, the country’s interim justice minister said on Monday.

Mohammed al-Alagi told a news conference the proposal had been formulated by judicial experts and would be put forward shortly to the leadership of the Transitional National Council, Libya’s unelected caretaker leadership, for approval.

His announcement was greeted by several journalists and human rights activists with applause and a cry of Allahu Akbar (God is greatest).

Reuters21:38 Reuters Tuareg tribesmen fought skirmishes at the weekend with armed groups affiliated to Libya’s interim government, two sources with local contacts told Reuters.

Al Jazeera15:33 Al Jazeera English Libyan provisional government forces backed by NATO warplanes raced into the eastern outskirts of Sirte on Monday and fought street battles with Muammar Gaddafi loyalists.

Thick black smoke billowed into the air as National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters battled loyalist troops at a
roundabout about 2 km from the centre of the deposed leader’s home town, Reuters journalists said.

AFP15:00 AFP The United Nations is expected to end its emergency humanitarian operations in Libya at the end of November, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya Panos Moumtzis said on Monday.

Humanitarian operations are “for the time being expected for the next eight weeks until the end of November,” he told reporters.

“We hope the country will be in a new phase” by then, Moumtzis said,explaining that at that point Libya would be in need of “technical” assistance, to develop the country and bring about electoral and judicial reforms.

He added that the country’s new authority, the Transitional National Council, had indicated it wanted to take responsibility for humanitarian issues by the end of November.

Al Jazeera13:02 Al Jazeera English Libya has resumed oil production for the first time since the revolution, tapping 15 wells and producing some 31,900 barrels per day, Italian energy giant Eni said Monday.

Eni said production had resumed at the Abu-Attifel fields, about 300km south of the city of Benghazi. Other wells would be reactivated soon to reach the “required volumes to fill the pipeline” between the Abu-Attifel field and the Zuetina port.

The operations are being conducted by Mellitah Oil & Gas, a partnership between Eni and Libya’s state-run National Oil Corp.

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Video: The Rebels of Libya : Part 1

The first time I went to Libya, in 2010, I was arrested just two days into my trip. Filming a documentary for VICE, I was detained for shooting where the authorities thought I shouldn’t, and thus began endless rounds of questions, emphatic yelling, and head-shaking incredulity at my claims of innocence—and, of course, the requisite implications that I was a spy. When I was finally released, I swore I would never return to the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (official name). But that promise was quickly broken, and I found myself back in the country almost exactly a year later, in the midst of a chaotic and violent revolution.

Very rarely is one given the chance to live history, to experience revolution firsthand in all its ugly glory. And it is ugly. Sporadic, disordered communications; crumbling and damaged infrastructure that inhibits movement; intermittent electricity; infrequent meals; and the thumping bass of faraway artillery and the treble of nearby machine-gun fire ensures dialed-up adrenaline. It is, at its best, organized chaos and, at its worst, anarchic chaos. But what a wonderful chaos it is. Watching the push for freedom against one of recent history’s most tyrannical dictators has to be one of the most inspiring moments of my life.

Not many people saw the Arab Spring coming. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East and would have bet large sums of money that widespread upheaval would never happen in the region, so when rebellion erupted earlier this year—in Tunisia and Egypt—I was still doubtful that it could ever spread to Libya. Gaddafi had too much power, control, and money for the people to effectively challenge him. Again, I was wrong. As I write this, rebel forces have entered Tripoli, overrun Gaddafi’s compound, and are hunting for the colonel so that he can be tried for crimes against humanity—or offered safe passage to exile.

My second trip to Libya consisted of two weeks of traveling from the Egyptian border to Benghazi and then onto the front lines in Misrata, embedding with a few different rebel groups along the way. I was shocked by how young many of them were. Barely past puberty and fighting with whatever they could find (one guy had a spear gun), they displayed so much heroism and courage that I would tear up while talking to them. One rebel I spoke with had left the hospital earlier that night—despite having lost a leg—so that he could get back to the front lines. He was offered a flight to Germany and a new prosthetic limb by an NGO, but instead snuck out of the hospital to rejoin his comrades.

Later, I met another group that had just returned from the front between Tripoli and Misrata. Most of them were teenagers from Benghazi. There were 68 who had arrived together; by the time I caught up with them, only 35 remained. Despite the high number of casualties, they were still optimistic.

But the big question looming over everything was “Why are they fighting?”

Continue reading here

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Video: NTC holds press conference in Benghazi

Mustafa Abdel Jalil spoke today in Benghazi about the state of the country.

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Video: Libya military site yields possible radioactive material

Sabha, Libya (CNN) — A military site containing what appears to be radioactive material has been uncovered by revolutionary forces near the southern Libyan city of Sabha.

Military forces loyal to the country’s National Transitional Council took a CNN crew Thursday to the site, not far from Sabha in the Sahara desert. The crew saw two large warehouses there, one containing thousands of blue barrels, some marked with tape saying “radioactive,” and several plastic bags of yellow powder sealed with the same tape.

The material has not been confirmed as being radioactive, but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency, confirmed Thursday that the Libyan government had yellowcake stored near Sabha.

Yellowcake is processed uranium ore that can, after extensive refining, be used to produce enriched uranium for nuclear purposes.

Two more towns for Libya’s rebels Riding along with anti-Gadhafi fighters Sabha shows little resistance

Fighters entered Sabha, long regarded as a pro-Gadhafi stronghold, on Wednesday afternoon and met initially no resistance, officials said.

Elsewhere, revolutionaries have taken control of the southwestern town of Ubari, chasing toops loyal to now-deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi from the area as Libya’s new leaders continued to gain momentum, NTC field commander Al-Amin Shtawi said Thursday.

In another event likely boost to revolutionary morale, Libya’s most recent prime minister under the Gadhafi regime, al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, was arrested Wednesday night in Tunisia, the government confirmed to CNN Thursday.

Al-Mahmoudi was detained in Tamaghza, near Tunisia’s border with Algeria, the Tunisian interior ministry said, having entered Tunisia illegally without a visa. He was attempting to cross into Algeria at the time of his arrest, a ministry spokesman said.

“I believe the Libyan people will want to see him brought to Libya and put on trial here for his crimes under Gadhafi’s rule,” Abdul Rahman Busin, an NTC spokesman, told CNN.

The NTC has not yet formally requested al-Mahmoudi’s extradition, he added.

The Algerian government on Thursday also declared its willingness to work “closely” with the new Libyan authorities, the official Algeria Press Service reported.

This cooperation would benefit both countries and “stimulate the appropriate conditions to maintain peace, security and stability in the region,” the foreign ministry said in a statement quoted by APS.

Algeria had previously declined to recognize the NTC as the new government in Libya. A number of Gadhafi family members, including his wife and three of his children, fled Libya for Algeria last month.
In another sign that stability may be returning to Libya, the United States reopened its embassy in Tripoli Thursday, in the former residence of the U.S. ambassador to Libya. The old embassy building in the center of the city was trashed by Gadhafi supporters in May.

The military site outside Sabha, found Wednesday night, is now guarded by about a dozen lightly-armed revolutionary fighters. It does not appear to have been left unfrequented for long.

Protective suits were found hanging in offices that appear previously to have belonged to the Libyan government, along with rubber gloves, devices for measuring radioactivity and various military documents.

The second warehouse at the site contains rockets and old surface-to-air missiles on which the fuses have deteriorated, making them liable to explode if they’re struck.

A field commander for the revolutionary forces said the NTC wanted the international community to come in, identify the suspect material and take it to a place of safekeeping. The forces fear it could cause an environmental disaster if it were to explode during fighting, he said.
John Pike, a defense expert at Global Security, told CNN the elderly rockets might pose a greater threat to safety than the suspected radioactive material.

The discovery of the material is not a surprise, he said, as the IAEA had established that yellowcake was at the site. The current status of the material is not known, however.

A U.S. Defense Department official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the issue, told CNN that Libya’s remaining stock of highly enriched uranium was removed from the country as of 2009.

“We also continue to monitor Libya’s stockpile of uranium yellowcake,” the official said. “This material would need to go through an extensive industrial process, including enrichment, before it could be used in building a bomb. Such processes do not exist in Libya.”

The official said it was important that the NTC fully secured the site and that it worked to allow international monitors to return to Libya as soon as possible.

Gill Tudor, a spokeswoman for the IAEA, said it could confirm that previously declared yellowcake was stored in drums at a site near Sabha.

“The IAEA has tentatively scheduled safeguards activities at this location once the situation in the country stabilizes,” she said in a statement.

These “safeguards” measures would not mean the IAEA was physically protecting the material — a national responsibility — but rather that it was carrying out technical checks on what was there to avoid proliferation, she said.

Libya declared its previously covert nuclear program in December 2003 and Gadhafi’s government cooperated with verification efforts by the IAEA from that point on.

An IAEA report from 2008 states that Libya had declared that between 1978 and 1981 it imported 2,263 tonnes of uranium ore concentrate, which was being stored at Sabha. However, plans to build a uranium ore concentration and conversion facility in the Sabha area were not carried out, the report says.

The latest territorial gains by the revolutionary forces come days after the NTC received the significant milestone of being recognized by South Africa and the African Union as Libya’s legitimate rulers.
Troops loyal to Libya’s new leaders have been putting pressure on several regime holdout cities in recent days.

Along with Thursday’s military action in Ubari, fighters also clashed with Gadhafi loyalists in the northern town of Bani Walid and in Sirte.

Ahmed Bani, an NTC military spokesman speaking in Tripoli Thursday, said revolutionary fighters had encountered mercenaries who appeared to be from Chad or Niger, and had uncovered caches of weapons and military supplies.

He said most of the towns in southern Libya had been “liberated” from Gadhafi loyalists and that revolutionary forces would continue to fight for control of Bani Walid. “Our revolutionaries won’t lose hope,” he said.

Despite not yet having complete control over the entire country, the NTC says it is planning on how to set up a new government.

Elamin Belhaj, a senior member of the NTC, told CNN Wednesday that the formation of a Libyan government will not be announced until anti-Gadhafi forces control the borders of the country and liberate the three cities of Bani Walid, Sirte and Sabha. That effort could take up to one month, he said.

After liberation, the NTC will create an interim government by appointing a prime minister who will be responsible for forming the government.

The prime minister will decide how many ministers will be in that interim government, but he must return to the NTC for approval of that government. That government will create a new constitution that will be put before the Libyan people for approval in a referendum.

Source: CNN

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Video: Libyan fighters push to within striking distance of Sirte

After a week of stalemate, Libyan fighters manage to push Gaddafi’s fighters back. They call on them to lay down their weapons and surrender.

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Libyan oil flows, foreign workers wait

BREGA, Libya, Sept 23 – Scribbled in blue marker in Arabic on the walls of Brega oil terminal is a message meant to cheer returning workers: “Gaddafi is gone and the place has been checked.”

Oil production has restarted in some Libyan fields including Sarir in the east, but the near-deserted Sirte Oil headquarters to the east of Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown is testament to the damage the conflict has done to the country’s main industry.

Amidst a cluster of crude oil storage tanks, gleaming white in the Mediterranean sunshine, stand at least two charred grey ones. The chimney of the site’s power plant lies in a gnarled wreck in the courtyard. A warehouse used for weapons storage, hit by a NATO bomb, is a tangle of wood and piping. A stash of missiles nestles in a petrochemical site, stored there by Gaddafi troops who took the gamble that NATO would not target expensive infrastructure.

Brega is one of a cluster of export terminals and Libyan oil companies are eager to get things started in a business worth about $176 million a day before the conflict. The country provides only around 2 percent of global oil consumption but its oil is prized for being easy to refine.

Some oil workers have marvelled that Gaddafi did not inflict damage to Libya’s oil facilities on the scale of Saddam Hussein, who ordered hundreds of oil wells to be set ablaze on his retreat from Kuwait in 1991. There has been no comprehensive survey of the Sirte Basin, which holds most of the country’s oil and gas fields, but interim oil minister Ali Tarhouni estimates the war has left 10-15 percent of Libya’s oil infrastructure damaged.

Yet safety remains a major concern, especially after militia killed 17 guards at the nearby Ras Lanuf refinery last week. Brega is probably out of range of even the most sophisticated rockets in Gaddafi’s arsenal. But the area is full of mines, and the country is strewn with ordnance dating back to World War Two.

LETHAL COMMUTE

Fathi Issa, chairman of the management committee of state-owned Sirte Oil, waves a small, disk-shaped anti-personnel landmine the colour of milky tea, and tells reporters that 6,000 of the explosives have been found on Brega beach.

“We will bring all the workers back when it’s safe. We find something new every day,” Issa told Reuters last week.

According to official figures from the National Transitional Council (NTC), 40,000 mines were planted around the Brega area during this year’s fighting; Military spokesman Ahmed Bani told Reuters an order for 120,000 from Brazil was placed by a Gaddafi officer during the conflict, suggesting the number could be much higher.

Rabea, an engineer at Sirte Oil who only gave his first name, commutes daily along the Brega-Ajdabiya coastal road which is flanked on both sides by war graves. He has tried three times to re-establish his daily routine since the war began, most recently in late August. “I’m not afraid. The mines are mostly on the seaside,” he said, his stoicism typical of many Libyans who have witnessed months of destruction.

IF IT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR LIBYANS…

Foreign oil companies are less nonchalant.

“I know many think we are cynical people ready to do anything to earn some bucks, but we are not going to put our staff in harm’s way. We need to make sure security is there,” said a French oil industry source.

Sirte Oil’s Issa says that besides mines, one problem has been sabotage to the Hateiba gasfields south of Brega. The tops of wells were found exposed, causing gas to leak out. Looting has forced many companies to order new equipment. Ras Lanuf Oil and Gas Company, or Rasco, told Reuters its tugboats were stolen by Gaddafi troops who used them to shuttle arms back and forth to Misrata when it was under siege.

Accommodation is hard to find. Some of the houses in the workers’ barracks are little more than sunken husks and there is no electricity or running water. An upturned armchair with loose stuffing is parked in the middle of the street. The forest-green uniform of a Gaddafi soldier lies on the pavement, apparently abandoned by its owner.

Still, spirits are high in the oil-rich east, one of the spearheads in the military campaign against Gaddafi. For people here, restarting oil output is a matter of pride.

In Benghazi, Yousef Mahmoud, an engineer at National Oil Company subsidiary Jowfe, has set up a society called the February 17 oil group, named to commemorate the day Libya’s revolt began. It has 4,000 members from Libyan oil firms. As well as restarting output, it wants to purge former Gaddafi sympathisers from the business and move the country’s umbrella oil firm NOC away from Tripoli and into the east.

“We are trying to push people to work again and we try to make a full report of the damage,” he told Reuters, sitting in the Benghazi office of U.S. oil services company Baker Hughes.

There was not an American to be seen in the office. Foreign oil firms have yet to return to Libya on a large scale. Economic sanctions have deterred many U.S. firms, even though the United Nations Security Council voted last week to ease them. Security is the main concern.

International oil firms are accustomed to working in hostile environments, but as a general rule they rely on their own security firms. This grates with Libyans, who feel they are capable of securing the country after ousting Gaddafi. That’s turning into a sticking point in negotiations.

“If security is good enough for Libyans it should be good enough for foreign workers,” said interim oil minister Ali Tarhouni. An oil official in the NTC told Reuters the country is planning to create a force of 5,000 security guards to secure oil and gas infrastructure.

RISK OF ATTACK

Libya’s oil industry can restart without foreign firms, but analysts say a speedy return to pre-war output of 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) will depend on their return.

In the short term, the priority for oil production is to serve the Libyan people, says Abdalil Salah, an official in the oil ministry. Imports are costing Libya’s interim administration around $330 million a month. Blackouts and fuel shortages at service stations are still common.

Abdusalam el-Madani, head of administration for German oil company Wintershall in Libya, has visited his company’s oil sites which have not been mined or suffered major damage. “The facilities are ready to start operating and our foreign workers will be back by early October,” he said.

Official estimates of how quickly Libya’s oil output can recover range from a year to 15 months. That may seem slow, but Iraq’s oil output has yet to return to its late-1970s and early-1980s levels eight years after the fall of Saddam.

In messages broadcast from hiding, Gaddafi has threatened devastation similar to Saddam’s in Iraq. Until he is caught or killed, that remains a risk, particularly in remote desert areas like the Sirte Basin. In theory the area is under NTC control. But soldiers from Gaddafi’s desert strongholds could easily move eastwards.

Despite their concerns, Libya’s oil companies take solace in the preparations they made ahead of the crisis. Libya’s crude in the Sarir field is particularly waxy, and when in the late 1970s British oil major BP was forced out by nationalisation, the company told the Libyans it would leave behind clogged pipelines.

“They said they would leave us with the world’s largest candlestick,” said Younis Feituri, a member of Agoco’s management committee for exploration and production. This time around, the company mixed the crude with a thinner variety of oil and it is now flowing to the Tobruk export terminal. “We haven’t forgotten BP’s words.”

Source: Reuters

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September 24th Updates

New York: London: Tripoli:

AFP17:24 AFP A series of blasts that rocked Tripoli and sent up a huge black plume of smoke on Saturday was “accidental,” a fighter for Libya’s National Transitional Council said.

“This was just an accident. The weapons store exploded by itself. This was not caused by anyone,” the NTC fighter, Abdel Basset Hussein, told AFP outside the naval base housing the munitions.

The series of explosions had erupted earlier in the afternoon, causing jitters among residents in the eastern districts of city where the naval base is located.

Reuters16:31 Reuters Libyan provisional government forces have found weapons believed to be banned internationally near Sabha and Wadan, the head of the National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said on Saturday.

“There are weapons believed to be internationally forbidden, and they are under our control,” Abdel Jalil told a news conference in Benghazi, monitored in Cairo. “We will seek help from local experts and the international community to get rid of these weapons in a suitable way,” he added.

twitter12:43 Barry Malone tweets: “NATO saying won’t comment on Sirte today. Our reporters are now inside Sirte with NTC fighters, about 1km from the centre of town.”

AFP12:32 AFP 30 Libyan fighters were killed in an assault on Bani Walid today, according to a local doctor. A northern front commander said another 50 had been wounded.

AP10:27 Associated Press Muammar Gaddafi’s daughter has said in an audio recording that her father is in high spirits and fighting alongside his supporters against the revolutionary forces who swept his regime from power.

In her first public remarks since the fall of Tripoli a month ago, Aisha Gaddafi accused the country’s new leaders of being traitors, noting that some of them were members of Gaddafi’s regime before defecting in the civil war.

“Those who have betrayed the pledge they offered [to Gaddafi], how come they won’t betray you?” she said in a warning to Libyans.

NATO09:00 NATO has been active over Sirte all night, planes still overhead.

twitter08:43 Zeina Khodr tweets: “Build up of anti #Gaddafi forces at the western enterance of #Sirte … They intend to advance to city shortly”

“Anti #Gaddafi forces want to evacuate families originally from #Misrata in “residential area 1″ in #Sirte and hold that territory.”

” Anti #Gaddafi fighters firing #Grad rockets into sirte as they start their push into #Gaddafi hometown.”

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