logo

Battle for Benghazi could break up Libya

Battle for Benghazi could break up Libya
Three weeks after losing Tripoli to a different militia, the army now faces an offensive in Libya’s second-largest city from the Islamists of Ansar al-Sharia, which has overrun special forces bases and is attacking Benghazi airport.

Losing the port city would not only leave the government looking impotent and irrelevant. It would also increase the risk of the country crumbling into de facto autonomous regions: the militants demand Islamist rule, while other armed groups want greater powers for the eastern region they call by its ancient name of Cyrenaica.

Rebel factions that united in 2011 in an uprising to smash the 42-year-rule of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi have turned their guns on one another, plunging Libya into chaos as they fight for power, oil, and cash from the $47 billion state budget.

Instead of the stable democracy Western powers had hoped to help create by backing the rebel uprising, Libya might be heading towards civil war, inviting comparisons with strife-torn countries such as Somalia, Yemen or South Sudan. The fall of Benghazi would allow the Islamists to attack pro-government bases to the east, potentially threatening Bayda — the seat of the constitutional assembly — and Tobruk, where the government and elected parliament are holed up after losing Tripoli to a militia from Misrata called Operation Dawn.

Radicals already control the coastal town of Derna, located halfway between Benghazi and Tobruk. The central government is now only running a rump state of less than a third of the country, said Mattia Toaldo, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. ‘Between Dawn and Ansar al-Sharia, they control a large portion that extends from Benghazi to the border with Tunisia,’ he said.

Agencies

Agencies

Our Contributor help bring you the latest article around you


Exclusive

View All

Latest News

View All
Share it
Top