One Dead, 62 Wounded In Mosque Attack In Libya’s Benghazi

Libyans check the aftermath of an explosion in the eastern city of Benghazi on January 24, 2018. PHOTO: Abdullah DOMA / AFP

 

Twin bomb blasts struck a mosque in Benghazi in eastern Libya on Friday, killing one person and wounding more than 62, the city’s main hospital said.

The explosions hit the mosque at the start of weekly prayers in Libya’s second city, which lies 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) east of Tripoli, a security source told AFP.

One bomb was hidden in a coffin in the courtyard of the mosque and another in a shoe cabinet at the entrance, the source added.

At least one person was killed and 62 wounded, according to a spokeswoman for the city’s Al-Jala hospital, Fadia al-Barghathi.

The blast follows twin car bombings on January 24 outside a mosque in Benghazi that left nearly 40 people dead.

There was no claim of responsibility for that attack, which underscored the ongoing chaos in the Benghazi region which is controlled by the forces of military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar, who opposes a UN-backed unity government based in Tripoli, announced Benghazi’s “liberation” from jihadists in July last year after a three-year campaign, but sporadic violence has continued.

Libya has been wracked by violence and divisions since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.

On September 11, 2012, suspected jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, killing ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

34 Dead In Twin Bombings In Libya’s Benghazi

Libyans check the aftermath of an explosion in the eastern city of Benghazi on January 24, 2018. PHOTO: Abdullah DOMA / AFP

Twin car bombs outside a mosque frequented by jihadist opponents in Libya’s second city Benghazi killed at least 34 people and wounded 87, hospital sources said on Wednesday.

The eastern city has been relatively calm since military strongman Khalifa Haftar announced its “liberation” from jihadists in July last year after a three-year campaign, but sporadic violence has continued.

The bombers struck after evening prayers on Tuesday, blowing up two cars 30 minutes apart outside the mosque in the central neighbourhood of Al-Sleimani.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the mosque is known to be a base for Salafist groups which fought the jihadists alongside Haftar’s forces.

The city’s Al-Jala hospital received 25 dead and 51 wounded, its spokeswoman Fadia al-Barghathi said.

The Benghazi Medical Centre received nine dead and 36 wounded, spokesman Khalil Gider said.

Ahmad al-Fituri, a security official for Haftar’s forces, was among those killed, military spokesman Miloud al-Zwei said.

Libya has been gripped by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with two rival administrations and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

Haftar supports an administration based in the east of the country. A UN-backed unity government based in the capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority outside the west.

UN efforts to reconcile the rival administrations have so far produced no concrete result.

arliament based in the far east of Libya, while a rival United Nations-backed unity government in the western capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority nationwide.

AFP

Blast Hits Key Tribal Leader’s Mosque In Benghazi

Mexico Fireworks Market Explosion
File Photo

A blast hit worshippers leaving a mosque in the east Libyan city of Benghazi on Friday, apparently targeting a key tribal ally of eastern based commander Khalifa Haftar for a second time, security and medical officials said.

The explosion wounded at least seven people, a medical official said, but left the tribal leader, Saleh al-Ateiwish, unharmed. It was unclear who carried out the attack.

Since the uprising that toppled and killed former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi six years ago, the country has fractured into a complex network of rival factions that have fought for power, aligning themselves with competing governments.

Haftar is aligned with a government and parliament in eastern Libya that have rejected a U.N.-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.

One of those injured in Friday’s blast told Reuters that an explosive device had been left next to worshippers’ shoes at the entrance to the mosque. He said two of Ateiwish’s children were among the wounded.

Ateiwish, head of the Magharba tribe, was wounded as he left the same mosque in Benghazi’s Sidi Frej district in November last year, two months after Haftar’s forces secured control of several key oil terminals with Magharba support.

Haftar declared victory a month ago in a three-year military campaign to take control of Benghazi from Islamists and other opponents, though there are still pockets of resistance in one central Benghazi district.

Seven Killed By Shelling In Libya’s Benghazi

libyaAt least seven civilians have been killed and eight wounded by shelling in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

A hospital official told Reuters news agency on Saturday that the shelling had taken place on Thursday and Friday in residential areas close the frontlines in Benghazi, which has seen heavy fighting in some neighbourhoods over the past two years.

Forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar launched a campaign against Islamists and other opponents in Benghazi in 2014.

Haftar’s forces made substantial gains earlier this year, but fighting on the edges of the city has continued.

A special forces’ spokesman, Fadel al-Hassi, said shelling over the past two days had come from the Sabri and Souq al-Hut districts in northern Benghazi, where Haftar’s opponents have been holding out. The claim could not immediately be verified.

Earlier this week jets pounded Sabri and Souq al-Hut and at least six men from Haftar’s forces were killed in fighting on the ground.

Libya has been in turmoil since veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi was forced from power in an uprising five years ago.

United Nations-backed unity government is designed to replace two rival governments that have competed for power from Tripoli and from the east since 2014, backed by complex alliances of armed groups.

Hillary Clinton Endures Marathon Grilling On Benghazi Attack

Hillary ClintonUS presidential contender, Hillary Clinton, has gone through an 11-hour hearing before a congress committee over the deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

The former Secretary of State said she took responsibility and introduced reforms after the attack that killed four Americans, including the US envoy.

Despite the day’s intensity, Clinton appeared cool and in command for much of the hearing. But as the day wore on, she seemed to be increasingly impatient with the Republican line of questioning and with the constant interruptions from the GOP members on the panel.

In her most emotive testimony, Clinton sought to render harmless the GOP attacks by arguing that she agonised over the deaths of four Americans in Libya more than anyone else on the panel.

“I would imagine I have thought more about what happened than all of you put together,” she said. “I have lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been wracking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done.

“I came here because I said I would. And I’ve done everything I know to do, as I have the people with whom I worked, to try to answer your questions. I cannot do any more than that,” Clinton said towards the end of the grueling day.

While the hearing did not appear to include any major new revelations on what happened In Benghazi or Washington on the night of the attack, it did offer an opportunity for Republicans to probe what they said were still unanswered questions about the tragedy.

She also deflected criticism that she did not do enough to protect the mission.

Her Democrat Party said that the republican-led panel was a witch-hunt trying to harm her presidential bid.

 

 

Car Bombs Kill At Least Eight At Libya Army Academy In Benghazi

Libya BombSeveral car bombs exploded at a Libyan Army academy in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday (March 17), killing at least eight people and wounding more than a dozen, hospital sources and a security official said.

A first bomb exploded at the academy’s front gate as people were leaving a graduation ceremony, security officials said. One or two other bombs exploded almost at the same time, wounding at least 13 people.

No group claimed responsibility for the bombing in Benghazi, where Libyan armed forces have been battling militants from hardline Islamist groups such as Ansar al Sharia, listed as a foreign terrorist organisation by Washington.

Instability in the eastern city is just part of the struggle a weak central government faces in controlling armed groups, militias and brigades of former rebels who once battled Muammar Gaddafi and now refuse to disarm.

Most countries have closed their consulates in Benghazi and some foreign airlines have stopped flying there since the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in an Islamist militant attack in September 2012.

Unknown gunmen killed a French citizen earlier in March, while police found seven Egyptian Christians shot dead execution-style on a beach outside Benghazi, home to several oil firms. No one has claimed responsibility for that killing.

An American schoolteacher was also killed by gunmen in December. Western diplomats are concerned the violence in Benghazi will spill over to the capital, Tripoli.

Clinton Calls Benghazi Her “Biggest Regret”

Former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has opened up on what her critics have described as her Achilles heel – Benghazi.

Appearing at the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in New Orleans, Clinton called the attack her biggest regret.

“You know, my biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi. It was a terrible tragedy. Losing four Americans. Two diplomats and now it’s public, so I can say, two CIA operatives.”

It was in Benghazi in September 2012 when militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic post and CIA compound.

Four Americans, including Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, were killed.

“It was a great loss. It was a great loss to our foreign service; it was a great loss to our country. And it illustrated one of the biggest problems that I faced as Secretary of State. We have a lot of dangerous locations where we send not our military but our civilians.”

Clinton has continually undergone intense scrutiny since the attack.

During the meeting, Clinton also remained on the fence as to whether she will run for President in 2016.

Tax Chief Forced Out in IRS Scandal

Washington’s top tax official was fired on Wednesday as President Barack Obama sought to stem a rising tide of criticism over the Internal Revenue Service’s improper targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny.

With three congressional probes of the IRS looming and Republicans’ calls for firings at the agency growing louder, Obama said he told Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to demand the resignation of Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner. Lew had done so, the president said.

“I’ll do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens again by holding the responsible parties accountable, (and) by putting in place new checks and new safeguards,” Obama told reporters in the White House’s East Room.

Obama’s remarks came on a day in which he tried to regain the initiative amid a series of controversies that have threatened his second-term agenda. The Democratic president said new leadership was needed at the IRS to restore public confidence in the tax agency, whose reputation for political independence has taken a hit because of scandal.

“Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it,” Obama said. “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives.”

The IRS revelations have added to a sense of a White House under siege, and a president struggling to recover his political footing in the face of fast-moving events.

Republicans continue to attack the administration’s handling of militants’ deadly attack last year on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. On Monday, the Justice Department came under fire for seizing phone records of journalists from the Associated Press as part of a criminal probe into intelligence leaks.

Obama spoke after meeting with senior Treasury officials on ways to quell the growing uproar after a government report found that poor management led to an “inappropriate” focus on claims by conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

Obama, who had been accused by Republican critics of reacting too passively to the scandal, promised to work “hand in hand” with Congress to fix the IRS. But he acknowledged the realities of a politically divided Washington, and urged lawmakers to deal with the matter in a way that does not “smack of politics or partisan agendas.”

Republicans signaled, however, they were not satisfied with Miller’s resignation and that they were determined to find out whether the White House encouraged, or knew about, the effort within the tax agency to single out conservative groups for more scrutiny.

Several, including Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, also complained they were misled by Miller and another top IRS official, Lois Lerner, over whether the agency had targeted conservative groups.

Many Republican lawmakers are sympathetic with groups associated with the conservative Tea Party movement, which have complained since 2010 about overly aggressive IRS agents.

“More than two years after the problem began, and a year after the IRS told us there was no problem, the president is beginning to take action,” Senate Republican Minority leader Mitch McConnell said.

“If the president is as concerned about this issue as he claims, he’ll work openly and transparently with Congress to get to the bottom of the scandal — no stonewalling, no half-answers, no withholding of witnesses,” McConnell said in an apparent reference to congressional Republicans’ frustration with what they view as the administration’s lack of cooperation in the Benghazi probe.

Were lawmakers misled?

Obama’s announcement of Miller’s firing came at the end of a day in which Republicans stepped up their calls for action against the agency chief.

McConnell and other Republicans, pointing to the IRS’ acknowledgement that Miller knew about the targeting of conservative groups in 2012, have said that neither Miller nor his predecessor, Douglas Shulman, ever told lawmakers about the problem.

Miller had been on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet privately with lawmakers about the IRS scandal.

Max Baucus, a Democrat who heads the Senate Finance committee and will lead one of the investigations, said he did not believe Miller was forthcoming enough when they met on Tuesday.

“At one point, Acting Commissioner Miller knew about it and yet these practices were still going on,” Republican Representative Charles Boustany of Louisiana, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, told Reuters.

In a message to colleagues after Obama’s announcement, Miller said that there was a “strong and immediate need” to restore public trust in the nation’s tax agency.

“This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days,” Miller wrote.

Miller, a veteran IRS bureaucrat who took over as the agency’s temporary chief six months ago, was still scheduled to testify on Friday before the House Ways and Means Committee, the first of three congressional panels to hold hearings on the IRS scandal. The Justice Department has launched a criminal probe.

Underscoring Republicans’ determination to press forward with the IRS investigation, Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, asked Miller earlier on Wednesday to make sure that five mid-level IRS employees would be available for questioning.

Before the announcement of Miller’s firing, CNN quoted a congressional source as saying Miller had said the IRS had pinpointed two “rogue” employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office as being principally responsible for “overly aggressive” reviews of requests for tax-exempt status by Tea Party groups.

Democrats also have expressed outrage over the IRS’ actions, but mostly have avoided chastising the Obama administration.

Sander Levin, the leading Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, called Obama’s announcement a “vital first step in achieving accountability” for the IRS and urged officials to impose a series of recommendations made in the report by the Treasury Department’s inspector general.

Tough talk

Earlier, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner summed up many Republicans’ attitude toward the IRS scandal, saying: “My question isn’t about who is going to have to resign. My question is who is going to jail over this scandal.”

The audit issued on Tuesday by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration described a series of problems within the IRS that led the agency to use “inappropriate criteria” for evaluating tax-exempt groups, in part by singling out scores of conservative Tea Party and “Patriot” organizations for increased scrutiny.

But the audit did not find evidence the IRS actions were motivated by partisan interests – a conclusion some Republicans do not accept. The notion of a federal agency targeting conservatives based on ideology feeds into a Republican narrative of growing government intrusion under Obama.

For the IRS and the administration, the stakes are particularly high in the scandal because the tax agency has an increasingly significant role in checking the tax status of non-profit groups that dabble in politics, and in enforcing parts of Obama’s overhaul of the healthcare system.

Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller is among those who plan to push legislation that would suspend $440 million of IRS funding intended to help enforce “Obamacare.”

More resignations to come?

Republicans have also called for the removal of Lerner, head of the IRS tax-exempt organizations office. Lerner apologized on behalf of the agency when she revealed the targeting of conservative groups last week.

Aides to Republican lawmakers probing the IRS said that as their bosses seek to determine whether the White House acted improperly, another focus of congressional investigators will be an Obama political appointee: IRS chief counsel William Wilkins.

He is the top legal adviser to the IRS, which has a quasi-independent status within the U.S. government. Wilkins takes the lead on all litigation involving the IRS, from Swiss banking probes to cases against tax protesters.

Wilkins’ office was made aware of the targeting of conservative groups as early as August 2011, according to the inspector general report.

The report does not make clear whether Wilkins – who reports to the Treasury Department’s general counsel – himself knew of the targeting in 2011, or when he first learned of it.

Another question is whether Wilkins, whose office employs about 1,600 lawyers, might have taken the matter elsewhere within the Obama administration.

The IRS issued a statement saying Wilkins did not participate in the August 2011 meeting, which the agency said involved “staff attorneys several layers below Wilkins.”

The inspector general report puts much of the blame for the targeting on incompetence by lower-level employees and dysfunction among managers, but Republicans are aiming higher.

“I refuse to believe that lower-level officials would be making those kinds of decisions,” Boustany said, adding it was too early to call for any particular official’s ouster.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced on Tuesday he was opening an FBI probe into the scandal, said the criminal investigation could include looking into possible violations of the Hatch Act, a law prohibiting political activity by federal employees.

Libyan Islamist militia swept out of Benghazi bases

The powerful Islamist militia Washington blames the attack on its Benghazi consulate which was swept from its heavily fortified bases in Libya’s second city in a mass popular uprising in support of the government early on Saturday.

The action against Ansar al-Sharia appeared to be part of a coordinated sweep of militia headquarters buildings by police, government troops and activists following a mass public demonstration against militia units on Friday.

At least four people were killed and 34 wounded, hospital sources said, as militants fought demonstrators. Gunfire could be heard in the area before the fighters were forced out.

Looters carried weapons out of the vacated Ansar al-Sharia military base compound as men clapped and chanted: “Say to Ansar al-Sharia, Benghazi will be your inferno.”

Ansar al-Sharia has been linked to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last week in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans died. It denies involvement.

Chanting “Libya, Libya”, “No more al Qaeda!” and “The blood we shed for freedom shall not go in vain!” hundreds of men waving swords and even a meat cleaver, stormed Ansar al-Sharia’s headquarters in Benghazi.

“After what happened at the American consulate, the people of Benghazi had enough of the extremists,” demonstrator Hassan Ahmed said. “They did not give allegiance to the army. So the people broke in and they fled.”

Demonstrators pulled down militia flags and set a vehicle on fire inside what was once the base of former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s security forces who tried to put down the first protests that sparked last year’s uprising

 

REUTERS

Nigerian Police on red alert after violent protests in Libya and Egypt

Following recent violent demonstrations in some parts of the world linked to a recent US film believed to have offended a section of some religious faithful, the Nigeria Police said it has taken “immediate proactive security measures to ensure that no similar violence is replicated within our country.”

The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, in a press statement said “the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar, has placed all Police Formations across the Federation on red alert.

“In this regard, the IGP has directed all Zonal AIGs and Command Commissioners of Police to ensure a 24-hour water-tight security in and around all Embassies and Foreign Missions in Nigeria as well as other vulnerable targets.

“In addition, the AIG in charge of Intelligence and Commissioners of Police in charge of the various Police Special Squads such as the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Police Mobile Force (PMF) and Special Protection Unit (SPU) have been directed to ensure that their personnel are strategically deployed to prevent and nib all potential crisis in the bud.

“While assuring law abiding citizens of the readiness and capacity of the Nigeria Police to provide adequate security for life and property, the IGP warned potential trouble makers to stay off the streets of Nigeria as the nation’s security agencies will bring to bear the full weight of the law on all laws breakers.

“The IGP also advised parents and guardians to monitor their wards closely to protect them from negative influences of mischief makers who may want to lure them into criminal and unwholesome acts,” the statement reads.

The US embassies in Libya and Egypt were attacked on Tuesday.

The US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and the other staff were killed in an assault on the U.S. consulate and a safe house in Benghazi by suspected Islamist gunmen. The attackers blamed Washington for a low-budget anti-Islam film produced in the United States, excerpts of which could be viewed on the Internet.