Across the Arab world Islamist barbarism is coming to an end
It is not just in Libya that ordinary citizens are tiring of the misery and suffering at the hands of Islamist extremists
It might not be the subtlest way to end the chaos afflicting Libya. But the offensive being orchestrated by General Khalifa Haftar, head of the self-styled Libyan National Army, to capture the capital Tripoli might still offer the best chance of ending the political deadlock that has existed since the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
It is three years since the UN helped to establish Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), the body that was supposed to oversee the country’s transition from being a militia-ridden wasteland to something approaching a functioning democracy. Yet, while the administration of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has sought to provide a modicum of stability, the antics of the Islamist fanatics and their criminal supporters have consistently undermined efforts to return the country to normality.
Rather than moving towards a more democratic form of government, the Libyan capital now finds itself in thrall to groups whose main interest appears to be supporting terrorist cells and sustaining the migrant crisis affecting southern Europe.
By rights there is no reason Libya should be reduced to the status of an economic basket case. It is a rich country with an estimated £50bn (about R900bn) of foreign reserves, as well as booming oil production, assets which ordinarily should be more than sufficient to provide for the needs of its seven million inhabitants. Instead, Tripoli regularly experiences mile-long queues outside the militia-controlled banks as customers try to get their hands on much-needed cash.
Such images are rarely seen by the outside world because media access is rigorously controlled by the numerous Islamist militias that oversee key government departments. These include ministries responsible for intelligence and security, which might explain why detectives investigating the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017, which killed 22 people, are still waiting to extradite a key suspect who is being held in Tripoli.
British security officials are keen to question Hashem Abedi, the brother of Salman Abedi, the Libyan suicide bomber who detonated a bomb at the end of an Ariana Grande concert. The brothers travelled to Libya shortly before the Manchester attack, where they are suspected of meeting Islamist radicals, before Salman returned alone to carry out the attack. Despite repeated assurances from Al-Sarraj that Libya would respond positively to the extradition request, Abedi remains in Libya, where British intelligence officials believe militants might be trying to conceal their own involvement in the Manchester attack.
The failure of the Libyan authorities to assist with the investigation into one of the worst terrorist atrocities carried out on British soil illustrates the stranglehold the Islamist militias continue to exercise over the GNA. It also helps explains why Haftar, a staunch opponent of Libya’s Islamist militias, has lost patience with diplomatic efforts to resolve the political stalemate in Tripoli and opted to take matters into his own hands. His march on the capital coincided with the arrival in the country of Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, who was hoping to arrange a peace conference that would result in elections being held later in 2019.
The UN, though, faces an uphill struggle to achieve its objective, not least because of the deadly tactics employed by Islamists, including 2018’s suicide bombing of the electoral commission’s Tripoli headquarters. Haftar, who has already increased his national profile by defeating Islamist cells in the south of the country, clearly believes that resolving Libya’s political crisis cannot be delayed any longer.The general’s move, moreover, reflects a deepening disillusionment among the peoples of North Africa at the ruinous antics of Islamist politicians in recent years.
In Egypt, the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who received a warm welcome from Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday, is still trying to repair the damage inflicted by the shortlived rule of the Muslim Brotherhood earlier this decade. In Sudan, meanwhile, forces loyal to the longstanding president Omar al-Bashir, who has pronounced Islamist sympathies of his own, have been battling with demonstrators calling for his removal. Apart from facing accusations of economic mismanagement (the protests began after the government tried to increase bread prices), Al-Bashir also faces charges at the International Criminal Court of committing war crimes during the conflict in Darfur.
It is not just in Libya, then, that ordinary citizens are tiring of the misery and suffering they endure at the hands of Islamist extremists. It is a phenomenon that is evident throughout the Arab world, especially since the recent destruction of the self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq has shown Islamist fanatics in their true, barbaric light.
The era of Islamist misrule is clearly nearing its end, a process that the West should support. The millions of oppressed people in the region deserve better.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)