One year after Gaddafi's downfall, Benghazi hit by mounting violence

Blown-out remains of an intelligence official's car, which was attacked on September 2.
 
A little more than one year after former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s downfall, a string of attacks have rattled the country’s eastern city of Benghazi, also known as the “cradle of the revolution”. The surge in violence has prompted local authorities to take tight control of all communication, leaving many in the city feeling helpless.
 
The most recent attack took place on Benghazi’s Gamal Abdel-Nasser Avenue - one of the city’s busiest streets - on September 2, when a bomb planted in the car of a Libyan intelligence official exploded, killing him and injuring his passenger. The blast came just one day after a former national holiday celebrating the day Gaddafi took power, prompting government authorities to place the country on high alert over fears of additional violence.
 
It is far from the first such incident Benghazi has seen in recent months. Previous attacks have been directed at political figures (including a British diplomatic convoy and a Libyan general) and security targets. However, it is the first time a bomb has exploded in a bustling commercial neighbourhood in the heart of the city. So far, the attacks have been blamed on pro-Gaddafi factions, yet no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility.
 
Benghazi, which lies 653 kilometres (395 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, is the second largest city in Libya. The uprising that eventually overthrew Gaddafi began there on February 17, 2011.
 
Gamal Abdel-Nasser Avenue moments after Sunday's attack.

“Even though Benghazi isn’t the capital, it is a bigger target than Tripoli because it served as the cradle of the revolution, and the majority of people who led the uprising against Gaddafi still live here”

Soliman Ali, 23, is a student in Benghazi. He is a blogger for Libyablog.org, which was launched by FRANCE 24 and RFI during the country’s elections. Ali lives on Gamal Abdel-Nasser Avenue, where Sunday’s attack took place.
 
The attacks in Benghazi have not targeted regular citizens, but institutions such as courthouses or police stations. Because most of these buildings are located on the city’s main roads, the violence consequently places civilian lives in danger.
 
Personally, I don’t think it’s the work of former rebels. Almost all the armed groups that fought during the revolution have since joined the Interior or Defence ministries, and are now either part of the High Security Commission or the “Shield forces”. It’s true, though, that the ministry doesn’t have full control over them. They don’t wear uniforms, and it’s still common to see them riding around in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns, like in the days that followed the revolution. But I think they’re trying to do their best. For example, they now stand guard outside of public buildings. If, however, you happen to be the victim of a mugging or purse snatching, it’s still impossible to file a complaint at a police station…
 
So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks that happened in August. Regardless, the authorities have blamed the violence on Gaddafi supporters [on August 21, Libyan authorities arrested 32 people, who were said to be Gaddafi supporters, for inciting unrest]. Even though Benghazi isn’t the capital, it is a bigger target than Tripoli because it served as the cradle of the revolution, and the majority of people who led the uprising against Gaddafi still live here. Even when there are no victims, attacks create an atmosphere of fear and instability. They also come as a blow to those now in power, who still stand as a symbolic target.
 
 

"The government is afraid to show their weaknesses"

Mahamed Zarroug is a blogger who lives in Benghazi. He is also a part of FRANCE 24 and RFI’s Libyablog.org network.
 
There are several factors that contribute to the climate of instability in Benghazi. First off, we don’t have any serious media outlets that can help shed light and analyse the current situation here. Secondly, because the attacks are rarely claimed, we have no choice but to believe the authorities when they say they were committed by Gaddafi supporters. The only alternative is to give credence to the rumours circulating in the streets.
 
It’s not false to say that there are pockets of Gaddafi supporters still active in Libya, especially in Benghazi. But we can’t say that they alone are responsible for creating chaos. The people in Benghazi are still waiting for figures of the former regime to be tried and judged. Some of them are still in power. The intelligence official who was killed on Sunday was a part of Gaddafi’s regime. The fact that some of these people are still around creates a lot bad feeling among some of the former rebels. We can’t exclude the possibility that they could also be behind some of the attacks.
 
Another thing to consider is that even though a number of former rebels now work for the Interior Ministry, it doesn’t mean that old rivalries have ceased to exist. Just a few weeks ago I was involved in a shoot-out between two armed groups, which began because a former rebel got drunk and took out his weapon. The government has swept it all under the rug because they’re afraid to show their weaknesses.
 
There are also Islamist groups that recently attacked a number of Western missions [in June]. At this point, it’s really difficult to know who is responsible for what.

Comments

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The Observers

thats a great blog but the people of Syria still suffering with or without kadafi so in the end all this revolution still not bringing no peace to the people of syria.

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