Magharebia (Washington DC)

21 January 2013

Libya: Nation Backs Algeria in Counter-Terror Fight

Tripoli — Libya is standing behind Algeria and other Sahel-Saharan states in efforts to curb extremism.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan on Saturday (January 19th) voiced support for Algeria and Mali in their fight against terrorism, while at the same time denying Libyan soil was used by the assailants at the In Amenas gas complex.

"We confirm our full solidarity with the Algerian people and government, and we reject violent hostile operations against civilians," Zidan said. "We confirm that Libyan land wouldn't be an area to threaten neighbouring countries."

Al-Wigh air base in the extreme south of Libya was not used in the attack on Algeria, Zidan said.

"I want to confirm that our relations with Algeria, Tunisia and Niger will remain in the framework of co-operation that was agreed upon during our previous meetings and tours, the last of which was the Ghadames meeting, to realise security, development and positive co-operation," he said.

Zidan urged Maghreb and Sahel countries to preserve the security and well-being of the region.

"As to the protection of Libya and its border, surveillance and patrols have been intensified to protect our borders," he said. "We won't allow anyone to infiltrate our borders and exploit them in carrying out hostile operations against Algeria and other countries."

"We hope that the military operations in Mali will end and that security will be established there," the Libyan premier added.

Speaking last Wednesday after returning from his trip to Qatar, the prime minister also pointed to criminal activity threatening regional security. "They want to make North Africa and the Sahara an area of operations for them to corrupt and destroy this region," Zidan said.

Zidan said that France had not asked Libya for logistical support for its Mali operations but if it does, they will "examine its request".

"The events in Mali have reflections on our borders," Libyan army chief Youssef al-Mangoush said. "There are intensive efforts to control these borders."

Meanwhile, Libya is taking a second look at its own security at oil fields in light of the terror attack on Algeria.

"Due to events in the region, the Oil Protection Agency has taken a host of measures to enhance protection around oilfields and facilities in western and southern Libya. More troops from border guards and army personnel have stepped up their security patrols in and around oil facilities around the clock," the defence ministry's Oil Protection Agency said in statement.

Strategic expert Dhaoui Bouras said he did not expect violence in Benghazi due to the Mali conflict. "However, there will be disturbances in the south because Touareg and Toubou tribes in Libya and Mali share many things, and any movement from them would be seen as support for Mali," he added.

"I think that Libya has closed its borders to prevent al-Qaeda elements from flowing into the country with immigrants," said Ahmed Mersit, a public sector employee. "The security situation is still precarious, and therefore, they will wreak havoc on land."

Media activist Miftah Belaid said the real issue was the fact that militias continue to have large stockpiles of arms, with many of the weapons smuggled from Libya.

"A group of those people might have taken part along Kadhafi's forces in the Libyan revolution war, and therefore, there would be indirect implications of that on Libya, which has to guard itself by protecting its border and oil facilities, and using the help of others in aerial surveillance and technologies," Belaid added.

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