Magharebia (Washington DC)

16 July 2014

Liberia: Libyan Troops Train Abroad

Benghazi — Thousands of Libyan troops are set to train abroad in the coming years as the country looks to rebuild an army and restore order.

"We sent about 360 Libyan soldiers to Britain to attend a military training course earlier last month, and more soldiers are due to be sent overseas for training in the coming days," Maj. Adel Al-Akari said.

The troops will attend a five-month training programme, the Libyan army officer added.

Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani and a number of other dignitaries attended the June 10th ceremony to bid farewell to the soldiers. Al-Thani noted that it was part of other programmes previously held in Turkey and Italy.

"Other training courses are planned for soldiers in the United States," he said. "All these missions are deemed as the nucleus of the Libyan army," the interim premier added.

Last year, Britain said it would train 2,000 Libyan soldiers to better prepare them for supporting Libya's transition to a free and stable democracy. The British defence ministry confirmed that the Libyan soldiers would learn basic infantry and military leadership skills at Bassingbourn Camp in Cambridgeshire.

Meanwhile, the US defence department said last November that it would train between 5,000 and 8,000 Libyan soldiers at bases in Europe.

"Italy also negotiated with Libya last year to train 5,000 Libyan soldiers, and the first batch of soldiers arrived last January in Italy," said Col. Hassan al-Akouri of the Benghazi security directorate.

"Unfortunately, the Libyan army failed to find a solution for chaos in the country and to tighten its control over all areas," he added.

In his turn, Lt. Tarik Elourfi of al-Sabri police station in Benghazi said: "In light of this precarious security situation in Libya, and Benghazi in particular, the government needs to have strong armed forces as soon as possible to control armed militias and rebels in Benghazi, Derna, and Sirte, which have now become a haven for Ansar al-Sharia."

Violence highlights need for trained troops

Recent terror attacks in Tripoli in Benghazi have only served to highlight the need to bolster professional security forces.

Troops in Benghazi have battled Ansar al-Sharia for weeks. One or two people are killed every day, and some were even assassinated with their young children. So far, 123 people have been killed and another 64 have been kidnapped, including four women.

Cheikhs and imams were also targeted as they returned from tarawih or dawn prayers.

"Ansar al-Sharia members have been trying to either control Benina international airport or to destroy it with the surrounding residential areas," said 46-year-old Amina Azwaia, a resident of the area near the airport.

"Ansar al-Sharia members also forcibly controlled al-Jala hospital to treat their wounded members and leaders," she added. "Battles flared up on Monday (July 14th) between relatives of killed people and Benghazi residents, on the one hand, and Ansar al-Sharia, on the other hand, around the hospital."

On Sunday, Islamist militias laid siege to the Tripoli International Airport, destroying the tower and multiple planes.

Three days later, the airport remains closed.

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