A criminal Libyan politician and his Islamist gang are getting ready to run the country and threating the West and Europe. How did that happen?
Within the Libyan “Government of National Accord” (GNA) in Tripoli a more or less open conflict between two powerful figures has become discernable: GNA-head Fayez al-Sarraj and GNA Minister of Internal Affairs, Fathi Bashagha.
According to intelligence reports published by Libyan media, Sarraj has recently been trying to strengthen his control over crucial financial and economic institutions while Bashagha has objected to this project since he himself would rather be the new leader of Libya.
But it does not take an intelligence report to spot the ambitions of Fathi Bashagha. Even the mainstream world media has already written about Bashagha’s resolve to gain power. The British Guardian recently published an article describing Bashagha’s visit to his French counterpart as part of a campaign to “lead the country”.
This visit was important for the Libyan politician, since France is considered to be a supporter of GNA opponent General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA).
The recent truce between GNA and LNA in Libya has held since October. After the truce was struck, countless consultations and negotiations have taken place – in Switzerland, Morocco, Libya itself and recently in Tunisia, where the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) convened in November.
The forum was organized by the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL) and presented reckless and ambitious politicians such as Bashagha with the opportunity to grab power as an interim leader.
But what would a Bashagha-led government mean for Libya? Lately, this politician has been working hard to whitewash his badly tarnished image in every way possible. And there has indeed been a lot of dirty linen to launder as FWM has repeatedly revealed.
Currently, Bashagha is trying to pose as a tireless fighter against illegal migration concerned about human rights violations. On November 26, while participating in the sixth session of the forum MED Dialogues in Rome, Bashagha told reporters that he had created a special department for human rights, a special department for women’s affairs, as well child and family protection services under the roof of the ministry of Internal Affairs.
The Libyan minister has been working hard to polish his new image of a human rights activist with the job description of a minister, and to soften his messages directed at an international audience. But at the same time he has not changed in the slightest: In Libya he is known as a warlord who controls the so-called “RADA Special Deterrence Force”, which is a Salafist unit led by the Islamist extremist Abdulrauf Kara. RADA is known for advocating very strict Sharia laws for Tripoli, and the militants of the group kidnap people for ransom. These brutes are Fathi Bashagha’s subordinates.
And this is by far not the most disconcerting development: According to US state department, RADA “recruited and used children as soldiers” and “was involved in the trafficking of detained migrants and benefited from extortion payments sent by the migrants’ family members for the migrants’ release”.
The state department even reported that the GNA interior ministry has been actively involved in human trafficking.
While Bashagha has been peddling his newfound woman’s rights activism in Europe, his RADA announced as recently as in September, that new rules have been introduced in Tripoli to restrict the freedom of movement for women.
In particular, the militants have banned “males and females sitting together except for those who have a valid marriage contract showing that the woman is not a girlfriend, a colleague, or a mistress. It is also forbidden for women or girls to enter mixed public cafes. They may occupy strictly designated places in cafes (for families only)”.
Bashagha’s inglorious RADA has also been accused of having links to other terrorist groups such as ISIS – leading to protesters in Tripoli in August this year being shot at with rifles.
The attack on peaceful protesters turned out to be a true scandal in Tripoli, deepening the conflict between Sarraj and Bashagha. After the shooting, Sarraj tried to remove Bashagha from his position as interior minister. Bashagha however rushed to Turkey for support – and was reinstated as head of the Interior Ministry.
Fathi Bashagha himself has been accused of torture. A man who claims that he was a prisoner of RADA in the Mitiga prison recounted at the UN how Bashagha had personally tortured him by gouging out one of his eyes.
It is not only his personal connection to RADA which has compromised Fathi Bashaga. He is also close to the radical Islamic “Muslim Brotherhood” organization which has been banned in several Arab countries. Observers of the political elite in Tripoli expect Bashagha to use his connections to Islamist extremists, bribery and blackmailing to accomplish his power grab in Libya.
If Fathi Bashagha manages to gain one of the top seats with the help of his Islamist allies, they will no doubt demand to be rewarded. Thus, in Bashagha’s Libya the Islamists would certainly gain muscle and influence. The result could be a radical Islamist regime in Tripoli and a new escalation of the civil war, since many other Libyan militias would not be willing to follow Bashagha’s radical course.
Such a Libya would also increase the pressure on Europe by posing an immense security threat. Bashagha’s friends, partners and allies would use every opportunity to spread their extremist agenda across the Mediterranean and eventually the European continent.
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