Libya fights for control

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
October 18, 2013

Libya battles militia forces, Assad forces drop bombs after general’s killing, Saudi Arabia opts out of U.N. Security Council. Today is Friday, October 18, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Members of the Libyan Army special forces who took military action against a militia group that took over public land arrive on their vehicles in Benghazi, October 3, 2013. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Tripoli troubles. Last week’s brief kidnapping of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan shed light on the volatile situation in Libya, where militia forces are more powerful than the army and vie for supremacy in the unstable country:

The militia rivalries mirror a struggle within Libya’s fragile government, where the secular tribal alliance controls the defense ministry and the Islamist-leaning Libya Shield Force works under the interior ministry. Parliament is split on similar lines, with a secular National Forces Alliance at loggerheads with the political wing of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood over Libya’s future.

More than 225,000 Libyans are registered members of militias which are paid for by the government, but report to local commanders. Rival factions have gained power in Libya since the NATO-backed ouster of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, and threaten to ruin the tenuous democracy in place since he was deposed. Western powers are afraid that regions of Libya are harboring Islamists with links to al Qaeda. NATO has said it will rethink providing assistance to the country in light of conditions on the ground. On Friday, unidentified gunmen killed Libya’s military police force commander, striking an additional blow to the government’s attempt to maintain control of the state.

A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he walks down the stairs of a building in Deir al-Zor, October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Rebels make headway. Syrian air forces bombed the city of Deir al-Zor following violent overnight clashes in which Syrian rebels killed General Jama’a Jama’a, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s top military intelligence officers:

General Jama’a Jama’a was shot dead on Thursday by snipers in the midst of a battle with rebels including forces linked to al Qaeda, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. His death, celebrated by rebels and opposition activists, marked a significant setback for Assad’s bid to retain a hold over the city, capital of the eastern oil-producing province… The Observatory reported clashes overnight in several districts of the city overnight and said rebels from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front executed 10 soldiers they captured in the Rashidiyah district, where Jama’a was killed on Thursday.

Chemical weapons experts sent to Syria to aid with the destruction of the government’s chemical arms stockpile have started investigating sites in the first stage of their mission.

Members of the United Nations Security Council raise their hands as they vote unanimously to approve a resolution eradicating Syria’s chemical arsenal during a Security Council meeting during the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Saudi Arabia says no. After it was elected by the U.N. General Assembly to serve a two-year term on the 15-member Security Council on Thursday, Saudi Arabia declined the position in an unprecedented expression of anger towards the U.N.:

The kingdom condemned what it called international double standards on the Middle East and demanded reforms in the Security Council, which has been at odds on ways to end the fighting in Syria. Riyadh’s frustration is mostly directed at Washington, its oldest international ally, which has pursued policies since the Arab Spring that Saudi rulers have bitterly opposed and which have severely damaged relations between the two, Saudi analysts have said. Saudi Arabia has also been angered by a rapprochement between Washington and Iran, Riyadh’s old regional foe, which has taken root since President Barack Obama spoke by telephone last month to the new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, in the highest-level contact between the two countries in more than three decades. Citing the Security Council’s failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, take steps to end Syria’s civil war and stop nuclear proliferation in the region, Riyadh said the body had instead perpetuated conflicts and grievances.

Foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal cancelled his speech at the U.N. General Assembly two weeks ago in an early sign of the kingdom’s displeasure.

Nota Bene: A jailed Pussy Riot member will be moved to another jail following her hunger strike.

Standouts:

Printed pistol - European authorities fear 3-D printing will undermine gun control laws. (New York Times)

Hornet control - Chinese firefighters use a “divine gun” to fight giant deadly hornets. (Quartz)

Sobriety pill - Scottish drugs aims to reduce alcohol cravings. (Al Jazeera)

X marks the spot - Hundreds of Indian search for buried treasure. (BBC)

Finally boring - Georgia’s presidential campaign is surprisingly normal. (Foreign Policy)

From the File:

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  • Five Yemeni soldiers killed in suicide attack on military base.
  • Italian protests against Letta government disrupt transport.
  • Iranian opposition leaders feel close to freedom.
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