A Grim Update From Libya

Sign of clashes near 27th Bridge of Tripoli

The situation is increasingly chaotic:

Leaders of the Islamist militias that have been wreaking havoc across Libya have unleashed an army of loyal, unemployed, and mostly uneducated followers to carry out a campaign of intimidation.

They are threatening, kidnapping, and targeting the relatives of politicians and civil society activists. “Militia leaders are now using an army of young people who will carry out their orders without any questions,” said prominent activist Ahmed Ghedan, who had to flee Libya to Tunisia after he spoke out against the militias. These foot soldiers have been bribed into joining the militia-gang culture. For activists, dealing with this army of brainwashed criminals is much harder than dealing with the militia bosses, who are leading from behind. The new recruits are clueless about the intent and consequences of their actions, and their loyalty simply lies with those who pay their checks. Political groups with links to the militias are taking advantage of this chaos to take out their opponents one by one.

These same groups are also targeting journalists and activists, who have found their lives and livelihoods threatened in myriad ways. For example, their movement is being restricted, and they have been unable to travel around or out of the country, since airports are still under the control of the militias. Not only does this threaten their reporting ability – a blow to press freedom – but the detours require them to travel by land through areas in which they could be stopped, identified, and either prevented from traveling or kidnapped.

(Photo: Empty cases, sign of the clashes, are seen near 27th Bridge in Tripoli, Libya on September 24, 2014. By Hazem Turkia/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)