NATO claims it targetted a command and control center in Tripoli.
The Libyan government took journalists to the site. It was reportedly a compound with several buildings. Underneath one, there may or may not have been a bunker.
One of the most comprehensive reports so far is written by Simon Denyer and Leila Fadel for the Washington Post, and published here.
Al-Jazeera English has posted here a report and elsewhere the full English-language announcement by government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the Libyan leader and his wife had also been in the building, with friends and relatives — but that Qaddhafi and his wife are unhurt, though there have been other martyrs there, who have now joined other martyrs among the Libyan people for the last 40 days. The spokesman noted that Qaddhafi had just appealed for a halt in NATO action, a ceasefire, and called for dialog — but, the spokesman said, no government has sent any envoy or delegation, and there has been no dialog…
This is being called by some an attempt at a targetted assassination.
But, NATO officials later said they did not intentionally target “any individual”.
In the horror that is happening in Libya, under the guise of UN Security Council-endorsed humanitarian intervention, there is no quick or easy end in sight.
In the past few days, Britain, France, and Italy have just decided to send military advisers to work with the rebels, and the U.S. has authorized $25m [million] for “non-lethal” aid to the rebels.
The situation is deteriorating. Reports from Libya are dire.
And, yesterday, two international war photographers — Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington — were killed in battles in the city of Misrata between Libyan rebels, and forces obeying orders from Libyan leader Muammar Qaddhafi.
Hetherington died of massive blood loss from a wound to his upper leg, and Hondros died from a severe head wound.
The UN Security Council acted overnight to authorize — some say, belatedly — international action to protection of civilians and areas of civilian population that are under threat of attack in Libya, by adopting UNSC Resolution 1973.
It began by calling for an immediate cease-fire.
The text explicitly mentions Benghazi, which is was under imminent threat (until the Libyan Foreign Minister retracted the threat after accepting the resolution’s call for a cease-fire; earlier, members of the Qaddhafi family said troops loyal to them would be in Benghazi by nightfall
France has reportedly said that military action under this new UNSC resolution would begin within hours — see the report in The Guardian newspaper, here.
France seems to have taken the lead internationally. It was also France which put its foot down in UN Security Council deliberations on 26 February, insisting that a provision must be included in UNSC Resolution 1970, adopted unanimously that day, to refer violence against protesters to the International Criminal Court, or ICC.
Since then, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has reportedly opened an investigation into events in Libya.
After the new resolution adopted last night, there were indications that NATO will reopen debate on its role in moves to protect civilian life and areas in Libya…
Within hours, Libyan authorities closed the country’s airspace, as Sky News reported here.
A short while later, the Libyan Foreign Minister announced a cease-fire and an end to military operations, saying that the country must obey the UNSC resolutions. He did express concern, however, that the new UNSC resolution envisaged military action against Libya. And he said that the no-fly provisions in the new UNSC resolution should not have included Libyan civilian flights.
The new resolution, in its fourth operative paragraph, ” Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council”…
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday that “Today the world’s eyes are fixed on Libya. We have seen Colonel Qadhafi’s security forces open fire on peaceful protestors again and again. They have used heavy weapons on unarmed civilians. Mercenaries and thugs have been turned loose to attack demonstrators. There are reports of soldiers executed for refusing to turn their guns on their fellow citizens, of indiscriminate killings, arbitrary arrests, and torture. Colonel Qadhafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency. Through their actions, they have lost the legitimacy to govern. And the people of Libya have made themselves clear: It is time for Qadhafi to go – now, without further violence or delay”.
Clinton added: “The international community is speaking with one voice and our message is unmistakable. These violations of universal rights are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. This Council took an important first step toward accountability on Friday by establishing an independent commission of inquiry. On Saturday in New York, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution imposing an arms embargo on Libya, freezing the assets of key human rights violators and other members of the Qadhafi family, and referring the Libyan case to the International Criminal Court. Tomorrow, the UN General Assembly should vote to accept the recommendation to suspend the Qadhafi government’s participation here in the Human Rights Council. Governments that turn their guns on their own people have no place in this chamber”.
On Tuesday in New York, the UN General Assembly suspended Libya from the Human Rights Council. It is the first time that this has ever happened.
Afterwards, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice tweeted:
“This is another clear warning to #Qadhafi and those who still stand by him: they must stop the killing. He must go, and he must go now”
“All 192 member states just agreed to suspend #Libya from Human Rights Council. Unprecedented”.
In the UN Security Council meeting on Libya on Saturday (26 Feb.) the French put their foot down, and insisted that the violence being carried out by loyalists and agents of the current regime in Libya against the people of Libya must be referred to the International Criminal Court.
UNSC resolution 1970 was adopted unanimously. It also freezes assets of Colonel Muammar Qaddhafi and his children, and imposes a travel ban on approximately 22 Libyans connected to Qaddhafi.
The full implications of this decision will only become clear through time…
In today’s UN Security Council meeting at UNHQ/NY, Libya’s Ambassador Mohammad Abdel-Rahman Shalgham (until today, apparently loyal to Col. Muammar Qaddhafi, and according to AFP his childhood friend) formally joined his deputy (Ibrahim Dabbashi), and the opposition to the current regime in his country. Shalgham reportedly told the Security Council: “Please, the United Nations, save Libya. Let there be no bloodshed, no killing of innocents. We want a decisive, rapid and courageous resolution from you”. [This was reported in an AFP dispatch published here. The AFP said that Shalgham made references in his speech to Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot…
In today’s meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the entire Libyan delegation announced that they represented the people, and not the government of Libya, and they called for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the violence of the regime.
And, Col. Qaddhafi and his son both gave second speeches today (their second since the outbreak of the uprising this month). I was out and missed them. Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine wrote today on his blog here that “Well, he [Col. Qaddhafi] finally came right out and said it: ‘those who do not love me do not deserve to live’. With those words, uttered on Libyan state television today, Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi at least rhetorically outdid all his megalomaniacal and mass murdering predecessors including Saddam Hussein, Ceausescu, Stalin and the whole bunch. Anyone who still doubts that this man is ready and willing to visit the utmost bloodshed upon his people simply isn’t paying attention. The question is, is he able? The answer is, at this stage at least, quite possibly”.
Ibish later added this update to his post: “There is now some dispute over whether Qaddafi said ‘those who do not love me do not deserve to live” or “if people do not love me, I do not deserve to live’. Al Arabiya reports the later here. But first-rate tweeters reporter Muna Shikaki quoted him as ‘Qaddafi: ‘those who don’t like me don’t deserve to live’ and Sultan Al Qassemi wrote ‘Gaddafi now in TV “I’m in central Tripoli now. The people who don’t love me don’t deserve to live”.’ Those are two pretty good sources, in my view. Either way, the thrust of the arguments remain unchanged. At UN today, the Libyan ambassador finally abandoned Qaddafi after sticking by him till now in an open dispute with his deputy. With emotions and tears flowing, Amb. Shalqam embraced Sec. Gen. Ban and asked the UN to ‘save Libya, we want quick action, save Libya’. He rightly said Qaddafi’s message to Libyans was if I cannot rule you, ‘I will kill you’. I think that says it all. And there is no dispute that Qaddafi today threatened to turn Libya into ‘a burning hell’.”
The Independent reported that “The beleaguered Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi defiantly appealed to his hardcore supporters to ‘defend the nation’ against an uprising which was last night closing in on Tripoli after thousands of protesters braved gunfire to try to march through the capital. Standing on the ramparts of a fort overlooking the city’s Green Square, Colonel Gaddafi pumped his fist and told 1,000 pro-regime demonstrators: ‘We can crush any enemy. We can crush it with the people’s will. The people are armed and when necessary, we will open arsenals to arm all the Libyan people and all Libyan tribes’. Urging the crowd to ‘retaliate against them, retaliate against them’, the 68-year-old President was shown on state television calling on them to prepare to defend the nation and defend the oil’.” This report, written by a team in Bengazi, is published here.
AFP reported that Qaddhafi said in Friday’s speech: “Sing, dance and prepare yourselves … If needs be, we will open all the arsenals”. The U.S. warmed up to Libya after it gave up its nuclear weapons program (after revelations that it came from Pakistani nuclear scientist and salesman], but reports indicate that Libya still has chemical and biological weapons…
In the UN Security Council today, UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon said that “Colonel Qaddhafi and members of his family continue to threaten the population with civil war… Let us be frank, these remarks… raise grave considerations… I strongly believe that the first obligation of the international community is to ensure (protection)”
BAN also noted that “Today the Human Rights Commission convened in special session… it is the first time that a member of the HRC is the subject of a special session … The HRC today took steps to establish independent commission of inquiry and recommended that the UN General Assembly consider suspending Libya from HRC”
And, he said, “There are also indications of a growing crisis of refugees (since Feb 22, some 22,000 fled overland to Tunisia, and 15,000 to Egypt, but much larger numbers are trapped… And those who managed to cross the border said the journey was terrifying … It is crucial for humanitarian agencies to have access to the border”.
And, BAN said, the UN’s World Food Program is concerned about Libya’s food supplies
In those who can stand it — and especially for those who love these things — here is a UN video of today’s UN Security Council meeting on Libya:
According to a Reuters report published in Haaretz, a six-page draft UN Security Council resolution says that “The attacks against Libyan civilians may be ‘crimes against humanity’ warranting prosecution by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, according to a draft UN sanctions resolution. The text, drafted by France and Britain and circulated to other members of the UN Security Council on Friday, also calls for an arms embargo against Libya as well as travel bans and asset freezes for the country’s top leaders … The 15-nation council has only referred one other case to the ICC – the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region”. This Haaretz report is posted here.
Here are some selected Tweets on the situation in Libya over the last working week:
21 February: @marianhouk: Could become one of the most expedited decisions ever taken by UN Security Council – case for humanitarian intervention in #Libya
@marianhouk: To the last man + woman! RT@cnnbrk – Gadhafi’s son: #Libya’s army has been told to restore
security “at any price” http://on.cnn.com/ge2mrQ
@marianhouk: Situation in Libya doesn’t need to be international for UN Security Council action under rarely-used humanitarian imperative resolutions…
22 February: @marianhouk: It was like a music video @RT IvanCNN: Watch Gadhafi’s…strange…pre-dawn appearance with an umbrella on Libyan TV – http://bit.ly/hCZTR7
@marianhouk: The neo-Con right has tried for years to kick #Libya off the UN Human Rights Commission, then Council. This is inadequate to the carnage now
@themoornextdoor – Qadhafi: “….and the punishment is death” this is really all you need to know from this speech.
@lassecgen LAS Council decides to suspend participation of Libyan delegations in all LAS meetings.
@SultanAlQassemi – Abdul Fattah Younis: Gaddafi, that dirty man, wanted to say that I was killed by protesters so that my tribe, the Obeidat will stand by him
@marianhouk: “Greasy rats”! — one of the most disgusting and chilling things Qaddhafi said today, over + over
@marianhouk: Revelations abt Qaddafi murder of Musa al-Sadr and his secret burial ‘n Sebha, then murder of some who knew [n.b. reportedly including Qaddhafi’s personal pilot]: @SultanAlQassimi + @_RichardHall
The New York Times is reporting from Cairo that the port director in El Arish says the Libyan-chartered Amalthea, docked at about 1 p.m today. and was expected to immediately begin unloading its cargo.
The NYTimes further reports, a propos continued speculation about some kind of “deal” or other: that “Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, son of Libyan leader. Muammar Qaddafi, said in an interview with Ash-Sharq al-Awsat “that the Israelis ‘agreed to let Libya spend $50 million’ through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [UNRWA]. The money, he said, would be used ‘to support the Palestinians and for reconstruction, including allowing construction materials and prefabricated homes’ … A spokesman for the United Nations agency did not immediately comment”. This report is posted here.
This is all a bit mysterious, because Libya was always free to contribute as much as it liked to UNRWA, for the Palestinians, whenever it liked (though it probably did not do so, previously, up until now…)
Juan Cole has also posted on his blog, Informed Comment, an item reporting that “al-Quds al-Arabi reports in Arabic that the Qadhafi Foundation is maintaining that it extracted several concessions from Israel in return for diverting to the Egyptian port, including a pledge that travel abroad for treatment of ill Palestinians in Gaza would be expedited and reconstruction projects would be allowed to go forward (one in 8 Palestinians in Gaza had their homes destroyed in the 2008-2009 Israeli assault on the Strip.)”… This, published here, is also a bit mysterious…
Larry Derfner wrote today in his column for the Jerusalem Post that “Given the way Israel behaves now, it’s pretty sad to remember that it was envisioned as a country where the Jews ran their own national affairs – but nobody else’s. Now it’s not enough for Israel to have its own coast, its own territorial waters, its own airspace – no, we’ve got to control Gaza’s coast, Gaza’s territorial waters, Gaza’s airspace, too. The Gaza Strip is part of our sphere of influence. Let any Turkish ship, Libyan ship or any other ship we don’t like try to sail into Gaza, and they’ll get a taste of gunboat diplomacy, Israeli-style” …
Alec Collett, a former colleague accredited as a journalist at UNHQ/NY in the early to mid-1980s, was one of those internationals kidnapped during the long Lebanese civil war. Alec was taken from a car near Beirut airport in March 1985, while on a temporary assignment for UNRWA in Lebanon. The car’s driver was also seized, but later released
After the U.S. attack on Libya in the spring of 1986, there were reports that those holding Alec had executed him in retaliation. A video was released, showing his body hanging from the limb of a leafy tree.
But, for unclear reasons, the UN did not want to acknowledge Alec’s execution. The UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, expressed anger but offered no explanation when asked directly by this journalist — at the time, the President of the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) why the UN was not accepting the reports of Alec’s death. UNCA issued a statement condemning the reported execution, and asking for a prompt return of the body, to help ease the anguish of Alec’s family.
Though there was no apparent reason to disbelieve the claims about the execution, nothing was entirely sure about Alec’s fate until this week, when British DNA tests reportedly conducted in London confirmed that a body unearthed recently in the Bekaa Valley by a British forensics team was, indeed, that of Alec Collett.
[Months before the execution, as the BBC reported in a profile published on their website, “the United Nations Correspondents’ Association … made him [Alec Collett] their honorary president, a title he has retained ever since”… The BBC report, posted here, is wrong in a couple of respects, including these: (1) the decision to name Alec as “honorary president” of UNCA was taken at the end of 1985, and not in 1986; UNCA is not, as the BBC wrote, an “organisation for journalists based around the world” — it is an organization for journalists accredited to UNHQ in New York. And, this decision, taken at the urging of some colleagues, was not popular with all of the journalists. Some, who had not hesitated to use his captivity for their own political purposes in the UNCA elections held at the end of 1985, were nevertheless opposed to making Alec Collett “honorary president” on the grounds that (as they argued) he had been on a temporary assignment to UNRWA, and not working strictly as a journalist, at the time he was kidnapped …]
The Times of London reported on 19 November that “Seven British police officers and two forensic archaeologists are excavating near the village of Aitta al-Fuqar in the Bekaa Valley. It is the site of a base belonging to Fatah — the Revolutionary Council. The radical and violent Palestinian group was led by Sabri al-Banna, better known as Abu Nidal. The team found two bodies, one of them an unidentified man who was first found during an earlier attempt to find Mr Collett 11 years ago. It was reinterred by Lebanese authorities. The second body is undergoing DNA tests to discover if it is Mr Collett. Lebanese troops have sealed off the site to reporters and onlookers”. This report can be found here
A second report by the Times of London, published on 24 November, said that “The UN confirmed yesterday that remains unearthed by British investigators in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley are those of Alec Collett, a British journalist kidnapped in 1985 and killed a year later. A spokesman said that Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, while saddened by the news, ‘hopes the actions taken to find his remains can provide a measure of comfort to his loved ones’. The remains were identified with the help of DNA tests conducted in London by the Metropolitan Police. Collett, who was 64 when he was abducted, was on assignment with the UN reporting on Palestinian refugees in April 1985. He was kidnapped by Fatah Revolutionary Council, a radical Palestinian group headed by Abu Nidal. Collett is survived by his wife, Elaine, who also worked for the UN and lives in New York. Last week’s search was the fourth attempt in 11 years to recover his remains. The hunt had been narrowed to an isolated military base, once run by Abu Nidal militants, between the village of Aitta al-Fukhar and the Syrian border. The camp consists of a handful of derelict single-storey concrete buildings scattered on the slopes of a steep rocky valley. The walls of one abandoned building were daubed with sketches of the huge wooden water wheels in the Syrian city of Hama, and of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and his father Hafez al-Assad. The camp housed a small detachment of Syrian troops until 2005. One of the buildings was half-buried beneath bulldozed earth and rock for protection against attack, and it was here that Mr Collett spent his last weeks in captivity. The cell block consisted of three small rooms and a simple latrine. The doors and any furniture and fittings inside the cramped building long ago disappeared and today it appears to be a shelter for goats that scramble over the surrounding slopes. Mr Collett’ fate was sealed after US aircraft bombed Tripoli, in Libya on April 15, 1986. In retaliation, eight days later, the Libyan-backed militants took Mr Collett from his bleak cell and hanged him, then shot him in the back of the head — according to a Palestinian eyewitness whose testimony in 2005 provided additional confirmation that the British journalist had been buried on the site. A team from the Metropolitan police counterterrorist department and two forensic archaeologists began excavating a section of the camp on November 14. A digger scraped away the surface layer of stony soil, then investigators worked the ground by hand. Small red flags marked the spot of each dig. The operation was conducted amid tight security, with Lebanese troops keeping reporters and onlookers away, but The Times was able to gain access to the site. ‘We looked for signs of disturbance in the soil and focussed on those areas’, said one of the investigators. Two bodies were discovered. One of them was that of a suspected Palestinian militant whose remains were first uncovered during an earlier search for Mr Collett’s body in 1998, and subsequently re-interred by Lebanese authorities. The second body was that of Mr Collett, the bullet hole in the skull convincing the investigators that they had found their man pending the final result of the DNA tests”. This Times of London report is posted here
While the Times of London report, above, said that “Last week’s search was the fourth attempt in 11 years to recover his remains”, a BBC report here said that the UN “tried three times between 1995 and 2000 to find his body and there have been numerous false alarms”.
Two UN officials were trying to get Alec Collett’s release much earlier — in the months immediately after his abduction, and after the reports of the execution: Perez de Cuellar’s aide Gianni Picco, who got involved in some of the hostage negotiations as part of larger regional efforts, and the Lebanese-Palestinian information official, Samir Sanbar. They operated, apparently, on different tracks. I was also told, at the time, that the high-ranking British UN official Brian Urquhart, was also involved on another separate track. And, UNCA made several quiet attempts, at the time, to contact various personalities in Lebanon to seek their help, without result…
My friend and mentor Promeneur, who did not speak to me for more than a year because of the UNCA election and its results, wrote me this week from London and said: “They did the DNA and yes it’s Alec. Any suggestion how I might contact Elaine? She with the UN still I wonder? Gosh their son will be in his mid-30s … and Alec he would now be 87 I think I got that right, double-gosh … Turns out it was … a retaliatory gesture after Reagan bombed Tripoli (remember how it was timed to run live on the 10 o’clock news) … otherwise they figure he was about to be released. All those years I’d imagined it must have been a Lebanese group, reasoning that Alec’s strong PLO sympathies must have tripped him up. Then I reasoned that he wouldn’t have lasted long without his medication – he had diabetes and other stuff, but no seems they did hang him. A guy doing life in the US has given an eye-witness account. The assignment had been a gift from UNRWA who knew how broke he was – it was going to clear his credit card debts etc.”…