Tribal leader refuses Arab, foreign intervention in Libya

Ezz El-Arab Abu al-Qasim, member of the Supreme Council for the Libyan Tribes, talks to Azzaman about the role of the tribes in the fight against militias, while rejecting any foreign intervention in Libya’s domestic affairs.

al-monitor A general view is seen of the passenger terminal of Tripoli International Airport, Aug. 24, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Aimen Elsahli.

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tribal differences, tribal politics, libyan tribes, libyan civil war, libya

Sep 19, 2014

Over the past few days, Libya has witnessed a state of complete chaos since the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) coalition took control of its capital, Tripoli, and deemed the National Congress the representative of the Libyan people. Meanwhile, violent battles continue to rage between Khalifa Hifter’s forces and the Fajr militias. Add to this the fighting between rival Libyan militias amid a state of chaos that threatens an international intervention in the crisis. ​​Ezz El-Arab Abu al-Qasim, mastermind of the foreign Media Office of the Supreme Council for the Libyan Tribes, gave an interview to Azzaman and expressed his point of view about the current events. The interview follows:

Azzaman:  First, we would like to know, what role has the Council of Arab Tribes played, particularly in regard to fighting terrorism?

Qasim:  The Council of Arab Tribes contains all shades of the Libyan people, and it was declared in the media and at political and social levels as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people by virtue of its components. We [the council] advocate canceling all of the agreements concluded by the National Congress, and call for the return of displaced Libyans, who are estimated at 2 million due to the NATO bombing. Their number has increased to 3.5 million emigrants because of the terrorist attacks suffered in Benghazi and across Libya over the past days, and due to the release of political prisoners who were detained by militias. The council aims at stopping Qatar and Turkey from supporting US-sponsored militias. It [the council] is leading the war against terrorism, as are tribes fighting terrorist operations backed by Qatar and Turkey, under US auspices, especially considering that Libyan tribes form the backbone of the Libyan National Army because Libya is composed of tribes.

Azzaman:  Does the militias’ takeover of Libya's capital, Tripoli, mean that Libya has already been divided?

Qasim:  There are two governments now: a terrorist government in Tripoli and another in the eastern region, which is the beginning of division. However, the Arab tribes did not allow the implementation of this division because they are keen on the unity of Libya and reject the principle of division and foreign interference. We would like to tell our Arab brothers and friends abroad that the tribes are the only solution to the security problem in Libya.

Azzaman:  There were reports that some tribes have occupied some areas and besieged others occupied by militias. Is there any truth to this?

Qasim:  The tribes did not occupy any area. They are defending the tribal areas in order to repel the invasion of Libyan terrorist militias, which enter the cities and carry out looting, rapes and murders.

Azzaman:  Where do the Libyan militias get weapons from?

Qasim:  We got the weapons — which are not sophisticated — from the former Libyan army warehouses, and there are weapons that we obtained during battles with militias.

Azzaman:  How do you explain the escalation of the terrorist operations which have evolved from individual operations to militias possessing sophisticated weapons?

Qasim:  Before the NATO operations in Libya, the Libyan people used to be as one, in a secure environment free of kidnappings or terrorism. However, after the fall of the former regime, which we called the February setback, a wave of murder and kidnapping of ambassadors started under the auspices of the US, Qatar and Turkey, which supply the militias with terrorist weapons. There are more than 200 US troops who set fire to Tripoli airport, along with terrorist militias.

Azzaman:  But there are some who confirm that the terrorist militias got their arms from the former Libyan army warehouses.

Qasim:  This is not true. The weapons that are now in the hands of terrorist militias are sophisticated. They were not part of the former [Moammar] Gadhafi brigades. The weapons that are now with the militias arrived from abroad, through the airport of Misrata and through Khartoum, Qatar and Turkey.

Azzaman:  Could you tell us about the extent of coordination between you and Hifter’s forces that are fighting the terrorist militias?

Qasim:  There is no Libyan government for us to coordinate with. There are two governments: a weak one in the eastern region and another pro-Muslim Brotherhood one. We support any party that executes operations against terrorists.

Azzaman:  Rumor has it that Egypt and the UAE intervened in the crisis and that Egyptian and Emirati aircraft struck the militia locations. Is this true?

Qasim:  The situation in Libya is too great for Egypt and Libya to deal with. It is a global conspiracy led by the EU and the United States. They have all colluded to occupy Libya, and the only point of disagreement is how to share the pie. The United States is trying to drag Egypt to a war in Libya, under the pretext of facing the Brotherhood, but the leaders in Egypt are aware of the implications of this plan.

Azzaman:  According to some reports, 5,000 Islamic State (IS) members have been deployed in the eastern region. How true is that?

Qasim:  There are around 15,000 fighters of different nationalities from Ansar al-Sharia, who are affiliated with IS, in the Derna region, and trying to infiltrate through the Egyptian border to drag Egypt into a confrontation with them.

Azzaman:  How can you explain the clashes between the different Libyan militias to take over Tripoli and some of the other regions?

Qasim:  Terrorist militias are fighting over power, and each militia has an agenda for a certain state. Some militias are affiliated with the United States, while others side with Britain or France. The Libyan people are the only losers in this confrontation.

Azzaman:  How effective are the decisions taken by the Ministerial for the Neighboring Countries of Libya in Cairo, regarding the arms of militias?

Qasim:  With all due respect for the Egyptian minister of foreign affairs, this initiative will not go beyond the Semiramis Hotel. Which party is willing to implement this initiative, knowing that the Libyan tribes alone are capable of doing so? There should be communication with these tribes, and they should be supported politically, socially and economically.

Azzaman:  What was the role of the tribes in freeing the Egyptian trucks?

Qasim:  The tribes have social influence over the abductors. When the Egyptian truck drivers were abducted in Ajdabiya, the Libyan tribes and Awlad Ali tribe addressed the abductors and negotiated with them until the Egyptian drivers were released.

Azzaman:   It is noteworthy that most terrorist operations are against Egyptians. Why?

Qasim:  The terrorist cells in Libya are working with Egyptian agents to pressure the Egyptian government and shake the security in Egypt because they believe that the current regime is threatening for them. They are trying to drain Egypt on both security and economic levels.

Azzaman:  How true is the news about Seif al-Islam Gadhafi leading the resistance in Libya?

Qasim:  Seif al-Islam is not Gadhafi's heir. Ahrar al-Alam inherited his strategic national project, which grants power to the people and enroots the public system. We call for the release of Seif al-Islam because he is not guilty, but one of the Libyans who fought the NATO.

Azzaman:  Is there nostalgia for the days of Gadhafi? In Egypt, for example, there was nostalgia for Hosni Mubarak’s days.

Qasim:  The former regime in Egypt and Libya did not have agents for the West. But, it did maintain Libya’s stability, security and unity and ensured the cohesion of the social composition. Despite the disadvantages, the situation did not reach the level of murder and rape that we see in Libya currently.

Azzaman:  What is your reply to the calls of the Libyan government to be handed the figures of the former regime [who are in Egypt]?

Qasim:  The history of Egypt shows that it has always refused to hand over any political refugee and that it accommodates all the opposition’s Arabs. I think that Egypt will refuse to hand over any political refugee to Libya because it realizes that this is a crime against humanity, especially as there isn’t a trustworthy government in Libya currently.

Azzaman: Is an Arab or foreign intervention needed to save Libya?

Qasim:  We refuse any Arab and foreign intervention in Libya’s affairs because Libya’s problem is internal. Each state should protect its border and forbid the entry of arms and terrorists to Libya. We can then guarantee winning our battle against terrorism.

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