The first day the US military took control over the former Libyan city of Benghazi, the country’s largest city, on 28 September 2012, one of the first things that struck a visitor was no smoke or explosions. The new government, it seemed, was working.
But soon many details were beginning to disappear: there was no local TV broadcasting, no new laws, none of the usual diplomatic niceties that should have marked a transition. Instead what looked like a series of quick meetings was becoming a process that would see the transfer of power from the old regime to its new opposition. That process was taking place at a time that the president of the United States was telling reporters that the Benghazi attack – supposedly committed by an anti-American “standoff” fighter – was a “spike” in terrorist attacks on American interests.
“They came in from Tripoli, in a big group. Probably more than 20 guys,” said the US ambassador, Susan Rice. “He walked in wearing tactical gear, an assault rifle and carried a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, which is very, very unusual, but he had them down.”
It would appear that Rice was not referring to the Ansar al-Sharia fighters who had been blamed for the Benghazi massacre as the most likely culprits. It appears she was talking about the so-called “rebels”: the renegade elements of the Libyan revolution with no place in politics who now had a free hand to govern the city. No one, it seems, was more surprised – or in any case, more impressed – with the rebels than the Americans.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest The scene in Benghazi where terrorists attacked the US consulate in 2013. Some of the attackers appeared to be affiliated with the Islamist group, Ansar al-Sharia, as well as others in different factions. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
Just one week after President Obama had made a public speech in Cairo about the need for change in Libya, the head of the United Nations in Benghazi, Susan Rice, announced that the city was back under direct control of the government. This had been denied by the new government a week earlier. There were protests throughout June of this year, when the new regime refused to sign a peace deal. But in June and July more and more people took to the streets in Libya to protest what they saw as a betrayal of the revolution in which they had participated.
That protest was triggered by the arrest of two students and six others in February for refusing to go back
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