UN to deploy security force to guard its base in Libya: envoy

UN to deploy security force to guard its base in Libya: envoy
The United Nations is preparing to deploy up to 250 peacekeepers to Libya, the head of the organisation's mission there said on Friday.
3 min read
08 September, 2017
The move was announced by UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame [Getty]
Up to 250 UN peacekeepers will be deployed to Libya to guard the organisation's base in the capital, as part of a plan to return its operations to the country, the head of the UN's Libya mission said on Friday.

"A little under 250" peacekeepers "can be deployed in the coming weeks," the head of the organisation's mission in Libya, Ghassan Salame told Italian newspaper La Stampa on Friday, according to Reuters.

The UN, and supporting Western governments, are attempting to heal an ongoing rift between Libya's two rival governments, in a bid to tackle growing militant violence and people smuggling from its northern coast.

The UN mission has been based in Tunis since 2014 but has gradually increased its presence on the ground in Libya and has been planning for a fuller return for several months.

The military unit would probably consist of around 150 people, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told a news briefing in Geneva.

Deploying the peacekeepers to the base in Tripoli "will mean that around the beginning of October we can carry out a significant part of our work in Libya," said Salame, who has headed the mission since June.

The rival leaders have pledged to work towards elections in 2018 and a conditional ceasefire in a conflict which broke out after the 2011 ousting of strongman Muhammad Qaddafi.

But Salame said there were a number of issues to address to ensure a vote brought lasting change, including writing constitutional and electoral laws.

"We need to be sure everyone accepts the final result," he said. "Let's not forget that presidential elections would be the first ever."

Battling for control

Since 2011, Libya has been plagued by security problems and political actors have had to depend on rival militias battling for control of the country. The political vacuum has allowed extremists, arms dealers and people traffickers to gain a foothold in the country.

Last month, at least 11 people were beheaded after an attack on a checkpoint controlled by Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar south of Tripoli, a spokesman for his forces said.

"At least nine soldiers were beheaded... in addition to two civilians" at the checkpoint about 500 kilometres (300 miles) south of Tripoli, Colonel Ahmad al-Mesmari said, blaming the Islamic State group for the gruesome attack.

The IS militant group is on the rise in Libya, having recently suffered a series of defeats in the country's 'Oil Crescent'.

But Libya is also a key route for thousands of illegal immigrants attempting to enter Europe, where Islamic State attacks have seen a sharp increase.

Libya's national unity government (GNA) has warned Europe faces a growing risk from terrorists unless it does more to help the country stem the massive tide of illegal migrants.

The warning was heard in the United Kingdom last month, where British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced Libya will receive more than £9 million in aid from the UK to help fight terrorism and ensure stability in the war-torn country.