Car Bomb Near Parliament Another Escalation In Libyan Civil War A car bomb exploded Tuesday in front of the parliament of the Libyan government in Tobruk. The attack is believed to be connected with the unelected Islamist government that has taken over Tripoli.
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Car Bomb Near Parliament Another Escalation In Libyan Civil War

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Car Bomb Near Parliament Another Escalation In Libyan Civil War

Car Bomb Near Parliament Another Escalation In Libyan Civil War

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LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Libya and chaos have been used in the same sentence since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. As this year comes to a close, it seems the country's civil war is only escalating further. In Libya today, a suicide car bomber rammed the headquarters of the internationally recognized parliament that was in the East in the city of Tobruk. Militias allied with Islamist groups run their own parliament in the West of the country, based in the capital Tripoli. That coalition is known as Libya Dawn. And on Sunday, Libyan Air Force jets attacked that main opposition.

For more on what this all means, we turn to the New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson. He just returned from a reporting trip to Libya. Welcome.

JON LEE ANDERSON: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So how would you describe the situation there right now?

ANDERSON: Libya's in a slide towards more open civil war. In effect, it has one going on at the moment with two rival governments - one based in Tripoli, the other one based in Tobruk, as you said, in the East. It's a very complex chessboard with regional, tribal and ideological interests in alliance and colliding and with regional powers beginning to stick their oar in, making the whole picture much more complex.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, Libya hasn't had a real government in place since the 2011 revolt that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi. The two governments you've mentioned really emerged this past spring. Can you explain how that happened? Can you give us a little bit of context?

ANDERSON: In a series of transitional elections, competing groups jostled for power in the capital, resulting, finally, in open fighting, open warfare last summer, which drove out the international community. Virtually every embassy is now out of the country, including the Americans, who have theirs in Malta. It drove the House of Representatives elected in June to flee to the east - the eastern city of Tobruk, as you mentioned, and its rival militia backed government, mostly Islamists, in charge of the capital and its ministries there. So you effectively have two - a complete duality in the country, each claiming legitimacy for itself and blaming the other for the violence that has driven the country apart.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the big concerns for the international community is this group, Libya Dawn, and their affiliation, possibly to more hardline Islamic groups outside of the country. What is your impression of that? Is it really a concern, and who are they?

ANDERSON: It is a concern. The Dawn coalition is in a battlefield alliance with Ansar al-Sharia, the outlet terrorist group linked to the killing of the American ambassador in 2012. They're believed responsible for the car bombings that have taken place in other cities such as the one in Tobruk today. There is a growing fear that groups like the ISIS chapter in Libya and Ansar espouse the same sort of jihadist terrorist aims as their brethren elsewhere. That's the state of things, as it is today.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How are average people surviving in this environment, which you've described as just completely chaotic?

ANDERSON: You know, in different cities, it's a different situation. By and large, Libyans live very local lives. I would call it a second world country, not a third world country because of its oil. Oil is cheaper than water in Libya, it's one of the countries where there's a heavy subsidy as an oil producer. It's not got great infrastructure, but there is food. People are eating.

There are a lot of increasing numbers of displaced people internally; as many as half a million, I believe. Some of them are not living so well. So it's a country teetering in limbo on a knife edge. It's never had a real chance to develop as a proper nation. And it's got a huge population of young people, a lot of young men, who are mostly unemployed. This is a population group that is, of course, extremely vulnerable. It should be in all of our interest to incorporate into the workforce so that they do not become prey to the siren songs of terrorists like ISIS and others.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you so much for joining us.

ANDERSON: You're welcome.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jon Lee Anderson is a staff writer with the New Yorker. He just returned from Libya and joined us to talk about the state of that country's civil war.

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