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Jury's out on Libya? At least it's not Syria

Analysis: Benghazi bickering is a distraction from real progress to be made with Tripoli.
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Two years on, can Libya still celebrate? (John Moore/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC — The Libyan government, weakened by continued divisions among the regional militia groups that toppled the notorious Muammar Gaddafi, braced this week for downbeat assessments of the country's performance two years after the civil war officially ended.

By any fair assessment, Libya's brave effort to forge a tolerant, relatively open society on the ashes of one of recent history's most venal and reckless dictatorships would be deemed a qualified success.

This should be a moment to take a breath, assess progress made, and rededicate US policy to keeping it all moving in the right direction.

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Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan freed, hours after being seized by gunmen

MISRATA, Libya — Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is free, hours after he was snatched at gunpoint from a hotel in Tripoli early Thursday in what reports said was a response to a US raid in the Libyan capital last weekend. A group of former rebels claimed to have "arrested" him on the orders of the public prosecutor, though the government denies any such instruction was issued.

Islamists threaten blowback for US raid in Libya

MISRATA, Libya — Islamic militants have called for the kidnapping of US citizens in Libya and targeted attacks on American property following a raid by US special forces to seize a suspected Al Qaeda leader from his home in the Libyan capital. Locals reacted angrily to news of Saturday's operation, calling it an “interference” and an “insult” to the Libyan people. The Libyan government called on US officials to explain what it called the “kidnapping of a Libyan citizen,” as scattered protests erupted in Benghazi and Islamic extremist groups issued threats online.

Libyans worry US raid will worsen domestic conflict

TRIPOLI — Public feeling in Libya toward Americans seems to have darkened since US commandoes seized a senior Al Qaeda operative over the weekend in the capital, Tripoli.

Ahmed Ibrahim, former Libyan education minister, sentenced to death

A Libyan court convicted former minister Ahmed Ibrahim on Wednesday of murder and plotting against protesters, making him the second Muammar Gaddafi loyalist to face a death sentence in the past few days. A court in Misrata convicted him of the kidnapping and murder of six members of the same family, the Associated Press said.

Benghazi jailbreak: 1,100 inmates escape, 100 recaptured

"There was a riot inside Al-Kuifiya prison, as well as an attack from outside,” a security official told Agence France-Presse.

Violent clash in Benghazi reveals growing divisions in Libya

A demonstration devolved into an armed clash on Saturday, killing dozens and exposing political currents that are gathering force.
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On Sunday, June 9, hundreds of residents in Benghazi came to the cemetery after services at local mosques. In a parched and barren field, the dead were buried by hand in a long row. (William Wheeler/GlobalPost)

EDITOR'S NOTE: William Wheeler, recipient of the first annual GroundTruth reporting fellowship in the Middle East, is now on assignment in Libya. This is the third in a series of guest posts for this blog and he will soon be filing a GlobalPost Special Report on Libya's struggle to forge a democracy in the smoldering aftermath of the Arab Spring.

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Global community must act to protect human rights defenders from restrictions and attacks

Commentary: New report documents increasing harassment and reprisals of rights workers.
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A Bangladeshi woman uses her cell phone as she holds a portrait of her missing sister, believed trapped in the rubble 60 hours after an eight-storey building collapsed in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, on April 26, 2013. (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
The global community must act to protect human rights defenders and civil society organizations from unprecedented restrictions and attacks. The work of human rights defenders – including journalists, lawyers and advocates – is crucial to upholding human rights and the rule of law. Despite this, around the world we bear witness to an increase in attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders, together with an expansion of laws that restrict and impair the work of non-government organizations.
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Nearly two years after liberation, Libya at a crossroads

William Wheeler returns to Tripoli — where he reported during the Arab Spring — to find a different city than he left.
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Thousands of Libyans celebrate the second anniversary of the Libyan uprising at Martyrs square on February 17, 2013 in Tripoli. The anniversary of the uprising that ended with Muammar Gaddafi's killing in October 2011 comes as Libya's new rulers battle critics calling for a "new revolution" and accusing them of failing to usher in much-needed reforms. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images)

EDITOR'S NOTE: William Wheeler, recipient of the first annual GroundTruth reporting fellowship in the Middle East, is now on assignment in Libya. Today he begins a series of guest posts for this blog and will soon be filing a GlobalPost Special Report on Libya's struggle to forge a democracy in the smoldering aftermath of the Arab Spring. As a journalist with a good ear for the Arab street, Wheeler was chosen for the $10,000 reporting grant in large part because he embodies the spirit of 'ground truth' and the attributes of some of its greatest adherents, including the New York Times' Anthony Shadid, who died on assignment in Syria, and the American reporter for the Sunday Times of London, Marie Colvin, who was killed in a rocket attack in Syria. Like Shadid and Colvin, Wheeler is all about being there on the ground and taking the measure of a big and complex story in simple, human terms. The GroundTruth reporting fellowship is funded by the Correspondents Fund. 

TRIPOLI, Libya — A few days ago I returned to Tripoli to find what is, in many ways, a very different city than the one I last saw in the weeks after its liberation. On the surface, things look better. Some hotels and cafes have new facades, testament to a brief flush of renewed investment. The sidewalks are thick with vendors, and their tarps stretch overhead like a canopy on some streets, so tightly packed I had trouble at first recognizing familiar sights. You no longer see rebels firing into the air on every street corner. Or families celebrating in Martyr’s Square.

But neither has life returned to normal. Over the last month, in Benghazi, a series of car bomb attacks struck empty police stations, and what may have been an accidental explosion killed three people; in Tripoli, another car bomb hit the French Embassy, injuring two guards and prompting a withdrawal of some foreign embassies’ personnel amid fears the Libyan government is losing its grip on the capital, and militias besieged government ministries, pressuring lawmakers to approve legislation banning those who had worked for the regime from positions in the new government. All in all, it gives the impression, as a jewelry store clerk put it, that “things are getting dangerous again.”

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