Libya And Egypt Join Forces To Fight Militants At Border

Libya And Egypt Join Forces To Fight Militants At Border

From Business Insider

When the man in charge of Libya’s main border crossing with Egypt checks his staff rota every morning, he can count on a maximum of just 30 officers.

The tiny force polices the northern tip of a 1,115 km (700 mile) desert border, where Egypt and its Western allies hope to prevent Islamist militants infiltrating to join fellow fighters on Egyptian territory, or sneaking back into the lawless OPEC producer to find safe haven. But hampered by a lack of manpower and equipment, worsened by a breakdown in state authority following the 2011 downfall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s border guards are struggling to contain the spreading anarchy.

On paper, the Libyan interior ministry force in charge of the Musaid crossing into Egypt has 120 men on the payroll, but only 30 or so show up regularly for work. “The rest go to the bank on the 30th (to pick up their salaries),” Musaid security chief Ibrahim al-Mumin said.

Neither of the north African neighbors has a firm grip at the border. Only two weeks ago, 15 members of the militant Islamic State group, which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, crossed in from Egypt to set up a cell in Libya.

The two countries agreed on Wednesday to step up efforts against insurgents, with Cairo promising to train Libyan forces to battle the militants.

Since 2011, Libya has failed to build up state security forces and disarm former rebels who helped remove Gaddafi but now use their military muscle to battle for power. The situation has worsened since an armed opposition group from the western city of Misrata seized the capital Tripoli in August, forcing senior officials and the elected parliament to retreat to the eastern city of Tobruk while the Misrata-led forces have set up an alternative government in the capital.

With rival entities claiming legitimacy, diluting command structures and forcing the central bank to block payments apart from salaries, many civil servants have stayed away from work. The internationally recognized government, holed up in the east, has no authority to force people to go to work, but is unwilling to stop salaries, fearing further havoc.

Written by Ulf Laessing/Read more at Business Insider