French newspaper: Power struggle behind Ras Jedir border crisis

Security forces stationed at the Ras Jedir border crossing, on the Libyan side, have halted movement in both directions

The French newspaper “Le Monde” shed light on the crisis at the Ras Jedir border crossing between Libya and Tunisia, with Libyan authorities still insisting on full control of the crossing to reopen it, noting that “what is happening at the Ras Jedir border crossing reflects a power struggle,” stating that it will remain “closed until further notice.”

The French newspaper pointed to a conflict that is beginning to form between the authority in western Libya and the Amazighs who have controlled the border crossing since 2011 after the overthrow of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime by a popular revolution supported by NATO and other countries such as Qatar.

“Libyan police officers responsible for surveillance operations have withdrawn from the borders, leaving behind equipment such as scanners used to inspect vehicles under the responsibility of their Tunisian counterparts.”

In a related context, the Tunisian local radio station “Mosaique” reported, citing a security source, that “security forces stationed at the Ras Jedir border crossing, on the Libyan side and under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Zuwara, stopped movement in both directions on Tuesday evening.”

The security source explained that the Libyan side “called on those wishing to enter Tunisia or Libya to head towards the Zuwara – Wazen crossing,” also including Libyan ambulances and Tunisians returning from Libya.

Mosaique reported that the Ras Jedir border crossing is witnessing the concentration of various Tunisian security and military formations along the entire border strip, with relative calm on the Libyan side.

The interim Minister of Interior in the outgoing National Unity Government, Emad Trabelsi, said Thursday at a press conference, “We are seeking to secure the state’s borders to combat crime and smuggling,” stressing that the authorities will not back down “against drug traffickers and their accomplices.”

He confirmed that the border crossing has become over the years a center for smuggling, especially of fuel to Tunisia, and for drug trafficking such as amphetamines in the opposite direction.

He explained that the law enforcement force under his ministry, sent on Monday to Ras Jedir to arrest smugglers and ensure the safety of travelers, was targeted by “outlaw groups,” noting that it was forced to withdraw to preserve lives and property.

He said, “The attack on the police is unjustified as the Ministry of Interior is the competent authority responsible for securing the borders,” adding, “we will not leave our borders and crossings without security and we will not stand idly by in the face of chaos, smuggling, and squandering of national resources.”

The parties involved in the crisis, namely the Amazigh force controlling the crossing and accused of engaging in smuggling activities, and the security force sent by the Libyan Interior Ministry to the crossing, have not reached any results, while some Amazigh figures have threatened escalation if an imposed reality is attempted on them in the region.

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