Autonomy Campaign in Cyrenaica Brings Libya’s Oil Industry to a Halt

Andrew McGregor

October 31, 2013

Even as Libya descended into post-revolution political chaos, its vital oil industry made a rapid and surprising recovery, aided partly by the reluctance of both sides in the revolutionary struggle to damage or destroy the nation’s energy infrastructure. Today, however, Libya’s oil industry is largely paralyzed as it falls prey to post-revolution political maneuvering, especially in Libya’s eastern region of Cyrenaica. In September, production fell to 300,000 barrels per day, the lowest output since the 2011 anti-Qaddafi revolution.  

A strike by armed guards in the oil fields that began in July developed into a general blockade of large parts of Libya’s oil production facilities that was joined by other armed groups and individuals as the rest of the country was forced to import enough fuel to meet its own needs. In Cyrenaica, the original economic causes of the strikes have been joined by new demands for an autonomous Cyrenaica within a federal Libya. Libya’s capital, Tripoli, located in western Libya, has experienced power blackouts and water cuts (al-Sharq al-Awsat, October 7).

A New Government for Cyrenaica

There has been talk of establishing an autonomous Cyrenaica since the overthrow of former president Mu’ammar Qaddafi, with much of the discussion revolving around the role of the tribally-based Cyrenaica Transitional Council (CTC) and its titular leader, Ahmad Zubayr al-Sanusi, a great-nephew of King Idris al-Sanusi who served 31 years in the regime’s worst prisons after failing to overthrow the young Colonel Qaddafi in a 1970 plot. Official neglect of Cyrenaica dates from the early years of Mu’ammar Qaddafi’s rule, when he survived several plots organized by royalists and other factions from Cyrenaica.

The first major step in establishing Cyrenaica’s autonomy was the declaration of self-governance for the region by the Cyrenaica National Council within a (non-existent) federal Libya on June 1 (all questions regarding the nature of the future Libyan state have yet to be decided by a constitutional committee). However, al-Sanusi’s faction of the CTC was displaced by a younger group of secessionists who rallied around former militia commander Ibrahim al-Jadhran, a former rebel commander who became leader of a newly formed Political Bureau designed to advocate for Cyrenaican autonomy on August 17.

The newly declared autonomous state, to be known by its Arabic name, Barqa, corresponds to the old state of Cyrenaica, constituting the eastern half of Libya at the time of its independence in 1951. North-western Tripolitania and the south-western desert state of Fezzan formed the rest of Libya. In 1963, the three states were re-divided into ten new provinces, bringing an end, administratively at least, to Cyrenaica. The secessionists do not recognize any inconvenient changes to the original 1951 constitution. The revived region will be divided administratively into four provinces, Benghazi, Tobruk, Ajdabiya and Jebel Akhdar, each being run by a ten-person management team (Libya Herald, October 25).

Ibrahim al-Jadhran, a 33-year-old who makes his headquarters in Ajdabiya, is reported to have spent seven years in Qaddafi’s notorious Abu Salim prison before becoming a successful battalion commander in Cyrenaica during the revolution. Al-Jadhran’s reward was to be appointed chief of the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) in eastern Libya, a powerful and potentially lucrative post. The PFG is overseen by Libya’s Defense Ministry but funded by the Oil Ministry.

Al-Jadhran has since been dismissed from the PFG and an arrest warrant issued for insubordination in August (Bloomberg, October 1). In a recent interview, Jadhran described the ongoing political process as unavoidable:

We have already declared our independence financially… After being ignored and neglected by the current government, we need to be free to create our own administration and to be in charge of our own budgets. Autonomy is the only way to get our proper rights and cast off this oppression (Petroleum Economist, October 8). 

On October 2, the secessionists announced the appointment of Abd Rabo Abd al-Hamid al-Barasi as the head of the executive bureau, to be located in al-Bayda, as well as the appointment of Colonel Najib Sulayman al-Hasi as commander-in-chief of a projected 20,000-man Barqa defense force (drawn largely from the 17,000 petroleum guards and militia members that have joined them), based in the town of Brega. The force will be tasked with the protection of Cyrenaican oil facilities and securing the cities of Derna and Benghazi in order to halt the ongoing bombing and assassination campaigns. The appointees were viewed as being the choices of Ibrahim Jadhran.

Officials of the self-proclaimed government have maintained that the move to establish a new administration in Cyrenaica is not an effort to take sole control of the majority of Libya’s oil resources. According to Abd Rabo al-Barasi: “We only want Barqa’s share according to the 1951 constitution” (Libya Herald, October 25). Elsewhere, al-Barasi has said: “The aim of the regional government is to share resources in a better fashion, and to end the centralized system adopted by the authorities in Tripoli” (Arab News, October 25). After security has been restored in the cities of Derna and Benghazi, where over 80 people, including prominent members of the security forces, have been assassinated in the last year alone, the new administration has promised it will focus on attracting new investment to the region.

There is a tribal dimension to the dispute between al-Jadhran and the GNC; al-Jadhran and his brother Salim are both members of the Magharba tribe, a large and influential group that occupies the most productive oil fields in Cyrenaica. The GNC worries about alienating the entire tribe if it takes firm measures with al-Jadhran (Bloomberg, October 1). PFG commander Bukhamada also cites a challenge to national unity inherent in any attempt to dislodge the rebellious guard leader: “On a purely military level, of course the Ministry of Defence could easily defeat Jathran’s men, but politically the situation is very difficult. If troops are sent in from the west, that would only help to further unite the tribes of the east against the government” (Petroleum Economist, October 8). In some cases, secessionists and other Cyrenaican opponents of the central government in Tripoli have exploited the fear of civil war to warn against government-sponsored military operations to reclaim the oil fields of the east. Al-Jadhran and others also like to characterize the Tripoli government as being controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood to discredit their efforts to regain control of the east (Reuters, October 27; Petroleum Economist, October 8). Local Islamists in Benghazi, in turn, regard al-Jadhran as a tribalist who is pulling Libya backwards in order to strengthen the Magharba (Reuters, October 27).

A spokesman for the GNC said that the declaration of a “so-called Cyrenaica Region” was illegal (Libya Herald, October 25).  While criticizing central authorities for “incompetence and corruption,” al-Barasi, with little explanation, maintains the new government in Cyrenaica represents “not a secession movement, but a movement for Libya… Cyrenaica is the start and the aim is Libya” (Libya Herald, October 25).

Independence for the Fezzan?

The desire for autonomy within Libya has also spread to Libya’s sparsely inhabited south-western region, the Fezzan, a land of remorseless desert punctuated with a few oases and several vital trade routes into the African interior.

In late September, Fezzani elders from Sabha, Waddan, Wadi al-Shatti, Jufra and Obari met in Obari to discuss “the inability of the government to meet public requirements, especially in the Fezzan region,” according to a statement issued by the gathering (Libya Herald, September 27). The statement went on to say that a new, autonomous administration would be headed by a military governor. The Fezzani autonomy movement seems to be dominated by Arabs at present, with little support from Tuareg and Tubu residents of the region. Support is far from universal even within Fezzan’s Arab community, especially within Sabha, the regional capital and home to a major military base during the Qaddafi-era.

Libyan reports carried throughout the Middle East claimed that delegates declared Fezzan to be an autonomous federal province of Libya with Nuri Muhammad al-Qouizi as its president (al-Arabiya, September 26). The Sabha Local Council said it did not recognize the decision as the members of the elders’ council that made the decision had not consulted with the people or institutions of the region (Libya Herald, September 28). 

Shutting Down the Oil Industry

Jadhran’s followers now control approximately 60% of the nation’s oil wealth. Among the closed terminals are Libya’s two most important, al-Sider and Ras-Lanuf, both located in the Libyan east (UPI, September 27). Protests at the terminals that began in August over pay issues eventually merged with demands for Libyan federalism (al-Sharq al-Awsat, October 7). The head of the Libyan parliament’s energy committee, Naji Mokhtar, has admitted paying $2 million of his own funds to an unnamed leading member of the PFG to help open the oil terminals, though he characterized it as a mediation effort rather than a bribe: “Exceptional times call for exceptional measures… I went to them thinking they would have a sense of patriotism” (Bloomberg, September 24).

Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG)

In Tobruk, where local leaders favor national unity over Cyrenaican autonomy (while still insisting on certain political concessions), Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was able to announce the reopening of the Marsa Hariga terminal on October 28 (Libya Herald, October 28). On the same day, however, Tuareg protesters demanding national ID numbers (to clarify their Libyan citizenship) and official recognition for their language seized and shut down the Sharara oilfield in Obari (Fezzan) and a closure of the Mellitah terminal (run jointly by Eni and Libya’s National Oil Corporation – NOC) entered a second day after roughly 80 Berber gunmen from the north-western port city of Zuwara seized the terminal by means of an amphibious assault to press their demands for greater representation in the constitutional committee (Libya Herald, October 28). Embarrassingly, Zuwara is the hometown of Nuri Abu Sahmain, the chairman of the GNC (see Terrorism Monitor Brief, July 11). The Sharara oilfield had only just resumed pumping operations on September 16 after the Sharara, al-Fil and Hamada pipelines were shut down by the Zintan militia (Libya Herald, September 16). A September 4 announcement of a 20% hike in public sector salaries, including oil facility guards, failed to have any significant impact on the strikes (al-Sharq al-Awsat, October 7).

Reported attempts by the strikers and petroleum guards to sell oil on the black market led Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to warn in mid-August that: “Any vessel not under contract to the National Oil Company that approaches the terminals will be bombed from the air and sea” (Tripoli Post, August 17). Al-Jadhran does not express concern with these threats, saying: “We’ve got access to boats and we’re ready to offer tankers military escorts to help protect them from government forces” (Petroleum Economist, October 8).

It is a measure of the weakness of the GNC that it only decided this month to stop paying striking guards of the 21,000 man PFG who were blockading outbound flows of oil and gas. Such measures have had some success: in central Libya, PFG commander Brigadier Idris Bukhamada ordered all PFG members to re-enlist and accept government authority or forfeit their salaries – some 2,000 of the 3,000 guards quickly complied (Bloomberg, October 1). In the east, however, there are other factors at work, including political motivations and the possibility of alternate sources of income, either through illegal petroleum sales or “donations” from various interested parties in the oil industry, such as shippers, traders or rival oil companies.

ExxonMobil, a minor player in Libya with offshore operations, announced on September 17 that security concerns were forcing it to reduce staff and operations in Libya. Italian oil firm Eni and American Marathon have both suffered losses during the disruptions that have cost Libya an estimated $5 billion so far this year. Marathon has indicated its interest in selling its 16.3% stake in Waha Oil, Libya’s largest foreign partnership (Reuters, September 17; Libya Herald, October 3).

Italy’s Eni, which runs the largest energy operations in Libya, has suffered from a month-long and ongoing shutdown of its Wafa field in western Libya, near the Algerian border. In this case, Wafa, which supplies gas to Italy through two trans-Mediterranean pipelines, was shut down by strikers seeking financial rather than political aims and who saw the ongoing turmoil in energy fields elsewhere in Libya as an opportune time to take action (Gulf Times, October 25; Libya Herald, September 29). 


The turmoil in the oil fields has forced the GNC to dip into Libya’s financial reserves to maintain the most basic government services, with fears that the government may soon be unable to pay government employees if the situation is not reversed soon. There are reports that many mid-level officials and administrators have already decided to resign and leave the country (al-Sharq al-Awsat, October 23). There are also an estimated 225,000 militia members receiving government salaries in return for their “loyalty” to the GNC. Their commitment to the GNC, already fairly shallow (and in some cases non-existent) will be severely challenged by any interference with their paychecks.

Libya’s central government has made almost no progress in building a national defense structure that would allow it to enforce its writ without the cooperation (at a price) of Libya’s militias. Without a national security force of any significance, Libya’s ruling GNC simply does not have the means of dealing with powerful militia leaders who decide to impose their own direction on the nation. However, the GNC and Libya’s oil ministry are not entirely blameless in this affair – dubious practices such as loading oil tankers without the use of meters to measure the size of the shipment and awarding export contracts without going through proper channels have been cited by oil facilities guards as cause for their takeover of major oil terminals (Tripoli Post, August 17).  Dr. Abd al-Bari Ali al-Arousi, Libya’s Minister of Oil and Gas, is frequently cited by the strikers as a corrupt influence in the Ministry. Prime Minister Zeidan is also widely viewed as having failed to address security concerns in Libya or make any progress in reining in Libya’s militias and rebellious petroleum guards, leading to the August 18 resignation of Interior Minister Muhammad al-Shaykh, who cited lack of support from the prime minister during his three months on the job (al-Jazeera, August 18).

Questions regarding the legality of oil sales by the PFG and its allies independent of the Libyan Oil Ministry would normally be clearly defined by law and practice, but the prior assistance provided by Qatar and NATO in allowing rebel oil sales to help self-finance the Libyan revolution has muddied the waters by setting a precedent for oil sales independent of the Tripoli government. Strong demand for Libya’s high-quality oil may encourage independent deals with the new Cyrenaican administration, which is currently the only body capable of delivering the product from the vast eastern oil fields.

Popular support for the declaration of autonomy is difficult to gauge in Cyrenaica, where no clear consensus has yet emerged despite the declarations of more ambitious members of the political community. Nonetheless, the possibility of a local move to take control of the majority of Libya’s resource wealth or even the perception of such a move could trigger a new conflict within Libya and even a new round of external intervention focused on securing Libya’s oil wealth.


1. Andrew McKillop, “Who Controls Libyan Oil?” October 17, 2013,

This article first appeared in the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor on October 31, 2013

Unilateral Referendum in Contested Oil Producing Abyei Region Overwhelmingly in Favor of Joining South Sudan

Andrew McGregor

October 31, 2013

Ngok Dinka residents of the oil-rich but disputed border territory of Abyei have voted by a margin of more than 99% to join the Bahr al-Ghazal region of South Sudan rather than the South Kordofan region of Sudan in a three-day vote (October 27-29) that defied many predictions by being carried out peacefully and without major disturbances despite being boycotted by the other main ethnic group in the region, the Arab Missiriya tribe. Only 12 voters were reported to have cast a vote to join Sudan in a process to which foreign media were granted full access in order to verify transparency , though no international observers were present (Sudan Tribune, October 31).

(Africa Confidential)

Many Ngok Dinka displaced by attacks by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in May 2008 and May 2011 were reported to have returned home to take part in the vote (Reuters, October 31). The borders of Abyei were redrawn by an international arbitration tribunal in 2009 to neither side’s satisfaction, though the most productive oil fields (the Heglig zone) were separated from a diminished Abyei and attached to Sudan’s South Kordofan province (RFI, July 22, 2009).

The semi-nomadic Missiriya spend much of the year in the Sudanese province of South Kordofan, but rely on the 10,000 square kilometer region of Abyei for dry-season grazing for their herds as part of a centuries-old migratory pattern. The Missiriya include a core of well-armed and experienced fighters who are determined not to allow new borders to interfere with their traditional way of life. Missiriya tribal leader Mukhtar Babo Nimr described the vote as “an illegal process,” adding that “We in the Missiriya tribe are committed to the official position of the Sudanese government…Abyei is a northern land that belongs to Sudan and we are on it and will continue to live there because it is our land” (Reuters, October 31). The Missiriya have promised to hold their own referendum in response to the vote by the Ngok Dinka (Sudan Tribune, October 31). Missiriya militias known as Murahileen have been armed and sponsored by Khartoum since the 1970s, initially as a means of applying pressure on South Sudanese separatists by attacking agricultural communities along the north-south border.

The vote was not supported by either Khartoum or Juba, nor was it recognized by any element of the international community. The vote was initially backed by the African Union, which later withdrew its support over complaints of “obstruction” by Khartoum, which opposed the vote (Reuters, October 29). The referendum was intended to replace a scheduled 2011 vote on Abyei’s future allegiance meant to be coincidental to South Sudan’s vote on independence that was cancelled due to unrest in the region, questions over who would be allowed to vote and tensions between Juba and Khartoum. 65,000 Ngok Dinka were registered for the vote, which was non-binding. The vote was carried out by the Abyei Referendum High Committee.

Abyei’s location in the Muglad Basin once made it one of Sudan’s most productive regions for high-quality oil production, but reserves are now in decline due to intensive production in the 1990s.  The dispute over Abyei’s status dates to 1905, when the Anglo-Egyptian administration of Sudan transferred the “area of the nine Ngok Dinka chieftains” from the southern Bahr al-Ghazal province to the northern province of South Kordofan. Relations between the Ngok Dinka and the Missiriya were amicable until the outbreak of the 1956-1972 North-South civil war, when the Ngok Dinka sided largely with the southern Anyanya separatist movement. When the conflict resumed in 1983, the Ngok Dinka again sided with the Southern opposition, this time in the form of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M).

Security in Abyei is currently provided by the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNIFSA), a mostly Ethiopian contingent of over 5300 troops commanded by Ethiopian Major General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam. [1] The force was established by UN Security Council resolution 1990 on June 27, 2011 in response to widespread violence in the region.

Though the results of the unilateral referendum are entirely symbolic, they may help provide the impetus necessary to attract the interest of the UN Security Council in working out a final solution for the disputed territory.


1. For UNIFSA, see

Low Expectations Surround Lebanese Military Deployment in Tripoli

Andrew McGregor

October 31, 2013

The latest intervention of the Lebanese Army into the coastal city of Tripoli to force an end to armed clashes between the impoverished Sunni Bab al-Tebbaneh and the Alawite Jabal Muhsin districts of Tripoli has not been accompanied by high expectations. The military is making its 18th intervention in Tripoli since May, 2008, with none of the earlier operations so far having had any significant impact on the sectarian conflict between the two neighborhoods. The Army is already overstretched in dealing with security disturbances across Lebanon, including cross-border shelling by both sides in the Syrian conflict, engagements with Sunni gunmen in southern Lebanon and a wave of car bombings. Tripoli, a city of roughly 200,000 people, is 80% Sunni with Christian and Alawite minorities making up the difference.

The latest round of violence began on October 21 following a televised speech by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in which the Syrian leader appeared to say Jabal Muhsin was part of Syria, forcing the Lebanese Army to return to the city to restore order (al-Manar TV [Beirut], October 23; al-Sharq al-Awsat, October 29). Sniper fire from both sides greeted the arrival of the troops, who acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati said would “be strict and impartial” in dealing with the ongoing violence (al-Jazeera, October 28). Seventeen people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in fighting that has derailed a forthcoming disarmament campaign in the city (al-Jazeera, October 28). Intense at times, the conflict has seen the use of rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and mortars.

Lebanese troops moved further into the conflict zone on October 29. After a short and relative calm, fighting broke out again on the evening of October 30 after Al-Hizb al-Arabi al-Dimuqrati (HAD – Arab Democratic Party) founder Ali Eid (father of HAD secretary-general and effective current leader Rifaat al-Eid) was called in for questioning by the Internal Security Forces’ (ISF) Information Branch in connection with the bombings. The HAD declared that the call was nothing less than the declaration of “a new war against Jabal Mohsen” (Daily Star [Beirut], October 31).

In the 1980s, Syrian support allowed the HAD and its armed wing of the time, al-Fursan al-Hammur al-Arabi, to develop Jabal Muhsin as a strategic stronghold overlooking the city of Tripoli, giving the small Alawite community an enormous advantage over the more numerous Sunnis. While the ongoing civil war in Syria has inflamed tensions in Tripoli, it is not solely responsible for inter-communal clashes that have practically become a way of life in parts of Tripoli over nearly four decades.

Preliminary investigations into the twin car bombings of Tripoli’s Sunni al-Salam and al-Taqwa mosques that killed 47 people on August 23 indicated the bombings had been carried out by elements from Jabal Muhsin with the support of Syrian intelligence services. The summons for Ali Eid came after Ahmad Muhammad Ali, a personal guard and driver for HAD leader Rifaat Eid, confessed to army intelligence that, working under Rifaat Eid’s orders, he had helped Ahmad Merhi flee to Syria from Jabal Muhsin (Daily Star [Beirut], October 30). Merhi has been identified as the driver who planted the car bomb outside the Taqwa mosque. Rifaat Eid, meanwhile, has suggested that the charges were prompted by Saudi demands as a means of taking revenge for Hezbollah participation in the Syrian conflict (al-Safir [Beirut], October 18).

Seven suspects in the bombings were charged by a military prosecutor on October 14, though four of the suspects remain at large. One of the detainees, HAD associate Yusuf Diab, is reported to have confessed to driving the car bomb that exploded outside al-Salam mosque (Daily Star [Beirut], October 14). Ziad Allouki, a leading Sunni militia leader in Bab al-Tebbaneh, has warned of intensified clashes if the Army does not arrest Rifaat al-Eid in connection with the August mosque bombings (Daily Star [Beirut], October 28).

Sunni Gunmen in Bab al-Tebanneh  (AFP/Joseph Eid)

Former Prime Minister and Future Movement head Sa’ad Hariri has been especially critical of government efforts to restore order in Tripoli as well as Syria’s “dirty war” in the city:

Is it acceptable for the Lebanese Army with its elite units to become a false witness in the war against Tripoli? Is it right for security agencies and local officials to monitor the situation and announce their inability to confront the dangers in the city? … As for us, we will not be silent toward the injustice in Tripoli … we hold the state with all its official, security and military agencies fully responsible for abandoning the city and its residents and leaving it an arena for such armed chaos (Daily Star [Beirut], October 28).

Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah weighed in on the conflict on October 28, proclaiming his support for the military intervention, but expressing the hope that the residents of Tripoli would cooperate with the security forces rather than call for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Jabhat al-Nusra to enter from Syria and interfere, “as that complicates the situation and does not resolve it.” Nasrallah said that the state “knows a lot about the cells whose aim is to inflame the situation in Lebanon” but had taken no action against them.

Druze leader and Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid al-Jumblatt has expressed astonishment at the futility of the endless political violence and the belief of some that “clashes between Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Muhsin will change the course of bloody developments in Syria or will alter the existing dynamics in this conflict (Daily Star [Beirut], October 28).

The fighting in Tripoli appears to be closely connected to the launch of the long-delayed Qalamun offensive by the Syrian Army, which is designed to drive rebel groups from Syria’s east Lebanon (or “Anti-Lebanon”) mountains, in particular the Saudi-backed Liwa al-Islam of Zahran Alloush, which fields over 3,000 fighters and 23 T-72 tanks (al-Safir [Beirut], October 18).  Once the campaign begins in earnest, Tripoli will become important as both a supply point and place of refuge if things turn bad for Sunni rebels operating in the Anti-Lebanon.

The situation in Tripoli may soon be further complicated by the entry of the Ahrar Tripoli, a new Sunni militia being formed by former ISF director Ashraf Rifi. The project is reported to have Saudi funding under the direct supervision of Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan (al-Akhbar [Beirut], October 29).

Lebanon has been ruled by a caretaker government since March that appears to not have the will, the ability or the mandate to restore security and stability to an ever more volatile situation. Tripoli’s mayor, Nadir Ghazal, has complained that Tripoli was “dying” from the continuous outbreaks of fighting in the city (Daily Star [Beirut], October 30).

This article first appeared in the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor on October 31, 2013

Moroccan Militants and the Syrian Jihad

Andrew McGregor

October 18, 2013

A recent al-Qaeda video and Syria’s growing anti-Alawite jihad have raised alarms in Morocco, where a traditional monarchy is attempting to resist efforts to Islamize the nation’s society and government.

The 41-minute video, entitled “Morocco – The Kingdom of Corruption and Despotism,” was produced by al-Andalus, the media arm of the Algerian-based al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and calls on young people in Morocco to rise up in jihad to implement Shari’a throughout the northwest African country. The video focuses on the allegedly corrupt monarchy of King Mohammed VI, which is described by AQIM leader Musab Abd al-Wadoud as supporting a “Jewish-Crusader union” and being “a traitor to Allah and his Prophet and all his believers” (Reuters, September 17). Footage within the video contrasted the King’s enormous wealth with the desperate conditions of Morocco’s slums and shantytowns. The video also cites a 2009 Forbes magazine article describing the king’s enormous wealth and a 2012 book by Catherine Graciet and Eric Laurent that profiles the inner workings of the court and the concentration of wealth amongst the king’s family and close associates. [1] The King’s family, known as the Alaouite dynasty, has ruled Morocco since 1666.

Ali Anouzla, the director of independent Moroccan news website was arrested on September 17 for posting a link to the video as carried by the website of Spanish daily El Pais. There are suspicions that the real reason for the arrest and the threat of a six-year prison sentence under Morocco’s anti-terrorism legislation was Anouzla’s critical coverage of monarch Mohammed VI, a taboo for most of Morocco’s generally tame media. El Pais removed the link after the Moroccan government complained to Madrid; YouTube similarly removed the video from its website after determining it broke the site’s guidelines on inciting violence. A statement from Reporters sans Frontières claimed that Moroccan authorities “have shown that they are confusing journalism with inciting terrorist acts” (Reporters sans Frontières Press Release, September 26).