Explosive violence in LibyaAddressing the threat posed by IEDs

National C-IED initiatives: North Africa – Libya


The impact of IEDs in Libya was felt most last year. 2015 saw almost 400 killed and injured by IEDs in 17 attacks. Of these, for the first time in five years, most were civilians – they accounted for over three quarters of all those impacted. 2016, however, has seen a return to the targeting of armed actors, such as police and security personnel.

The most impacted area of Libya has consistently been Benghazi but recently more attacks have been conducted in a wider array of areas across the country such as in Sirte, Derna, Misrata and Tripoli. Recently IS affiliated militants have been chiefly responsible for IED attacks and other terrorist acts throughout Libya, as they have expanded their influence throughout the country whilst government conflict continues to destabilise the country. In the past, other Libyan militias such as Ansar al-Sharia were the main IED attack culprits.


In general, Libya’s security capabilities have been somewhat lacking over the last year given the protracted internal governmental conflict. This has led to compromised border security, allowing an unregulated flow of persons, weapons and illegal materials in and out of Libya. This has been ongoing since the damage committed in 2011 and has caused a significant impact in Tunisia also in terms of militant violence, as well as to Italy who has borne a great influx of refugees, many of whom have travelled through Libya.

The Libyan National Safety Authority (NSA) is run by the Ministry of the Interior. They operate in all major cities in Libya in the field of both IEDD and CMD, under the guidance and control of the Ministry of Interior. All trainees are members of the Libyan Police force with numerous years of previous EOD skills, although not in most cases to today’s international standards.

50 NSA employees received three advanced training courses in EOD from the UNMAS/Arms and Ammunition Advisory Section of United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) at the National Safety Authority’s request in 2015, with further IED training to continue throughout 2016.

The NSA continues to carry out EOD and C-IED efforts throughout the country and aid similar actors such as demining NGOs. The conflicts in Libya have made the work particularly dangerous. There has been a lack of coordination across the country and the NSA has complained of lack of funding and correct equipment to the tackle the size of the IED problem.

Other agencies combatting IEDs are the Libyan Civil Defense IED Department (LCDIEDD) and the Military Engineering Department. Both have been involved in clearing areas of Libya liberated from militant control, such as Laithi in early 2016. Much of their work has been obstructed by civilians returning to their homes when they hear that the land has been liberated, but this is despite warnings that their homes and land remain contaminated by ERW and IEDs left by the militants, rendering the land unsafe.

Both the LCDIEDD and the Military Engineering Department lack coordination with other similar agencies who can offer assistance and advice, particularly the NSA. They also rely on outdated equipment, leaving the users in greater danger. They require more advanced equipment, particularly to access the IED buried underneath rubble.

Though some C-IED activities have continued they are very limited and deeply affected by internal conflict in the country. The operations lack coordination, strategy and support. Areas such as prevention of radicalisation, combating terrorism financing, post-blast investigations, and bringing IED attack perpetrators to justice are practically non-existent.

Bilateral support

Little support is currently available to Libya. It has been dangerous for countries to become entangled in the internal affairs or to have a presence on the ground in the country. Therefore, very little assistance has been offered. Anti IS assistance has however, been provided by Egyptian war planes, which have conducted strikes targeting the militants across Libya. Other countries also involved in providing this type of counter terrorism support includes the US who are also using airstrikes to target IS in Libya. The sustained air campaign by the US began in August and it is hoped the involvement of the US will speed the defeat of IS in Libya.

Regional support and initiatives

Border security and management in Libya used to have the support of the EU Border Assistance Mission to Libya (EUBAM). However, given the security concerns many employees have relocated and the project has had to be placed on hold. The project has nevertheless been extended with the intention to operate from Tunis and move back into Libya when safe to do so. The EUBAM assists the Libyan authorities in developing their border management capacity, particularly in regard to coordination between all those involved in border security, including police, naval, and customs authorities.

This support is offered through advice, training and mentoring. Other areas of development include optimal use of existing equipment, risk management, and agency restructure for increased effectiveness. Since relocating, the EUBAM’s efforts have focused on workshops and seminars given outside of Libya. The budget for the coming year (22 August 2016 – 21 August 2017) is €17 million.

Libya is a member of MENAFATF, with the aim of better combatting money laundering and terrorism financing in Libya. However, given Libya’s current circumstances, there is little data on the countries efforts in this regard, but the general lack of capacity in regard counter terrorism would suggest that terrorism financing in Libya is increasing and any post-conflict efforts would need to immediately address this.

International support

UNMAS has been operating in Libya since 2011, although UNMAS Libyan headquarters currently operates from outside the border, in Tunisia, due to the insecurity in Libya since 2014. In July 2012, UNMAS integrated into the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) as the Arms and Ammunition Advisory Section.

Between 2012 and 2014, UNMAS helped strengthen the Libyan security structure and ensure Libya’s compliance with international standards, providing technical and operational support to Libyan national institutions, including the Ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs and Interior. In this role, UNMAS implemented catalytic projects in Tarhouna, Misrata and Zintan to construct temporary storage facilities for unsecured ammunition, working with the local Military Councils. UNMAS also developed the capacity of the Libyan Air Defence personnel, providing technical and chemical safety training on the removal of dangerous chemicals from damaged missile systems. Despite significant progress, the removal of materials was only half complete when UNMAS had to evacuate from Libya, which meant the materials still pose great risk.

Since 2014, they have maintained their presence in Libya but their work has had to be somewhat limited because of the ongoing violence and safety concerns. They have maintained their relationship with EOD, C-IED and demining actors within the country to provide advice and assistance where they can. Prior to 2014, UNMAS had generally supported demining activities in Libya alongside LibMAC, but since the escalation of violence in Libya this has been extended to C-IED.

UNMAS’s work has been concentrated upon three main areas: risk education, EOD, and technical advice. Although the risk education engages with IED risks, the area most related to C-IED has been the technical advice which has particularly aided Libyan actors in improving their capabilities in C-IED, including training and arms and ammunition management.

Alongside risk education and EOD training, UNMAS developed a Technical Framework Document for Arms and Ammunition Management in Libya which will assist a potential Government of National Accord to address management of arms and ammunition stockpiles. They also provided technical advice to the Libyan national mine action authority, and is assisting to draft National Mine Action Standards. This includes training to LibMAC staff and national partners in areas ranging from emergency responses (e.g. NTS), data management (e.g. IMSMA), operations, quality assurance and accreditation. Further capacity enhancement on NTS and IED training will take place in the second half of 2016, targeting the affected area of Benghazi.

The fluid political and security situation poses a major challenge to the UNMAS programmes. UNMAS is unable to engage with counterparts at a ministerial level due to the current political division, however by engaging at a local and municipality level, UNMAS, Libyan and implementing partners have been able to make progress. Despite funding shortfalls, UNMAS has continued trainings and projects aimed at engaging at this level of society.

NGO support

A pile of rusting UXO lies outside an abandoned stockpile outside Misrata, Libya, in March 2012. Simon Conway/AOAV

NGOs and commercial agencies have been involved with C-IED efforts across Libya, such as land clearance for mines and UXOs, as well as risk education. However, despite the limited capabilities of the state agencies, the Free Fields Foundation in Libya explained that none other than the police or army are authorised to dispose of IEDs. It was however also reported that many NGOs and private companies were trying to get the necessary authorisation to begin performing this work on the ground. It was said that the MoI and MoD usually oppose such ideas.

Libyan Mine Action Centre (LibMAC)

LibMAC was established in May 2011. The workers aim was to clear mines and the ERW in liberated areas. LibMAC was made up of dedicated volunteers, who worked to reduce risk, negotiate disputes, and encourage peace. Some of these volunteers are said to have done more to remove mines and explosive hazards than anyone else.

LibMAC manages all other Mine Action activities in Libya, and operates a Technical Agreement with outside governments to secure Ammunition Storage Areas (ASAs) around the country. This second aspect is vital to stop militants in Libya from accessing manufactured explosives such as mines or components for IEDs.

Since its inception LibMAC has been actively supporting all Libyan mining efforts, including the significant achievements of the Libyan army. LibMAC has also been assisting with the Ammunition Storage Areas programme and helping the international Mine Action NGOs working in Libya whenever possible. Despite being organised predominantly through volunteers, these are largely made up of former soldiers and former revolutionaries, as is the LibMAC governing body.

Free Fields Foundation (3F)

Libyan Mine Action NGO, 3F, is based in Tripoli. It was founded in 2012 by a group of people who were concerned about the explosive contamination across Libya.

The DDG have been partnering with 3F to implement mine action activities in Libya since 2014. With the support of the DDG, 3F employees have undergone further EOD training to help tackle the threat faced on the ground in Libya. As well as clearance operations in Libya, 3F conducts risk education to impacted communities to make them aware of the dangers posed by IEDs, mines, and UXO, and how to report explosives they come across.

However, 3F do not do any other IED work, such as search and disposal. When they encounter an IED, they report straight away to the Libyan Mine Action Centre, which in turn informs either the police or the army.

Handicap International

Handicap International have been working in Libya since March 2011, in response to the large amounts of landmines, cluster munitions, IEDs and other explosive weapons being seen in Libya at the time – of which many still pose a danger.

They have carried out MRE through a train the trainer program, which has seen 900 Libyan nationals trained to carry on educating impacted communities of the dangers posed by IEDs, landmines and other ERW. Handicap International also runs their own awareness sessions. Clearance has taken place in Tripoli, in the districts most impacted. They destroy landmines, and other ERW. Handicap International’s work has been funded by UNMAS and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.


Dynasafe have conducted operations in some of the worst impacted areas in Libya – Sirte Basin, Benghazi, and Mizda. Their work in Libya has predominantly focused on mine clearance and EOD. Most of Dynasafe’s work in Libya has been for private companies, such as Total and British Gas, rather than humanitarian organisations. They have, for example, conducted EOD, MRE and Technical Surveys.


Though MAG does not currently operate in Libya, they have been involved in previous operations there from 2011-2013. Risk education was a large part of MAG’s work in Libya. They particularly encouraged school children to be aware of the dangers and engaged them through song and drama, with the help of popular writers and musicians.

Securing ammunition was vital to MAG’s impact in the country, as there was so many explosives that had been spread throughout the country after many ammunition sites were hit during the conflict. Many explosives were destroyed by MAG and others were re-secured. But it was also important to engage the communities to increase awareness and encourage them to make MAG aware of any insecure explosives.


DCA has been working in Libya since May 2011. Traditionally working on EOD, its more recent work has focused on victim assistance, particularly psychosocial support to children impacted by the violence in Libya. Despite the situation on the ground in Libya preventing Libya from operating directly in the country, DCA works with local partner organisations in Libya, such as the Libya Scout Group and the Al Nour organisation. Both are working with young people who have been suffering the psychosocial impacts from the violence, such as PSTD, insomnia and depression.

Other aspects of the DCA’s work has seen them team up with local organisations to conduct risk education exercises, specifically the dangers of UXO. DCA have also supported the training of Libyan deminers in EOD. This year DCA and the authorities in Lebanon provided a specialised training course for Libyan deminers to attend. Support for the DCA’s other work includes that from actors such as the European Union, UNMAS and the Dutch Foreign Ministry.


The FSD is not currently operating any programs in Libya. However, has conducted stockpile management and destruction in Libya as part of its previous operations in the country. This will have contributed to the ability of militants in Libya to gain access to this weaponry and to use it in the creation of IEDs.

In 2012, FSD was able to dispose of 300 tonnes of ordnance and stockpiled ammunition in Libya. As part of their work they also conducted training and mentoring of security personnel on stockpile management issues. Alhough further operations were meant to be undertaken by FSD, these do not appear to have taken place. It is likely that this is because of the ongoing conflict and general instability in the country.


DDG has two offices in Libya, one in Tripoli and one in Sabha (the main city in southern Libya), with funding from EuropeAid and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It employs 17 local staff and 6 expatriate staff, and has so far written 20,727,116 DDK (£2,396,261) worth of contracts.

As part of an integrated Libya-Tunisia programme, DDG has worked in Libya since August 2011, in conjunction with the revolution against the 42-year regime of Col. Muammar Qaddafi, to address the widespread presence of UXO resulting from the 2011 Revolution and its aftermath.

DDG has established an institutional partnership with local demining organization, 3F, to conduct ERW Risk Education and clearance in close coordination with LibMAC, the local authorities and local community based organisations.


Mechem, now Denel Mechem, is a private company specialising in demining and EOD that was contracted by UNMAS in Libya to undertake some of EOD work. In 2014, it was reported that Mechem was destroying an average of a ton of explosives a day in Libya.

To see the areas of the published report, see here. To see a list of all the C-IED actors examined as part of the project, please go here. To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.