Sunday, January 5, 2014

Libya: Update-- Homicide of British, Kiwi Couple Says to Tourists: "Go Away"

According to http://www.stuff.co.nz, Timaru-based international tour guide will avoid Libya following the January 2 shooting deaths of Wellington resident and mother-of-two Lynn Howie, 47, and her partner, former RAF officer Mark De Salis, 48, both of whom were found  executed on a Libyan beach near Mellitah. 

The couple lunched together on a beach near the Sabratha, 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Libya's capital of Tripoli.

Both De Salis and Howie were found lying face down in the sand with gunshot wounds, beside a picnic basket, water bottles and food.

The couple's valuables ­appear to have been untouched. No shell casings were found at there scene, suggesting that the couple may have been singled out for a professional hit.

De Salis worked for a company called First Engineering, a firm that provided electrical energy to the capital of Tripoli.

COMMENT: One theory of the motive for the murder of the couple is the fact that the two Westerners were not married, which could potentially anger extremist Islamists in Libya. This theory can only be confirmed if and when all of the assailants who executed the couple are fully interrogated. 

According to Libyan news sources, a number of arrests have been made in the shooting, although police have not identified the names of suspects.

De Salis was apparently married to a British national based in the UK and had worked in Tripoli for six years. 

Lynn Howie was De Salis' current partner and reportedly had planned to visit him in Tripoli before traveling onward to London, where she had lived previously. 

Effective January 6, 2014, the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (http://www.http://www.mfat.govt.nz) MFAT described the security risk in Libya as EXTREME, pointing out:

"There is extreme risk to your security in Libya, except in Tripoli and the north coast cities of Zuwara, Az Zawiya, Khums and Misrata, due to a significant threat from terrorism and kidnapping and we advise against all travel."

MFAT also said: "We are in close contact with her next of kin and providing consular assistance to them. We are grateful for the support from British Embassy staff in Libya who have provided assistance and we will continue to work closely with them," a spokesman said. 

Interestingly, the NZ travel warning of January 6 was issued after the couple was gunned down.

The bodies of De Salis and Howie have been taken to Tripoli for forensic examination and autopsies.

The murder scene at the Talil Seyahi Beach issued by local journalists at the Sabratha Media Center depicted a rucksack had been left behind near the remains of the two victims.
Sabratha, a World Heritage Site, was a popular tourist attraction in more stable times. But, like much of Libya, it has suffered from political violence since the revolution, including a series of attacks on Western targets.
A month ago a US teacher was shot and killed in Benghazi, and two basketball players, also from the US, were arrested and held by the security forces - parts of which have been infiltrated by Islamists - at the city's university.
A week ago, four US military personnel were briefly detained near Mellitah, while working on an evacuation plan for US nationals in the event the political situation deteriorates.
The Mellitah complex is co-owned by the Italian ENI company. Libya's energy sector, the main source of the country's revenue, has been hit by a series of strikes and clashes involving militias. 

As a matter of interest, the US Department of State has urged all US citizens to travel no farther than Tripoli and then only for ESSENTIAL travel. Americans are urged to avoid all other sections of Libya.

Like the US, the British Foreign Office has urged its citizens to restrict ESSENTIAL travel only to Tripoli and avoid all other sections of the country.

Several Western embassies have urged their citizens for months to restrict only essential travel to Tripoli and avoid all other parts of the country. 

It is regretful that Mark De Salis had not consulted the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office before he and Ms. Howie decided to venture outside of  Tripoli. 

Sadly, if they had contacted the Foreign Office and asked for advice they might well be alive today.