French intellectual recounts ambush in GNA-controlled Libya, suspects Turkey connection
French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy said he was the target of an ambush in Libyan territory controlled by the Turkey-backed Tripoli government, and had experienced resistance even before revisiting the war-torn North African country.
In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece published on Friday, Lévy recounted a militia ambush on his police-escorted convoy around Tarhouna, a town 65 kilometres southeast of the Libyan capital Tripoli, during a recent visit to a mass grave site.
The French author and film director, who has advocated for Kurdish autonomy and made documentaries involving Iraqi Peshmerga fighters, speculated the cause of the incident, ultimately pointing to his bad relations with Turkey, which, along with its regional ally Qatar, backs the internationally recognised Government of National Accord.
Lévy said he did not expect the reception he received when planning his trip to Libya, which he had previously visited in 2011 during the civil war between forces loyal to dictator Moammar Gadhafi and foreign-backed groups.
“I knew all too well that this idea (the planned trip to Libya) would displease the local janissaries of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who did me the dubious honour, when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood fell in 2013 to the coup by Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, of publicly naming me one of those responsible for the event,” he said.
Lévy said he had no other agenda in Libya than to “reconnect with Libya’s people” and later report on his trip, and that he did not expect “the infernal machine that had set in motion” after he informed Tripoli’s Interior Ministry of his intentions.
“Before I arrived in Libya or made any public announcement of my intention to visit, an Algerian newspaper ran a headline calling me a ‘criminal Zionist returning to the scene of his crime’,” he said. “Then a post appeared on Turkish and Qatari Facebook pages, offering the itinerary that I had been required to provide.”
Social media was also used to circulate photos of his car’s license plate after the ambush and again “almost immediately” after police had him switch vehicles, according to Lévy.
“From the shouts coming through walkie-talkies, I realise I’ve been sold out and am being monitored. A ‘terrorist’, a ‘snitch’, has given the pack pursuing me the information to find and stop me,” he wrote.
Lévy said that social networks have called him a pro-Israel agent against the pan-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood – which Erdoğan supports – a “provocateur and a warmonger who has come to help dismantle” Libya and a French emissary with an alleged commitment to the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and its leader, General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by France, Russia, and Egypt, among other countries.
The French philosopher said his “sole regret” on his last trip was not venturing to see the pier Turkey uses to bypass the U.N. arms embargo on Libya and bolster the GNA.
“I believe, now, that the reason for the ambush lies there,” he said.
Analysts say that Ankara’s military support – including drones, intelligences and logistics, and supplying of arms and Islamist Syrian mercenaries – had turned the tide in the GNA pushback against an LNA offensive to capture Tripoli.