Rest in peace to the fallen and my heart goes out to the family and friends of Pierre. I had no idea that Secopex was operating in Libya, and this is pretty big news for a couple of reasons.
The first is if this was an intentional targeting, the objective is pretty clear. By killing the CEO of a major PMC in country, this brings great attention to the fact that the west is now using it’s own version of ‘mercenaries’ or PSC’s in Libya to do their bidding. There was great outrage in the beginning of this conflict by the west/media that Ghaddafi would actually contract with private forces, and yet here is the west doing the same thing. It is a killing that reflects the hypocrisy.
I guess this incident happened at a police check point and the others in the party were arrested as well. There is no telling what will happen to them, and they might be used as political pawns in a media game that Ghaddafi could play. For those familiar with Iraq or Afghanistan warfare, the insurgencies have used fake police check points as a means to do all sorts of nasty things. I have no doubt that similar tactics will continue to happen in Libya as a tool of whatever side in the conflict.
Another thought that came to mind is that I wonder if one of Ghaddafi’s mercenaries actually thought this one up as a strategy? Could this be a case of PMC versus PMC or private forces versus private forces in Libya? Who knows, but if the west plans on using private force in Libya, the possibility exists that you could have PMC’s/PSC’s battling one another in one form or another.
I am also curious as to what are the services that France’s largest PMC was going to provide in Libya other than basic security stuff? And why was the CEO on the ground involved with this activity? To give a comparable US example, this would be like the CEO of DynCorp getting killed in Libya. So if you have the CEO on the ground in a madhouse like Libya, then I imagine that there was some very interesting planning and advising going on.
Although at this time, I haven’t a clue as to exactly the kind of services Secopex was providing and I am sure the story will develop as more details come out. If the company or anyone familiar with this story would like to provide more details in the comments or in private, please feel free to do so. -Matt
Edit: 5/18/2011 – Here is the official statement from Secopex about Pierre’s death.
Mr. Marziali was in Benghazi for the creation of a branch office destined to provide close protection services. The circumstances of his death remain unknown at this time.
The other members of the company with him are currently being held by the rebellion. The Quai D’Orsay expects their liberation within the following days. We do not know the reason for their arrest.
We will respond to the insulting and libelous allegations in due course.
Mr. Marziali’s served his country for twenty five years. Until his death he worked in respect of the laws of the Republic. He was a man of honor.
Head of French Security Company Killed in Libya
By KAREEM FAHIM and MAÏA de la BAUME
May 13, 2011
The president of a French private security company who had scheduled a meeting on Thursday to discuss business opportunities with opponents of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi died in a hospital here on Wednesday, apparently after he was shot in the stomach, the French Foreign Ministry and rebel officials here in Benghazi said.
The circumstances that led to the shooting were murky on Thursday, as was the status of four of the executive’s colleagues, who were reported to have been detained. No one seemed to be sure who was holding them: Benghazi’s civil prosecutor referred questions to military prosecutors, who in turn said they could not comment on a continuing case.
“We are very sorry for what happened,” said Gen. Ahmed al-Ghatrani, a rebel military spokesman, who blamed “gangs that the old regime used,” without providing additional details.
In Paris, the Foreign Ministry released an equally murky statement, asserting that the police in Benghazi had detained five French citizens on Wednesday night, and that “one of them was hurt by a bullet and died during the night in Benghazi hospital.”
The statement did not identify any of those people, but it said: “Our representative on the spot is demanding to see our detained compatriots. He is in contact with the local authorities to examine the situation of those held.”
The authorities did not release the name of the dead man, but several people said he was Pierre Marziali, the president of Secopex, a private security company based in Carcassonne, France.
The confusion about the shooting contributed to a growing feeling that a shadow war is simmering in Benghazi between the many militias under the rebel umbrella and former Qaddafi loyalists or other groups with unknown allegiances. No one seemed able to say who had attacked the Secopex team, and no one seemed to know, or was willing to say, exactly why the security contractors were in Libya.
A woman who answered the telephone at Secopex’s offices on Thursday, sounding shaken, said she “had no information” on the company’s team in Libya.
Secopex has been said in many news reports to be the only private military security company in France. According to its Web site, Mr. Marziali co-founded the company in 2003 and it specializes, among other things, in training bodyguards.
Agence France-Presse reported in 2008 that the company had brokered a deal with the Somali government to create a unified coast guard and to train the bodyguards of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, then Somalia’s president.
A former employee at Secopex who spoke only on condition of anonymity said, “Mr. Marziali went to Libya on a mission which, I believe, had been ordered by France.”
Because France has not sent troops to Libya, Secopex was engaged for “protection missions,” the man said. Those assertions could not be independently confirmed, but several countries, including France, have sent military advisers to aid the rebels, who have struggled against Colonel Qaddafi’s more seasoned and better equipped forces.
Rebel officials, in the past, have said they would consider the possibility of hiring private companies to help secure vital public works, including oil fields.
The former employee described Mr. Marziali, a former paratrooper, as “pleasant, audacious and well connected.”
In Benghazi, the Secopex team had stayed for at least a month in a residential neighborhood in a two-story private villa with a high wall surrounding it. They told one resident that they worked in “logistics support.” By midnight on Wednesday, the house was empty, a neighbor said. Several pickups like the ones used by some of the rebel militias arrived at the house, and men went inside, returning with several pieces of luggage.
A rebel spokesman said that Mr. Marziali had been scheduled to speak with the vice chairman of the opposition’s Transitional National Council, Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, on Thursday morning. By Thursday afternoon, rebel officials were at the morgue at Jalaa Hospital in Benghazi, apparently trying to identify Mr. Marziali, who had what appeared to be a bullet hole in his stomach.
General Ghatrani, the rebel military spokesman, said military investigators were cooperating with French diplomats.