Libya Tribune

The Libyan Organization for policies and strategies, is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization. It publishes monthly reports on the situation in Libya. This is part one of February report on security and military situations in Libya.

The Security Situation

The month of February was not any different than its previous months as security tensions continued including armed clashes, kidnapping, robberies, smuggling of illegal immigrants and even various attacks were carried out on public and private institutions and facilities.

Armed clashes in the areas of “Janzour”, “Zliten” and “Abu Salim” represented a hallmark in the forms of conflict in the western region.

Only two days into the month of February, violent clashes broke out in the area of “Janzour”, in western “Tripoli”, between “Forsan Janzour” battalion and armed groups from the areas of “Wershfana”.

They used heavy weapons including tanks in clashes that lasted for over two days. The city of “Zliten” has known military clashes between the city’s security room and “Misrata’s” military battalions after the latter attacked the security room causing one death and several wounded. The fighting came to end when both cities signed an agreement to halt the fighting.

In the same context, battles took place in “Abu Salim” in “Tripoli” between “Al-Burki” battalion, which is loyal to the Government of National Salvation headed by “Khalifa Gwhell”, and “Ghniwa” battalion, which is affiliated with the Central Security and loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA).

These fightings resulted in 7 deaths and several injured. Clashes started as a result of exchanging accusations between both parties on conducting kidnapping operations. Some armed groups concluded the month of February by closing the coastal road in the area of “Al-Alous” in the western Mountain which obliged citizens to use the mountain routes instead of the main road.

On another aspect, “Benghazi” Defense Brigade Forces shot down a military air force helicopter affiliated with the House of Representatives causing the death of three individuals who were on board. The operation comes as part of a military movement carried by the Brigade in the central region during which clashes took place with forces affiliated with the parliament near “Al-Mabrouk” oil field and other areas, according to the statements of the brigade’s “Boshra” News Agency.

These moves were preceded by air strikes carried by the parliament-affiliated army on “Al-Jufra” base and the city of “Houn”. The operation caused deaths and wounded individuals.

As for “Benghazi”, the siege imposed by the parliament-affiliated army forces continued on the “Chinese buildings” area, where the fighters of the Shura Council of Benghazi Rebels are holed up. The siege was accompanied with intermittent clashes and continuous air strikes causing several deaths on both sides.

Recently, the Media arm of the Benghazi Shura Council, “Saraya” Media Center, announced the death of one besieged family and “Omar Ashkal Gaddafi”, one of the leaders in the former administration who was captured on March 19, 2011.

“Ashkal” refused to leave “Ganfouda” with the released detainees unless all the besieged families were released first.

In “Derna” the military situation has not changed much compared to the month of January as the parliament-affiliated army forces continue besieging the city. From time to time, skirmishes and fighting erupt with Shura Council of “Mujahideen of Derna” and its environs.

The parliament-affiliated Chief of Staff “Abdel-Razaak al-Nadhouri” stated that their forces will liberate “Derna” as soon as the battle with “Benghazi” comes to end. He called upon “Abu Salim” battalion to surrender their weapons.

Illegal immigrants are still flocking to Libya going towards European countries, amid a government inability to control the illegal smuggling operations and a European fidget towards the current situation. Armed groups continue to exploit immigrants through carrying illegal smuggling operations in order to earn a living.

In the west of the country and precisely in the city of “Ghdames” a number of military formations announced their subordination to the general command of the parliament-affiliated army under the leadership of Marshal “Haftar”. They urged the military across the country to join the general command and assume their role in the army.

In a major development that raised many welcoming and rejecting reactions, Colonel “Mahmoud Al-Zakl” announced the establishment of a National Guard Force.

He stated that it will be a national institution away from political feuds. Different military groups in the west and south of the country declared joining the National Guard and blessing it, while the Presidential Council, represented by its spokesperson “Ashraf Tulty” rejected this announcement and considered it a political maneuver and that the entity announced has no power on the ground. “Tulty” asserted that the Presidential Guard is the legitimate entity allowed and entrusted with the protection of the State public institutions and personalities.

On its side, the U.S. State Department and the UN envoy to Libya “Martin Kobler” expressed their concerns about creating a national guard and called for not establishing parallel bodies which would hamper the Political Agreement.

Expectations

The current security situation in the west, east, and south is expected to remain sagging and weak.

Military clashes are expected to break out at any moment due to the acute disagreement in the perception of State and military and security institutions.

Given the recent clashes in the capital “Tripoli” between forces affiliated with the Presidential Council and others against it, the scene does not portend the possibility of deepening the realignment and forming clear influence areas for each party.

Having said that, the scene may not lead to the eruption of a long war between both sides, but it is very likely that short clashes and fights would erupt from time to time.

It is also likely that the kidnapping and killing cases happening among parties to the conflict will increase amid the growing state of tension which will negatively impact the overall security situation for citizens, public and private institutions.

The Military Situation

Fierce fighting continued in the area of “Ganfouda”, in western “Benghazi”, between the parliament-affiliated army forces and the Shura Council of “Benghazi” Rebels. Clashes were limited to a narrow space in the Chinese buildings where the Shura Council of “Benghazi” Rebels is defending their last strongholds in the west of the city.

Army forces use warplanes to drain fighters trapped by the Shura Council through a continuous bombardment targeting their locations. Bombardment is also permeated by intermittent clashes from time to time causing deaths and wounded on both sides. Calm is often prevailing other areas of the country such as (downtown) and “Al-Sabri” which did not undergo many clashes.

On February 28 th , the Media arm of the Benghazi Shura Council, “Saraya” Media Center announced the death of a leader in the previous administration, “Omar Ashkal Gaddafi”, following an air strike that claimed his life and the lives of some foreign workers trapped in “Ganfouda”. “Ashkal” refused to leave “Ganfouda” unless accompanied by the besieged families, following a brokered agreement to release those detained by the Shura Council in exchange for releasing families and ensuring their safety.

On another aspect, the motorcade of “Al-Saiqa” forces leader “Mahmoud Werfali” was bombed causing the death of two of his companions, and he was wounded.

In “Derna”, in eastern “Benghazi”, army forces have been besieging the city for several months and firmly monitoring the entrances and exits of the city.

Although no major battles took place last month and the army forces did not break into the city in a major operation, the skirmishes are still ongoing between both sides.

During an attempt to control the southern entrance to the city in “Dahar al-Ahmar” area in southern “Derna”, one armed was killed and two wounded from the Shura Council of “Mujahideen Derna” and its suburbs.

In the central region, the “Benghazi” Defense Brigade Forces progressed towards Oil Crescent areas and managed to shoot down a military helicopter close by “Al-Mabrouk” oil field. Three pilots on board were killed.

The Media arm of the “Benghazi” Shura Council, “Saraya” Media Center, announced that other clashes broke out with forces affiliated to “Haftar” close by “Al-Noufliya” and other areas it did not disclose.

In another development, armed clashes erupted at the beginning of the month between “Forsan Janzour battalion” and military battalions from the areas of “Wershfana”.

Clashes lasted for three days, during which heavy weapons were used and caused the suspension of schools. Clashes occurred when “Forsan

Janzour battalion” captured a person from “Wershfana” accused of stealing a car according to the commander of the battalion patrols. Clashes came to end following an agreement concluded between a delegation of the dignitaries and elders of “Tarhuna” and the High Council of Reconciliation with the dignitaries and notables of the municipality of “Janzour” and the notable of “Wershfana” to solve the conflict.

The Red Crescent oversaw the exchange of bodies between both sides. Some residential buildings in “Janzour” and the area of “Sayyad” were damaged as a result of clashes, in addition to casualties among civilians.

Armed groups from the city of “Misrata” attacked the joint security room in “Zliten”. One member of the security room was killed and others were injured.

The security room stated that it managed to arrest the attackers and will hand them over to justice. As a result of the clashes, the coastal road was closed.

Moreover, two people from “Zliten”, working in the iron and steel factory, located in “Misrata”, were kidnapped to be released later on after both cities signed an agreement to end the fighting. “Zawiyat al-Mahjoub” Martyrs Battalion Brigade denied its connection with clashes in “Zliten” and stated that those who took part in the attacks on the security room do not represent the Brigade.

The municipalities of “Zliten” and “Misrata” signed an agreement with the presence of notables and elders along with the military councils and security rooms of both cities. During the meeting, attendees rejected the illegal and illegitimate actions.

The agreement stipulated the need to refer the attack case on the headquarters of the joint security room in “Zliten” to the office of the Attorney General in order to arrest those involved in the attacks on the joint security room in “Zliten” and “Misrata” and hand them to legal justice.

In a remarkable shift, the area of “Abu Salim” in “Tripoli” underwent armed clashes between the Central Security Forces “Abu Salim” under the command of “Ghniwa Al-Kikli” and the General Investigation Apparatus – “Abu Salim” branch known as “Salah Al-Burki” Battalion.

Clashes followed accusations exchanged between the two sides of kidnapping cases of individuals affiliated with them. Six people were killed amongst whom were civilians, during the two-day clashes. The newly-formed National Guard asked for ending clashes.

In this same context, the Prime Minister of the National Salvation Government, “Khalifa Ghwell” asked to put an end to clashes between both sides. After the cessation of clashes, life returned back to normal, and main roads were one again opened to citizens.

Expectations

It is not likely that the situations will change in the fronts of, specifically, “Derna” and “Benghazi”. Amid the persistence of parties to conflict on both sides to reject the other side and carry on the fight, military operations in the areas of confrontations in both cities will continue.

The eruption of other confrontations in other fronts remain possible in the west and south of the country, but in a form of short-term battles and skirmishes such as the ones that occurred in “Abu Salim”, “Zliten” and “Janzour”.

It is likely that “Benghazi” Defense Brigades will continue their progress towards the Oil Crescent areas to reach “Benghazi” despite its failures in past attempts.

In fact, information indicates that they are preparing for a new campaign and that the recent moves are part of a military plan.

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Source: The Libya Case Report – February 2017

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