On 10 January, the Benghazi Shura Revolutionary Council (BRSC) said that the Islamic State (ISIS) breakout from the besieged Benghazi areas of Sabri and Ganfuda on 5 January caused ‘some’ disarray in their ranks, calling the ISIS withdrawal a ‘betrayal’. The BRSC and their supporters are facing a growing scandal over their exposed collaboration with ISIS, heightened by the capture of senior BRSC and Ansar al-Sharia members last week. The Libyan National Army (LNA) media office said it will soon air confessions by Nizar al-Tira, official spokesperson of the BRSC that would have explosive implications. Al-Tira was captured by the LNA on 6 January.
On 12 January, the Misrata Red Crescent body clearance team conducted its thirtieth trip to Sirte. The Red Crescent collected 71 corpses of ISIS fighters from the al-Jiza al-Bahriya area, the site of the last battle against ISIS in Sirte. The corpses of 6 fighters from Derna were also found amongst these bodies, including Ibrahim Al Shaari, Abu Yahya Zayed, Rezq Ramadhan Abu Dahab, Abu Mohammed Sultan, Muhannad Al Barasi, and Mohammed Hindra (Aka Al Abd).
On 11 January, Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), was formally received aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. The Russian vessel is currently anchored off the coast of Tubruk. While on board, Haftar had a closed teleconference meeting with the Russian Minister of Defense. According to local reports, he also signed a ‘medical assistance agreement’. Haftar’s symbolic visit aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov comes just weeks after his high profile visit to Russia during which he met Foreign Minister Lavrov and Defense Minister Shoigu to discuss anti-terrorism cooperation, and political and military support for the LNA.
Last week, PM Fayez al-Serraj reportedly intervened to cancel a meeting which had been planned by the Libyan Political Dialogue (LPD) group in Ghadames to discuss a way out of the political deadlock. Informed sources say that political rivals may be close to agreeing a breakthrough amendment to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). The amendment would incorporate Haftar within the LPA, reduce the Presidential Council from 9 to 3 members, and change its membership, including removing al-Serraj. Members of the LPD are set to meet with House of Representatives (HoR) members in Tunisia on 18 and 19 January to discuss the amendment and a new government.
On 14 January, Haftar summoned the senior LNA commanders from the east, west and south of Libya for a high-level meeting with the HoR president Ageelah Saleh, and boycotting member of the Presidential Council, Ali al-Gutrani. Over the last two weeks, increased shuttle diplomacy by Libya’s political rivals between regional powers Egypt and Algeria is said to be helping to bridge the political divide.
On 12 January, militias allied to Khalifa al-Ghwell, leader of a rival government in Tripoli, seized several ministerial buildings in Tripoli. Al-Ghwell took over the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Ministry of Defense, seizing it just hours after a meeting was conducted there between GNA Defense Minister Mahdi al-Barghathi, and UN Security Envoy Paolo Serra. Al-Ghwell still retains some power and influence among certain ministries and militias in Tripoli. His ability to move freely around the capital and take physical control of GNA institutions (albeit not political control) is severely damaging the GNA’s credibility.
Last week, Tripoli suffered power outages lasting over 15 hours in many areas, in addition to city-wide flooding. Increasing militia tensions also triggered violence and civil disobedience in the city. Clashes were reported in Gurgi between a Misratan militia and another armed group belonging to the Mobile Forces brigade in Hay al-Andalus. Other clashes took place between fighters from Haithem Tajouri’s Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade and a militia commanded by ‘Khoja’ in Bin Ashour. One was killed and another senior aide to Haithem injured. Civil disobedience is growing in reaction to the chronic lack of power, with many roads blocked and key infrastructure blockaded across the capital last week.
Anger against Misratan brigades in southern Libya is also rising as the region enters its second week without power, water, fuel or gas for most of its cities. Armed groups in the south are threatening to cut the water supply to Tripoli if the power cuts continue. Libya’s ambassador to France, al-Shibani Abu Hmoud, who is from southern Libya, warned Misrata that the actions of its Third Force in southern Libya will provoke a fierce reaction from local tribes. Hmoud accused Misratan forces of blocking vital supplies from reaching the region, especially the Brak al-Shati area where the Third Force is battling Libyan National Army (LNA) forces.
The local municipality of Souq al-Juma, an area in east Tripoli, issued a formal warning to the GNA last week, warning of reprisals against the GNA and others responsible for causing the extensive blackouts in Tripoli. This is in reference to the armed group in Zawiyya who have cut off the gas supply to Zawiyya power station which supplies electricity to western and southern Libya. Negotiations with the Zawiyya group are ongoing, but they are demanding release of locals kidnapped in Wershefana.
This article was used with explicit permission from the author.
Image: Flickr – Nicolas Raymond