On 4 January, an ISIS fighter from Derna conducted a suicide bombing against Government of National Accord (GNA) aligned al-Bunyan al-Marsus forces in the eastern area of Sirte, however no casualties were reported. On 8 January, an ISIS member captured by the LNA stated on Libyan television that Tunisian journalists Sofiane Chourabi and Nadher Guetari, who have been missing in Libya since 2014, are both dead. Documents found by the LNA during their raids in Ganfuda over the last two weeks appear to show that the decision to kill the journalists was made by ISIS clerics, and that both were executed in Derna.
On 3 January, an explosion destroyed an arms cache in Mizdah, a town situated 200km south of Tripoli. The perpetrators are as yet unknown but ISIS is thought to be implicated. Reports from locals in the area indicate that ISIS fighters are reorganizing in south-western Libya along the Man Made River route between Bani Walid and Sebha. Last week, an attempt was made to sabotage the Man Made River (MMR) pipeline between al-Shuwarif and Bani Walid. The saboteurs used tank shells to blow a hole in the pipeline. There are reports of ISIS mobilizing forces near Bani Walid and Nesmah. In response, a new anti-ISIS tribal coalition has been formed between Awlad Busif, Zintan and Werfalla in south-west Libya. These tribes are reportedly organizing their ranks to defend their territory from ISIS.
On 8 January, Mohammed al-Ghosri, commander of BM forces, accused Haftar of assassinating 300 officers in Benghazi and blaming these deaths on Islamists. Al-Ghosri claimed that Haftar’s Operation Dignity was an intelligence operation aimed at shifting ISIS fighters from one location across the country to another, and asked the GNA for a mandate to attack Haftar.
On 9 January, the Italian Foreign Ministry announced it was sending its ambassador back to Libya. Italy was the last Western nation to close its embassy in Libya in 2015. Now, it is the first Western diplomatic mission to reopen. The Foreign Ministry’s statement said that the ambassador would present his credentials to the Government of National Accord (GNA) on 10 January and would start work in Tripoli immediately. The Italian ambassador received the approval of the GNA in December along with British and French ambassadors; however the latter are now based in Tunisia. At a meeting in Tripoli on 9 January, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti and Serraj agreed to reinforce cooperation on security, the fight against terrorism, human trafficking, smuggling and the protection of Libya’s southern borders. The intention is for the Italian embassy in Tripoli to be the principal coordination centre for all these projects.
On 8 January, the UN Envoy Martin Kobler met with GNA Prime Minister Fayez Serraj in Tripoli. They reportedly discussed transferring financial responsibilities within the Presidential Council (PC) from Fathi al-Majbari, PC member for eastern Libya, to Ahmed Metig, PC member from Misrata. On 4 January, Serraj issued a televised statement cancelling all decisions issued by Majberi in Serraj’s absence last week. These included the appointment of a new Chief of Intelligence, a new Minister of Justice, and the Chief of a new Counter Terrorism Unit.
On 5 January, Chad announced it was closing its 2000km border with Libya, saying that it will deploy troops to prevent fighters fleeing conflict in Libya from crossing the border.
This article was used with explicit permission from the author.
Image: Flickr – David Stanley