10 – 16 May: LNA Hits Jihadists in Benghazi, Werfalli Resigns

May 16, 2017 | Other Jihadi Actors

Libyan National Army (LNA) forces continued to launch heavy airstrikes against jihadist fighters besieged in Sabri and Souq al-Hout in Benghazi last week. On 13 May, Faraj Juma al-Sallabi, a member of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC) and Libya Shield 1 brigade, was killed in the fighting. Sallabi’s family members hold prominent positions in the BRSC alliance. His younger brother Mohammed (aka Jeryo) was head of the Shield’s internal security office in Souq al-Hout. He was injured in 2015 during a battle with the LNA. Another brother Malek also fought as part of the BRSC alliance. Their elder brother Abdullah Sallabi took care of medical arrangements for Libya Shield fighters in Egypt during the 2011 uprisings and is now reportedly operating in Tunis.

The extended Sallabi family is influential in the broader Islamist alliance. Islamist scholar Ali Sallabi, who is based in Qatar, is a key power player attempting to broker a political reconciliation between Khalifa Haftar and the Government of National Accord (GNA) behind the scenes, while his brother Ismail Sallabi is a key commander of a Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) militia. The BDB is allied with the BRSC and attempted to wrest control of the Oil Crescent from the LNA earlier this year. Ali Sallabi’s influence and connections with revolutionaries in Misrata is a key driver of conflict and hate against Misrata in eastern Libya. German and British newspapers  reported last week that the GNA is facilitating shipments of arms and supplies to jihadists in Benghazi via Misrata port.

On 15 May, Mahmoud Werfalli, a controversial commander of the LNA-aligned Saiqa Special Forces, issued a TV statement submitting his resignation from the LNA, along with some of his comrades. This followed a significant backlash in Benghazi after Saiqa fighters reportedly attacked a Benghazi police station on 13 May, killing police officer Captain Mussa al-Majbary. On 14 May, Werfalli issued a statement denying Saiqa’s responsibility for the incident saying these were personal actions and promising to investigate. He then issued his resignation statement the following day. Werfalli has also been criticised for carrying out several public executions on video of ISIS and BRSC fighters in Benghazi.