13 February – 19 February: GNA claim to have coordinated airstrikes with US targeting al-Qaeda

Feb 19, 2019 | Libyan actors

On 13 February, the official spokesperson for Fayez al-Serraj, the head of the Presidential Council and Government of National Accord, claimed that it had coordinated an airstrike with joint U.S.-Libyan forces targeting al-Qaeda members near Awbari. However, US AFRICOM has stated that they have not launched any airstrikes in Libya during February this year. The GNA spokesperson claimed the event coincided with a meeting between GNA Foreign Minister Mohamed Siyala and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Global Coalition to Defeat Islamic State meeting last week.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) has begun the second phase of its ‘Operation Southern Liberation’ this week, advancing on Umm al-Aranib and launching airstrikes in the Murzuq area. On 13 February, senior members of the LNA’s General Command arrived amid notable fanfare in Sebha and the Temenhint airbase. Those present included the Director of the Special Forces Directorate Major General Wanis Boukhamada, Secretary-General of the LNA’s General Command Major General Abdel Kareem Hadia, Air Force Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Saqr al-Jaroushi, and Director of the General Commander’s Office Major General Khairi al-Tamimi.

On 14 February, LNA forces composed of the 128, Tariq bin Zayed, and the Khalid bin Walid Battalions took control of the Tuwei farms, just west of Umm al-Aranib, following clashes. The forces then moved on the town late that afternoon with the LNA’s Military Information Division confirming the group’s presence in the city after clashes.

On 17 February, the LNA’s air force undertook airstrikes on alleged foreign rebel militias and their weapons storage facilities near Murzuq. Local sources reported that there were several civilian casualties.

On 14 February, the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Minister of Interior Fathi Bashaagha gave an interview with al-Hurra television where he stated that the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, “played a role” in the military activities in Libya’s south and that it was “acceptable from the national point of view,” in the context of removing organised crime emerging from the region. However, Bashaagha qualified his statement by saying that he hoped Haftar would play his role in national efforts, but not use the operation for political gain or to increase division.

On 14 February, the head of the Government of National Accord Fayez al-Serraj, in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the (Tripoli-based) Libyan Army, appointed General Mohammed al-Shareef as his Chief of Staff and Major General Salim Juha as his assistant. Al-Shareef replaces Abdurrahman al-Taweel, who has held the position since the GNA’s inauguration.