15-22 August: Internal LNA conflict at Martuba checkpoint, meanwhile Serraj meets with Derna Delegation in Tripoli

Aug 23, 2017 | Libyan actors

On 15 August, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of the notorious Libyan National Army (LNA) Special Forces (Saiqa) Commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli for allegations of murder as a war crime in seven incidents, involving 33 persons, in areas around Benghazi in the past year. Werfalli is a Salafist commander who’s infamous reputation stems from released video footage of mass executions of LNA prisoners. Although he resigned in May 2017 after local and international backlash, he was reinstated by LNA commander Khalifa Haftar shortly afterwards.

Initially the Saiqa rejected the warrant; however, the LNA issued a positive response to the warrant on August 18, stating that Werfalli has been suspended pending an investigation. The LNA’s statement said, “The defendant in your judicial case, Mahmoud al-Werfalli, is under investigation for the cases against him by the general military prosecutor and is now under arrest”. It also announced the LNA’s “readiness to cooperate with you in informing you of the result and course of the judicial case,” though it did not say that the LNA intended to hand the commander over to the ICC. Protests were held both in Benghazi and Bani Walid against the LNA’s suspension of Werfalli. On August 19, the US, UK and France issued a joint statement welcoming the LNA’s announcement.

On 16 August, clashes broke out in east Derna, at the Martuba checkpoint among members of the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) Omar al-Mukhtar Operations Room which is currently besieging Derna. It is reported that the dispute stemmed from disagreements over who was in control of the checkpoint and whether or not local citizens could pass through to buy much-needed basic supplies from outside the city. In early August, the LNA completely blocked access to Derna preventing all food, medicine and other basic supplies from entering the city. Although it has relaxed this slightly due to criticism over the humanitarian crisis this is causing in the city, imminent conflict is expected between the Derna Mujahadeen Shura Council (DMSC) and the LNA as preparations for a full assault appear to be ongoing.

GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj met with a delegation from Derna led by the head of the Derna municipal council, Awad al-Aweij, in Tripoli on 15 August. Al-Aweij urged officials and international organizations to lift the siege on Derna and to allow basic goods and services to enter the city via humanitarian corridors. It is reported that Serraj expressed sorrow at the suffering of Derna’s residents and stated that he had issued immediate order to meet all the urgent requirements of service facilities throughout the city. The parallel eastern government of the House of Representatives (HoR) has also facilitated the delivery of urgently needed goods and services.

The LNA’s 12th Battalion was reportedly attacked at dawn at Dabwat agricultural project south of Brak al-Shatti airbase by an unknown armed group on 18 August. Three LNA fighters were wounded as a result, with one dying from his injuries