20-26 Sept: Igtet Demo Flops; Sabratha Clashes Intensify

Sep 26, 2017 | Libyan actors

On 25 September, presidential hopeful Basit Igtet landed in Mitiga airport and led small crowds from Tajoura to Martyrs Square to demonstration against the Government of National Accord (GNA). However, the crowds remained relatively small and their demands were unclear. In Misrata, hardliner groups such as Liwa al-Samoud have announced their support for Igtet. An opposing demonstration also entered the square protesting Igtet’s move. The apprehension and excitement surrounding the demonstration appeared to fizzle out without incident.

Pro-GNA Tripoli militias were deployed in force in most of the main streets in the capital leading towards the square and continue to remain deployed in anticipation of any security instability in the capital. The Tripoli security directorate had previously announced that it was denying permission for the demonstration but they did not try to prevent it on the day.

The clashes which broke out on 16 September between the Anas Dabbashi Brigade and the Anti-ISIS Task Force for control of Sabratha, a town west of Tripoli, have escalated significantly throughout the last few days after two ceasefires collapsed. Clashes are taking place in suburban areas, with tanks and heavy artillery being used. On 22 September, the car of a family trying to leave Sabratha to Zawiyya was hit, killing two people. At least 150 to 200 families are reported to be internally displaced, mainly from the Dababasha area which is the main hub of the Dabbashi militia.

The Anti-ISIS Task Force promising that it will press on until it is victorious over its opponents. Approximately 16 Dabbashi fighters have been killed, including fuel and migrant smugglers from the area. Local media reports also say that the Dabbashi militia is using parts of the Mellitah complex, which is just west of Sabratha, to store arms and ammunition safely so it is not targeted by  Libyan National Army (LNA) airstrikes.

Both militias are nominally affiliated with the Government of National Accord (GNA) but there don’t appear to be clear or fixed allegiances. The Anas Dabbashi militia is widely involved in both migrant smuggling and now anti-migrant smuggling initiatives with Italian support. On 20 September, former Libya Dawn allies of the Dabbashi militia from Zawiyya, the Farouk and al-Kilani brigades, both tried to mobilize reinforcements to Sabratha but had to withdraw after the road was blocked by rivals who are allies of the Anti-ISIS Task Force.

The Anti-ISIS Task Force is more closely affiliated with the LNA and its social and tribal support groups, including anti-ISIS Salafists. The LNA commander of the western region Idris Madi, who is based in Watiya airbase south of Sabratha, said that the Anti-ISIS Task Force is a part of the LNA and units from Watiya have reportedly joined the force in Sabratha.