22 – 28 Mar: GNA Establishes Sirte Protection Force, HoR Denounces as Terrorists

Mar 28, 2017 | Libyan actors

On 24 March, the Government of National Accord (GNA) issued a decision to establish a 3,000-strong ‘Sirte protection’ force from the Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus contingent that fought ISIS in the city last year. The mandate of the force is to secure Sirte and its surrounding areas, and to support the establishment of local security institutions.

On 26 March, the eastern House of Representatives’ (HoR) Defence Committee denounced the GNA’s decision, condemning the force as comprising ‘terrorists’. The same day, the Libyan National Army (LNA) appointed Mabrouk Sahban al-Werfalli to head its Sirte Operations Room. Werfalli is one of the most prominent and notorious of Qadhafi’s commanders to join the LNA so far. He reportedly headed the security brigade in Ghariyan which led the Qadhafi regime’s counter-insurgency in the Nafusa Mountains in 2011.

On 21 March, the Misratan Military Council (MMC) chief Ibrahim Bin Rajab said that it had overthrown the Misrata municipal council after it refused to negotiate with protestors. However, the municipal council has confirmed it still represents the city, while the GNA issued a statement condemning the attack against it. Various rival Misratan militia groups issued statements throughout the week backing either the pro-GNA municipal council or the anti-GNA, anti- Haftar military council. On 24 March, demonstrations were held by both rival groups in the centre of the Misrata. Tensions have not escalated into serious conflict yet.