23 – 29 September: Mi-24 helicopter crashes at Sawknah

Sep 30, 2020 | Libyan actors

On 28 September, military and police delegations from western and eastern Libya met in Egypt, in the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada, to begin 3-day discussions centred on military and security issues under the auspices of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Representatives from the Government of National Accord (GNA)’s Chief of Staff, Ministry of Interior and Police Force are in attendance, while the composition of the Libyan National Army (LNA)’s delegation remains unclear. Discussions are thought to be focused on the establishment of a protection force for a prospective new government headquarters in Sirte and unification of all of Libya’s armed forces under a singular structure.

On 24 September, violent clashes reportedly occurred between GNA-aligned forces in Tajoura (outside Tripoli) when the commander of the Lions Battalion, Nader al-Azraq, shot and killed a commander of the Daman Battalion, Ahmed Dwaqah, at a Tajoura checkpoint. In the early hours of the following morning, the Daman Battalion held discussions with the Tajoura Lions in an effort to resolve the issue. However, a commander of the Daman Brigade, Ali Dredr, seized the opportunity and killed al-Azarq and one other brigade member during the meeting. Large-scale clashes erupted, and heavy weaponry was reportedly used. The clashes led to the closure of the main road in Tajoura.

On 23 September, LNA Commander Khalifa Haftar and Speaker of the Tubruq-based House of Representatives (HoR), Aqeela Saleh, met in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service Abbas Kamel. The meeting was an attempt to consolidate the two men’s power and unify their stances prior to the upcoming UN-mediated talks. Sisi was reportedly briefed on efforts to implement a ceasefire in Libya and on the outcomes of UN-mediated dialogues until now.

On 23 September, LNA General Khalid al-Mahjoub stated that a Mi-24 helicopter had crashed due to a technical failure at Sawknah, near the Brak al-Shatti Airbase. However, on 24 September, the GNA’s Sirte-Jufra Operations Room spokesperson, Abdulhadi Drah, released a contradictory statement in which he asserted that 4 mercenaries affiliated with the Russian Private Military Contractor (PMC) Wagner Group were killed in a helicopter crash at Sawknah.

On 21 September, renewed protests against corruption occurred in Benghazi, with demonstrators gathering in the city’s Tebisti square. Demonstrators called on the Attorney General to take action against corrupt officials and reaffirmed their right to freedom of expression and to undertake peaceful protests. They also called for elections to replace the current political bodies. The protest was eventually taken over by a separate, pro-LNA group, and at least one protestor was abducted by members of the security group supposedly in charge of protecting protestors.