6 February – 12 February: The LNA extends its reach towards Sharara

Feb 12, 2019 | Libyan actors

On 7 February, the Libyan National Army (LNA) to extend its reach towards the Sharara and al-Feel oilfields, which feed Zawiyya and Mellitah ports respectively. This sudden advance was likely sparked by Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s appointment on 6 February of Ali Kanna as commander of the GNA’s Southern Military Region. Kanna is a Qadhafi-era Tuareg commander based in Awbari.

On 7 February, the LNA’s local 177 Brigade led by Khalifa al- Seghayir deployed forward forces to several of Sharara’s connected oil wells but did not enter the main field facilities or station. At this point the LNA spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari declared Sharara safe and invited the National Oil Corporation (NOC) to lift force majeure. However, clashes broke out shortly afterwards between the 177 Brigade and Tuareg forces loyal to Kanna, before being faced off by another Tuareg force led by Aghles Aylele al-Targi. This forced the LNA to withdraw from Uwbari and Sharara outposts.

On 8 February, the NOC issued a statement calling on all parties to avoid escalation of hostilities that threatens the safety of workers and could damage facilities at Sharara. Sanallah said that there is no room for resuming operations unless security is restored in the field. The same day, the LNA imposed a no-fly zone on southern Libya, saying any aircraft entering without permission would be legitimate targets for LNA jets.

On 9 February, the LNA air force carried out airstrikes near al-Feel airstrip after a plane landed there that the LNA accused of carrying Kanna. Kanna reportedly returned to Sharara on 10 February with a group of loyal forces, while the LNA forced the plane that transported him to land in Temenhint airport before being allowed to fly back to Tripoli. The GNA said it was transporting oil workers and accused the LNA of ‘terrorist’ acts against civilian infrastructure and aircraft.

On 11 February, LNA Chief of Staff Abdurrazak al-Nathouri announced that dialogue was under way between the LNA and the 30th Brigade. The 30th Brigade is the Tuareg Petroleum Facilities Guard unit which currently guards Sharara and is aligned with Ali Kanna. Nathouri also said that the LNA had no intention of moving on al-Feel as the field is operating without security issues at present. On the evening of 11 February, local LNA-aligned Tuareg commander Aghles Aylele al-Targi deployed from Awbari to Sharara field and reportedly convinced a large group of the 30th Brigade to join the LNA forces, while Kanna and the remaining group of loyalists withdrew to al-Feel oilfield.

On 8 February, the Tripoli Protection Force (TPF) announced that it would be integrating into a new, larger coalition dubbed the ‘Western Region Protection Force’ (WRPF). The statement claims that the WRPF will be operating under one unified command. There are no other details about which other militias in the western region are members and what geographic area the force covers. The TPF also stated that it only recognises the legitimacy of PC decisions that are issued by all nine members.

On 6 February, the 301 Brigade announced that it would be redeploying its forces to southern Tripoli. The group claims that its deployment is a part of the new security arrangements in the capital, stating that it had received orders to impose stability and security in the southern areas. On 8 February, the brigade took positions in the Yarmouk camp, south of the capital.