Anti — 18 July 2016

Jul 18, 2016 | Libyan actors

The deteriorating status of the Government of National Accord (GNA), and the Libyan Political Agreement in general, is being fueled by the accelerating collapse of security and public services in Tripoli. On 12 July road blocks were set up across many of the capital’s vital roads and highways in protest of the long power outages and worsening economic conditions. The national Libya telecoms company Libyana was attacked by local militias who wanted to cut the service to a number of Libyan towns that were not accepting their ‘fair’ share of blackout quotas. The instability forced the GNA to sack the entire board of the General Electricity Company of Libya. The power situation remains unstable, with blackouts in various regions along the coast west of Tripoli, and in the capital itself, although the situation may improve after 350 megawatts was added to the grid when the Sirte steam power plant came online on 16 July.

The Misratan-led Bunyan Marsus anti-ISIS campaign in Sirte suffered setbacks on 15 July when at least 20 men were killed in multiple suicide attacks by ISIS militants.  The attacks occurred as Misratan forces were pushing into the last significant ISIS positions at Ouagadougou Centre, Ibn Sina Hospital and Sirte University. Bunyan Marsus showed off pictures of a third car bomb, a truck loaded down with heavy-caliber shells, which was destroyed before the driver could make it to Misratan lines. Despite these challenges, morale among Bunyan Marsus forces appeared to remain high, as the coalition consolidated its control of residential District 700 to the south of Ouagadougou Centre. By midweek, the GNA had finally managed to send trucks loaded with flak jackets. Frontline pictures show many fighters wearing body armor and camouflage uniforms.

Security threats in the oil crescent are dramatically increasing, with higher prospects of a larger conflict in the short-medium term. On 17 July, fighting broke out between Libyan National Army (LNA) units, supported by local volunteers, and Benghazi Defense Brigade (BDB) in the town of Magrun, only 70 kilometers southwest of Benghazi.  During the fighting, the LNA lost a helicopter, which some reports indicate was carrying two members of the French special forces. The LNA ultimately managed to evict the BDB from Magrun and arrested a number of people in nearby towns, accusing them of collaborating with the BDB. According to LNA sources, those arrested were local Islamists, who helped the BDB seize Magrun and were preparing to help them take the nearby Sultan and Jelidia.

The inability of the LNA to halt the BDB, which is said to have no more than three, or four, dozen armed vehicles, has surprised many. A week ago, the LNA claimed to have routed the BDB south of Ajdabiya and captured its leader, the Misratan Islamist commander Mustafa Sharksi.  However, the claim was denied by the BDB, and further put in doubt when the LNA could not to produce any photos of him in captivity.

The BDB’s momentum is intensifying rifts in the region, especially between the LNA and the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) commanded by Ibrahim Jadhran. Jadhran announced on 17 July that the PFG is ready to take the fight to the BDB and completely ‘liberate’ the oil crescent, on the condition of a formal request by all tribes in the region, and guarantees that the PFG will not be targeted by LNA airstrikes. The PFG is accused by the LNA of providing safe passage to the BDB, while Jadhran accuses the LNA of the same, saying that Khalifa Haftar’s plan is to allow safe passage to prolong the war in Benghazi, and eliminate federalist forces.