Anti — 29 March 2016

Mar 29, 2016 | Libyan actors

Nascent anti-ISIS military alliances in both western and eastern Libyan are fraying. On 28 March, a large block of Misrata’s militias issued a statement in favour of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and said they would prepare to mobilise to Tripoli to help secure the GNA. This block was confronted by another group of Misratan militias the following day, indicating the possibility of a dangerous deepening of the conflict, not only inside Tripoli, but also in Misrata itself. In Tripoli, fighting also occurred on 28 March between a local militia and another supported by Misratan groups.

In eastern Libya, although ISIS has been handed defeats in Benghazi by the Libyan National Army (LNA) and continues to be deterred by the Derna Mujahdeen Shura Council (DMSC), the anti-ISIS alliances are fraying as well. The recent LNA advances in the last two months have been marked by a rise in kidnappings and extra-judicial arrests of citizens, activists and officials from Derna, Marj and Tubruq. These acts have reportedly been committed by militia elements affiliated with the LNA. These developments have caused increased tension between LNA supporters, the DMSC in Derna and proponents of Independent Barq, a force gaining prominence due to the divisive UN-mediated process. While the two latter groups are both nominally active in the fight against ISIS, the core groups representing both forces in eastern Libya are increasingly sceptical of the LNA, particularly after the kidnapping of three Independent Barqa supporters on 28 March.

The DMSC reported last week that a number of ISIS members are in hiding in the pro-LNA cities Beida and Al Abyar, propagating the widely held conspiracy theory that General Khalifa Haftar is the ‘opposite side of the ISIS coin’. Meanwhile, LNA operations against ISIS positions outside of Derna continue; helicopter raids were carried out in Al Fatieh area and the east Sahel region.