GNU praises ‘precision strikes’ on criminal targets in Zawiyya amid condemnation

May 25, 2023 | Libyan actors

On 25 May, the Government of National Unity (GNU) Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed responsibility for several drone strikes which took place against several targets in Zawiyya and the surrounding area earlier that day. The GNU MoD said that the attacks were carried out by the Libyan Air Force and were precision strikes against the hideouts of drug traffickers, human traffickers, and fuel smugglers in the Zawiyya area. It said the mission was carried out on the order of GNU Prime Minister Abdul Hameed Dabaiba and stressed the attacks were part of a military operation aimed at cleansing the west coast of crime and gang activities. Several more drone strikes took place in and around Zawiyya over the following days – several people were reportedly killed and injured. Most of the targets were locations or assets controlled by Dabaiba’s opponents in Zawiyya, most notably members of the Abu Zuriba clan. Meanwhile, assets belonging to Dabaiba’s main ally in Zawiyya Muhammed al-Bahroun (aka ‘Al-Far’), have largely been left alone. Indeed, Bahroun posted his support for the GNU operation on his Facebook page.

On 29 May, the GNU MoD released another statement praising the success of its ‘high precision’ operations, noting the destruction of 7 human trafficking boats, 6 warehouses used by drug dealers, weapons and equipment used by criminal gangs, and 9 tankers used to smuggle fuel abroad. It announced the launch of a second phase of the operations, ‘renewing its invitation to all citizens to fully cooperate with the armed forces, and to stay away from any suspicious sites of criminal gangs’ claiming it is following all precautionary measures to protect civilians.

There has been widespread condemnation of the attacks from a wide range of Libyan actors, with key Zawiyyan and GNU security officials apparently being unaware of the operation until it was launched. The Zawiyya protest movement, the High State Council (HSC), the House of Representatives (HoR) and the Government of National Stability (GNS) have condemned the attacks and accused Dabaiba of using the drone strikes to achieve political aims by only targeting his opponents.