LNA Defeats Counter Attack, Extends Territorial Control

Dec 13, 2016 | Libyan actors

On 7 December, a convoy of fighters comprising former Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) forces under Ibrahim Jadhran, Islamist Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) and some pro Government of National Accord (GNA) forces attempt to retake wells and ports in the oil crescent from the Libyan National Army (LNA), which seized them in September. They departed from Jufra airbase to the south-west of the Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil ports and succeeded in entering the town of Bin Jawad, to the west of Sidra. The LNA intercepted the convoy with aircraft and gunships in the desert approx 150km south west of Sidra. At least 82 of the anti-LNA attackers were killed, and a number of commanders were arrested. At least 5 LNA fighters were also killed during the attack. By nightfall on 7 December, the LNA had retaken Bin Jawad and had driven the attackers back as far as Jufra.

Among the high profile fighters killed were the official spokesperson for the BDB Mansour al-Faydi and PFG commander Moussa Bouain al-Moghrabi’. Two high profile operations commanders, Brg. Idris Musa Bughuetin and Col. Osama al-Obidi, were arrested. Both are believed to be close to the GNA’s appointed Minister of Defence, Mahdi al-Barghathi, who is reported to have been supporting preparations for the attack for a number of weeks. On 7 December, the GNA and al-Barghati released statements denying any involvement, putting all responsibility on the perpetrators. However, the MoD’s statement accused the LNA of using Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) mercenaries in the battle as well as foreign aircraft.

After conducting airstrikes against the attacking force in Jufra, the LNA then expanded its control all the way to Brak al-Shati in south-west Libya. On 10 December, LNA Brig. Mohammed Bin Nayel’s forces renegotiated the handover of Brak air base from Misrata’s Third Force. This effectively extends LNA controlled territory to south and western Libya even further and means that a portion of the road linking Libya from west to south is now under the control of the LNA.

In Tripoli, more anti-GNA Misratan forces entered Tripoli over the past week to retake positions in the south and south-east of the city. They are providing support for the mainly Islamist allies of former General National Council (GNC) PM Khalifa al-Ghwell, who led an anti-GNA ‘coup’ attempt in the capital in October. A coalition of these Islamist militias, who are mostly aligned with the Grand Mufti Sadeq al-Ghariyani, released a statement in the wake of the Tripoli clashes in early December threatening pro-GNA militias with serious reprisal if they attempt to attack al-Ghwell’s faction in the former GNC building. Protests also took place in Tripoli last week after the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade (TRB), a pro-GNA militia, released a video showing a woman being raped by members of a rival Islamist militia. The TRB said it found the video on the phone of Al-Awashr commander, Salah Hubaishi, whom it killed during clashes in early December.

Deputy PM Ahmed Metig announced last week that the 2017 Libyan Budget will be finalised before the end of the year, despite the fact that the GNA has not received legal endorsement from the House of Representatives (HoR), nor have the ongoing divisions between the PC and the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) been resolved.  The GNA is also trying to find funding to build and equip its new Presidential Guard force to enable it to provide security, control institutions and deliver services in the capital.