LNA Takes Over Abu Saneeb, Re-Starts Derna Offensive

Jan 24, 2017 | Other Jihadi Actors

On 16 January, the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA)’s Operation Dignity command centre, Brig Abdussalam al-Hassi, announced the full takeover of Abu Saneeb area of Benghazi from the coalition of jihadis after the LNA continued its advance in Abu Saneeb with air support. Six hostages, soldiers from the Qadhafi regime who were being held by the jihadists, managed to escape. However, the next day, 5 LNA soldiers died in clashes with jihadis in Abu Saneeb, while another 2 civilians were killed by IEDs after entering their homes in the area. The clashes focused on the ’12 flats’ in the south of Abu Saneeb. Control of Abu Saneeb means that the LNA can completely encircles the besieged area of Ganfuda from all directions.

After a lull in fighting on 18 January, the LNA announced a new operation in Benghazi beginning on 19 January for the final takeover of the city’s south-western Ganfuda area. The military operation named ‘Shuhadaa Raad’ (Thunder Martyrs) coincides with reports that the jihadi coalition fighting the LNA is facing a collapse in its ranks. Tensions over strategy between different groups within the fighting alliance have reportedly increased since last month. The Free Libya Martyrs Brigade, one of the militias in the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC), eulogised one of its commanders Hamad al-Mgasbi, who it says was killed by airstrikes in Ganfuda on 16 January, vowing to continue the fight.

LNA forces continued to advance into Ganfuda on 19 January, taking the high flats at Tira. Later, the LNA was forced to cease its fire after civilians raised the white flag. However, the civilians were not able to be freed, with indications that families continue being used by militants as human shields. A number of foreign migrants were released and three LNA soldiers injured in the clashes.

On 20 January, the LNA destroyed three boats with airstrikes near Benghazi port. The vessels were suspected to be carrying supplies to the jihadist enclave in the Sabri area.  The LNA air force operations room said the boats arrived to shore late at night and were dispatched from a larger vessel in international waters. According to the LNA, 9 militants were killed by a Mi-18 gunship as they attempted to scavenge the remains of the boats. The same day, a VBIED detonated near Abu Hurira Mosque in the al-Majori area of central Benghazi just after Friday prayers at noon. Six people were injured in the blast including the former Minister of Interior Ashur Shuwayel.

On 21 January, six prisoners escaped from jihadi captivity in the Ganfuda area. Nizar al-Twir, a spokesperson for the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC) and Saraya media, captured by the LNA on 6 January during an escape attempt from Ganfuda, reaffirmed that Wissam Ben Hamid was indeed killed. Nizar also claimed that Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia’s leader Abu Iyadh was still in Ganfuda.

LNA operations against the Derna Shura Mujahedeen Council (DMSC) resumed last week after the LNA appointed Brig. Salim al-Rafadi as the new head of the Omar Mukhtar Operations Room. Airstrikes resumed on 15 January, while on 17 January two airstrikes targeted weapons depots in Wadi al-Naga, an area in the east of the city, and vessels near Derna port. On 16 January, a LNA naval unit engaged a vessel near the shores of Ras al-Hilal in eastern Libya. The vessel, which had reportedly set off from Misrata, was suspected of supplying the DMSC. The LNA also claims it killed two and injured another in clashes near al-Dahr al-Hamar area on 17 January. On 22 January, LNA airstrikes destroy a DSMC rocket platform in the Wadi al-Naga area, Derna. Strikes were also reported in the ‘Korean apartments’ area near Hay al-Sayida Khadija in western Derna.