Other – 21 July 2014

Jul 21, 2014 | Other Jihadi Actors

Tripoli continues to be gripped by violence as the battle between Zintani-led brigades and those from Misrata rages on. The area surrounding the Tripoli International Airport (TIA) has become a battle zone, while fighting has been reported in several Tripoli neighbourhoods, as well as in front of the Interior Ministry.

Despite early confusion about which groups were involved in the fight against the Zintanis, it is now clear that the Central Libya Shield Force, as well as major Islamist forces, are supporting the Misratans. The Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) and the Knights of Janzour, several commanders from the Libya Shield – West Brigade, the Mobile National Force and Fourth Force are also taking part. The Shura Council of Misrata has also declared its support for actions against the Zintanis, depicting the fight as an opportunity put the 17 February Revolution back on track, while defeating the “counter-revolution” they associate with Zintan.

It is also becoming clear that this assault against the Zintanis was not a spontaneous eruption of violence, but a well-planned operation under the umbrella name Libya Dawn. The Misratans and Islamists have portrayed this battle as their push to clear the capital from forces belonging to General Khalifa Haftar and his Operation Dignity. Libya Dawn claimed this week that Haftar was in the process of moving his forces to Tripoli to continue his fight there. This ongoing battle has begun to be perceived as a fight between Islamist/Misratan forces and more liberal groups. The battle is also taking on a regional hue; Arabs in the Nafusa Mountains are siding with the Zintanis, while Berber groups appear to be supporting the Misratans. Nalut, Zawara, Zawia, Kelkela, Ghariyan and Janzour have all sided with Misrata, while Rajban and Wershefana are backing the Zintanis.

This week has seen further kidnappings of key figures. General National Congress (GNC) member Salman Zobi from Benghazi was abducted, although later released on account of his age. More importantly, the new head of the LROR, Colonel Saleh Mahtouq, was kidnapped and taken to Zintan. Mahtouq, who is the former head of the military council of Ghariyan, is clearly a major prize for the Zintanis in their battle against the Islamist and Misratan forces.

The situation in Derna is still extremely tense. This week saw the killing of another prominent female activist; former GNC member Fariha Al-Barkwai, was shot dead on 17 July at a petrol station. Al-Barkawi, a well-known member of the National Forces Alliance had quit the GNC in February 2014 when its mandate expired.