Other — 27 June 2016

Jun 27, 2016 | Other Jihadi Actors

The Libyan National Army (LNA) made significant gains in Benghazi last week, after a blitz offensive took the district of Garyounis, including the tourist village at Ganfuda, from remnants of ISIS and the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council on 22 June.  Safe passage for women and children has been reportedly offered by the LNA, but rejected by the jihadists.  LNA troops have taken control of the buildings known as the Chinese Offices in Garyounis, and moved to clear Gwarsha district. Significantly, the LNA captured the symbolic Libya Shied camp on 24 June, formerly used by Ansar Al Sharia and other Islamist fighters.  These victories indicate that LNA’s campaign to reconquer Benghazi is near, with only a five square kilometer area near the port still under jihadist control.

In a live television interview on 25 June, Haftar offered an unexpected olive branch to the Misratans, but excluded any peace with the ‘hardline Islamists’ subverting anti-terrorism operations. Haftar said he believes the majority of Misratans want peace, but have been fooled by Islamist-affiliated commanders who claimed to represent Misrata.  He also indicated a possible ‘limited cooperation’ with leaders of the leading militias in Tripoli. At the same time, Haftar said Islamist militias are only disguised extensions of Al Qaeda. Haftar’s statements were seemingly substantiated on 26 June, when Abu Ubaidah Yusuf Al Anabi, a senior leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, called for a wave of jihadists to come to Benghazi to fight the LNA and to stop ‘siege on the city’, in tandem with the Libyan Grand Mufti’s statements throughout recent weeks.

Conflict between the LNA and the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) did not escalate last week. An LNA spokesperson stated that a two-week truce was initiated to enable a peaceful resolution between both parties. Meanwhile, the DMSC is supporting renegade Islamist militias planning to attack Ajdabiya and Benghazi that have the potential to re-escalate conflict.