Tensions have been growing in Misrata over the last few weeks between groups aligned with Government of National Unity (GNU) Prime Minister Abdul Hameed Dabaiba (who is from Misrata) and those opposed to him.
On 14 December, the Misrata Joint Force (‘al-Moshtaraka’) forcibly took a large amount of gold past the Internal Security Agency (ISA) at Misrata Airport on board a private jet, which subsequently departed to Turkey. After some quarrels, the HQ of the ISA at the airport was stormed by the Misrata Joint Force, which subsequently took over responsibility for security at the airport. The Director of the ISA, Lofti al-Hariri, has protested to the GNU against these actions by the Misrata Joint Force and called on the Attorney General to intervene.
Weeks later on 27 December, various political, military, and social leaders in Misrata called for the reversal of the decision to hand over security responsibility at Misrata Airport and Seaport to the Misrata Joint Force.
On 28 December, GNU Army Chief of Staff Muhammad al-Haddad tried to mediate in Misrata. He met with several dignitaries of the city who strongly demanded the disbandment of the Joint Force due to its ‘abuses’ against citizens of the city.
On 29 December, the Misrata Joint Force increased its forces at the airport after widespread criticism from Misrata over its takeover of the security of the city’s port and airport. Other Misrata militias supporting and opposing the Misrata Joint Force have also mobilized troops. The situation around Misrata airport became quite tense.
On 30 December, several of the city’s Nobles and Elders demanded that the GNU disband the Misrata Joint Force and withdraw all its fighters from Misrata. The 17th February Movement has also demanded the withdrawal of the force from the city’s port and airport claiming that they are above all authorities of the state. The movement asked the Attorney General to intervene and threatened to escalate the situation. On 2 January, the movement also called for a popular uprising against injustice and oppression by the Misata Joint Force and other agencies in the city. They said they will be victorious and defeat anyone who thinks to rule the city of Misrata, claiming the Misrata Joint Force is practicing corruption and injustice.
Meanwhile, a group of commanders loyal to Dabaiba from smaller Misrata militias expressed their support for the Misrata Joint Force. According to them, this Force has an important role in ensuring security in the city. A group of mostly young Dabaiba supporters also held a rally in Misrata in front of the Misrata Joint Force HQ in support of the force.
The Municipality of Misrata has issued a written statement expressing its full support for the ‘security services’ operating in the city. The Municipality also called on the citizens not to cover for criminals and those wanted by the judiciary, but to withdraw their social protection and hand them over to the competent security authorities.