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Libyan Civil War - 2016

A suicide truck bomb in Libya killed at least 60 police recruits on 07 January 2016 at a college close to the city of Misrata. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, the deadliest bombing in Libya since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. About 400 mostly young police recruits had gathered at a training college in the town of Zliten when the suicide attacker struck. The attack came as the Islamic State terror group continued its assault on oil facilities in Libya's east.

Countries in the region have been providing (at least) political support to various groups, further fuelling continuing conflicts. Tuareg sources claimed that rivalry between Chad and Qatar was a decisive factor in the swift breakdown of the ceasefire agreement of 26 November 2015. Such rivalry is clearly reflected in the public discourse of key political figures in Chad and Qatar.

Security in Tripoli is linked to evolving alliances among armed groups and their stance vis--vis the United Nations-sponsored dialogue. Early in 2016, the division ran along three lines. The first was composed of groups from outside Tripoli, mainly from Misratah, such as the Mahjub and Halbus brigades. They are supportive of the Libyan Political Agreement. The second was composed of Tripoli-based groups that are thought to be in favour of the political dialogue, but have not yet all publicly announced their position on the Libyan Political Agreement. Examples include the Special Deterrence Force, the Nawasi brigade, the Abu Salim brigade and Fursan Janzur.

The third fore in Tripoli was a mix of armed groups from Tripoli and other western cities, composed of hard-line revolutionaries or Islamist militants, which had constituted the core of the Sumud Front earlier in 2015, such as Salah Badis force, the Buni brigade and other Tajura-based brigades. They continue to be strongly opposed to the dialogue and the Libyan Political Agreement. Some armed groups, such as the Tawhid brigade, suspected of assisting ISIL in Tripoli, are part of this category. Since the Special Representative of the Secretary-General presented the final text of the Libyan Political Agreement in October, several clashes have occurred between the groups, driving the Operation Fajr coalition further apart.

Western powers announcement 16 May 2016 of their readiness to arm the struggling unity government in Tripoli went down badly with a rival government and its militia in the east of the fractious, chaotic country. Supporters of General Khalifa Haftar the muscle behind the opposition National Salvation Government are scorning the Western powers decision to support a partial arms ban exemption for the United Nations-negotiated Government of National Accord (GNA).

Vienna may have set the stage for a race between Libyas regional rivals to capture Sirte, the coastal city that several thousand jihadists have controlled for almost a year. Just days before the Vienna meeting, militiamen from the town of Misrata, which back the GNA, and Haftars fighters skirmished south of Sirte. Now theres an added incentive for Haftars forces to get to Sirte before arms start flowing to the GNA militia allies,

The international communitys undeterred championing of the GNA seems increasingly out of step with Libyans sentiments, Jason Pack of the consultancy Libya-Analysis said.

Fighters aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA) began the battle for Sirte, former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's hometown, in early May 2016. By 11 June 2016 forces aligned with Libya's unity government calimed they were close to taking control of the Islamic State-held port city of Sirte. Heavy fighting was taking place near the Ouagadougou conference center that is being used as an IS command center, the French news agency AFP reported. Warplanes also attacked IS-held positions. The UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, said that he was "impressed" by the "rapid progress" of the Libyan forces.

Forces loyal to Libya's internationally backed government said they had recaptured both the port and airport of Sirte from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), forcing the armed group also known as ISIS to retreat. The Libyan forces also retook residential areas in the east of Sirte, which for the past year has been the main ISIL base in the North African country, a spokesman for the forces said. ISIL fighters were surrounded in a densely populated area of around five square kilometres inside the city, where they were laying booby traps.

Pro-GNA commanders say U.S. and British Special Forces have been providing technical support in the battle. The British and U.S. experts are helping us with logistical and intelligence to deal with Daesh suicide bombers and tactical and strategic planning, Gen. Mohamed al-Ghasri said. The cost of the GNA advance over the week, which saw the Misratan militias advance more than 160 kilometers in a week, was costly with more than 100 pro-GNA fighters killed and as many as 600 wounded in the fighting.

The rapid collapse of IS forces in Sirte prompted some to question recent Western estimates of the militant strength in the coastal city, which will be the third bastion IS has lost in the past few months. In February, the group was driven out of a base in the western town of Sabratha; and locals ousted the jihadists from Derna in the northeast last year. Western officials had put the IS strength at 6,000 fighters, most drawn from Tunisia, Egypt and sub-Saharan countries.

In a bid to bolster the Libyan government and stop the spread of weapons into the hands of terrorists and militias there, the U.N. Security Council adopted a measure June 14, 2016 authorizing a European Union naval force to stop and search ships, and seize illegal arms headed to or from Libya. The measure would expand the work of the EU-run Operation Sophia, which for the past year has been trying to disrupt migrant smuggling from Libya in the Mediterranean.

"This text marks a turning point, a potential game changer for Libya, because it addresses an urgent need in terms of security," said French Ambassador Franois Delattre, who co-sponsored the draft. "We all know the violations of the arms embargo only serve to feed the instability of this country and benefit Daesh, our common enemy, and other terrorist groups," he added, using an Arabic acronym for the self-styled Islamic State. The measure, adopted unanimously, authorizes the naval force to search suspected ships on the high seas off the coast of Libya. If arms and other related materials are found in violation of an international arms embargo, the EU may seize and dispose of the weapons and divert those ships and their crews to an appropriate port.

In mid-September 2016 soldiers under Libyan General Khalifa Hifter seized at least two oil ports from a militia loyal to the UN-backed unity government. The popular military commander supported the rival cabinet in Tobruk. Hifter's Libyan National Army (LNA) launched a surprise attack on 11 September 2016, driving members of the Petrol Facilities Guard (PFG) from a strategic area on Libya's Mediterranean coast. The LNA claimed control of the key ports of al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf, which are capable of handling 700,000 barrels of oil per day. The LNA suffered no casualties and the PFG had not offered much resistance. General Khalifa Hifter is celebrated as a hero in the east of Libya, and serves as the main military commander for the government in Tobruk.

A statement released on 12 September by the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya declared: Attacks on the oil terminals further threaten the stability and lead to a greater division of the country. They further restrict the oil exports and add to peoples suffering, adding that the GNA should be respected as the sole executive authority in the country.

On 14 September 2016 the LNA seized control of four major oil terminals Ras Lanuf, Es Sider, Zueitna and Brega from its rival, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in the countrys latest struggle over energy assets. The attack prevented Libyas first major oil shipment in years and has been recognised as an attempt by Haftar to assert his power over the GNA and prove that the LNA is still a major player in Libya. The Governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States issued a joint statement condemning the attack on the four oil terminals in Libya.

Egypts Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said 16 September 2016 that Egypt supported the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its leader Khalifa Haftar and moves made by the commander to maintain stability in Libya and secure the countrys oil wealth. Shoukry said: Egypt fully supports the Libyan armys moves to to maintain security and stability of Libya and to secure its oil wealth. He said that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will participate in the summit of the Security Council on developments in the Middle East, which will pay particular attention to both Syria and Libya, he said, adding that Egypt will give utmost importance to the need to restore stability to Libya and achieve national reconciliation through the implementation of Skhirat agreement.

The oil exports resumed, with a Maltese-flagged tanker leaving the port of Zoueitina, with cargo bound for China. U.S. Libya envoy Jonathan Winer called the shipment a promising development in a tweet, saying, Well-placed Libyans say the military has withdrawn from the oil terminals, leaving them in the hands of the countrys National Oil Company.

Fayez Saraj, who heads Libyas UN-brokered national unity government, met in Cairo with the head of the Tobruk-based parliament, Aquelah Saleh. Parliament Speaker Saleh repeatedly insisted on the need for a limited-size government acceptable to all parties. The Tobruk parliament refused to approve a unity government, composed of 30 ministers, earlier in 2016. Saleh and Saraj were attempting to put together a government with a three-member defense council, including Haftar, and a three-member presidential council, along with representatives of Saraj and outgoing interim Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni. At the same time, Haftar was promoted to the rank of field marshal by Saleh.

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Page last modified: 18-09-2016 20:13:41 ZULU