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Libya Civil War - Factions

George Joffe, a Libya expert and lecturer at the University of Cambridge, estimated that around 350 different militias were operating in Libya by 2014. Other analysts estimated in 2014 there were up to 1,700 armed groups operating in Libya, where the central government has struggled to impose order since the 2011 ouster of Moammar Gadhafi. The groups are divided ideologically. Egypt's 1049 kilometer border with Libya is controlled by three main groups, two of which are close to the Muslim Brotherhood and one of which has ties to al Qaida. Some have battled each other. The government has formed security alliances with others.

    4 Major Factions

  • Fajr Libya, or Libya Dawn, which is said to be backed by Turkey and Qatar, is an Islamist militia which seized control of the capital Tripoli in 2013. Those militias have set up their own government which is not recognized internationally. Libya Dawn is linked to Misrata.
  • Al Karamah (Operation Dignity) was launched in the east in May 2014 by retired General Khalifa Haftar, reportedly backed by Egypt and Saudia Arabia. The goal was to eradicate radicalterrorist groups from eastern Libya. Libyan National Army is a nationalist armed group led by former Libyan general Khalifa Haftar. Haftar promotes himself as a nationalist who is trying to save Libya from Islamic extremists. In May 2014, his forces overran parliament and vowed to fight against what they called an illegitimate government. Despite having no formal appointment in the Libyan National Army at that time, commanders of several brigades joined him during the first stage of the operation including the Al-Saiqa Brigades (commando forces) based in BuAtni, and the Air Force Brigade. By the second stage of the campaign, launched in October 2014, most of the remaining brigades of the Libyan National Army in the east had joined his forces, including Al-Zawiya Martyrs 21 Brigade based in Qarionis and the 204 Tank Brigade based in Al-Rahba.
  • Shura Council : The dominant forces fighting against Operation Dignity in the east of Libya are the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council and the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council. In early 2014 an alliance of groups, including Ansar al-Sharia, joined the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council to fight forces deployed under Operation Dignity.
  • Islamic State in Libya A core group of Libyans returning from Syria created the Al-Battar Brigade in 2012 to support ISIL in Syria and Iraq. In 2014, many of its members returned to Libya and formed the Islamic Youth Shura Council in Derna which in October 2014 pledged allegiance to ISIL. These groups declared eastern Libya as the Wilayat Barqa (Cyrenaica Province) of ISIL.
  • Other Factions

  • Among the primary armed groups opposed to Libya Dawn are the Zintan-based Al-Sawaiq, Al-Qaqaa and Al-Madani Brigades. The coalition also includes the Warshafana-based Jaysh Al-Qabael armed group, that allegedly includes within its membership some members of the army of the former Qadhafi regime. This coalition is broadly allied with Operation Dignity and General Haftar. Al-Zintan Revolutionaries Military Council, based in the western Nafusa mountains near the town of Zintan, is an umbrella group of militias. The group, which controlled the Tripoli airport until late August 2014, had been battling Islamic militias which finally gained control of the facility. The Zintan militias, for example, were tasked by the government with guarding Tripoli's international airport since taking control of it in 2011. But they refused to leave.
  • Ansar al-Shari'a - Benghazi: An al-Qaida-linked Islamist group that gained prominence in 2012, the Salafist militia believes all authority comes from the Prophet Mohammed. Ansar al-Sharia formed during the Libyan Revolution of 2011 that ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi. The Ansar al-Sharia group, which is trying to control Benghazi, is extremely fanatic and believes in aggression and killing people. The group is blamed for the attack on the US consulate in 2012 killing the US ambassador and 3 more Americans. The group advocates the implementation of strict Sharia law.
  • Ansar al-Shari'a - Darnah / Derna : In 2008, Chris Stevens wrote a remarkably perceptive profile of Derna, a town of some 50,000 people, where an increasingly conservative religious atmosphere that had prevailed since the 1980s. A number of Libyans who had fought and in some cases undergone "religious and ideological training" in Afghanistan, Lebanon and the West Bank in the late 1970's and early 1980's had returned to eastern Libya, including Derna.
  • Misrata Brigades: More than 200 militias are part of the heavily-armed Misratan Union of Revolutionaries, based in the coastal city of Misrata. The group, which has about 40,000 members, is regarded as a revolutionary militia.
  • Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room (LROR): An alliance of pro-Congress militias that was used by the government to protect Tripoli. Until October 2013 it was tasked by the government with protecting the capital. However, LROR was stripped of that responsibility after some of its members briefly kidnapped then-Prime Minister Ali Zeidan last year. A LROR branch had been dealing with security in Benghazi.
  • The February 17 Martyrs Brigade: The armed Islamist group is one of the largest and best armed militia groups in the eastern Benghazi region. The Islamist group is funded by the defense ministry. It has carried out various security and law and order tasks in the region.
  • The Al-Saiqa militias, made up of remnants of Libya's special forces, has been fighting Ansar al-ShariaIn the east in the city of Benghazi.
  • The leader of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), Ibrahim Jadhran, controlled Libya's vast, oil-rich south. The PFG was tasked by the government with protecting the country's crucial oil installations. But Jadhran accused the government of corruption and blocked Libya's oil-export terminals.
  • Tribal groups in the south of Libya - In Sabha, the major armed conflicts have taken place between Tabu, Al-Qadhadhifa, and Al-Megharba armed groups opposed to the Awlad Suleiman armed group. In Al-Kufra, the conflict has been primarily between the Arab Al-Zwaya and the Tabu armed groups, with the Tabu accusing Al-Zwaya of favouring their own tribe in relation to, for instance, the provision of government services. Several armed clashes have focused on attempts to control strategic locations, such as oil fields or smuggling routes. Some level of alliances exists between tribal armed groups and either Operation Dignity or Libya Dawn, for example, it has been observed that the Tabu are generally aligned with Operation Dignity; while the Tuareg are generally aligned with Libya Dawn.

The strongest militias included the Islamist camp of the Muslim Brotherhood and Loyalty to Martyrs blocs, centered in Misrata, Libya's third-largest city, and the so-called "liberal" militia of Zintan, a city of 40,000 people. The withdrawal of several major armed revolutionary groups from the capital followed a series of clashes between rival brigades from Tripoli and Misrata on 4 and 7 November 2013, the deadliest since the end of the armed conflict in 2011. The fighting triggered a wave of popular anger against the continued presence of armed brigades in the capital, with demonstrators taking to the streets in Tripoli and other cities in the country.

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Page last modified: 12-03-2016 19:25:43 ZULU