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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Haftar attacks Islamists instrumental in driving ISIS out of Derna

The spokesperson for Haftar's militias, Ahmed Al-Mismari, said their forces were besieging Derna from four directions. They are ready to advance into the city at any moment to liberate it from terrorism.

Most media are deafeningly quiet about what is happening. According to the Libya Observer, the Derna Operation is called "Al Burkan," the volcano. The spokesperson claims they do not aim to enter the city but of isolate it and control its entrances. However, there are already reports of clashes between Haftar militias and revolutionaries of the Derna Shura Council who run the city. The Observer reports that the clashes took place in the A-Heela district which previously saw the revolutionaries fight with the Islamic State. While Haftar's Libyan National Army forces claimed credit for driving the Islamic State from Derna, the Shura Council of Mujahideen said that Haftar forces actually hindered their fight against the Islamic State. The Observer says:
 It is worth mentioning that Derna Shura Council revolutionaries announced on April 20 the liberation of the city from IS, as they were killed and fought out of their last hideout in Al-Fatayeh after months-long clashes without any help from Haftar’s militias, which call whoever does not pledge allegiance to them “terrorists”.In addition, the remaining militants of IS who were fighting in Al-Fatyeh escaped through five checkpoints and locations for Haftar’s militias when they were retreating from Derna toward Sirte without ever being intercepted by them, knowing that the IS militants attacked the Oil Facilities Guard on their way, which was regarded by the latter s a clear coordination between IS and Haftar’s militias to control the oil fields and ports.
Reporting on events in Libya often takes the form of narratives supporting one side or the other, that may or may not be true. In a recent article I gave an account of events that included an agreement between Haftar's forces and the Petroleum Forces Guards(PFG) that the LNA, Haftar's forces, could go through Ras Lanuf and that the PFG was at their disposal. However, Commander of Ajdabiya Border Division, Colonel Bashir Budhifra, has denied that Haftar's forces have been given permission to pass through the area. Of the deal that LNA Colonel Wanis Bokhmada was supposed to have made he said: "Colonel Wanis Bokhmada came to show support to the army and Petroleum Facilities Guard in the oil crescent region, and to express condolences and check on the health conditions of the wounded fighters,
Whatever the reason, Haftar appears not be in the process of attacking Sirte even though he started out for the area well over a week ago. Instead he is attacking the forces that did most of the fighting that drove the Islamic State out of Derna. This is not the first attack on those forces. As long ago as February unidentified planes had bombed the revolutionaries and Haftar kept on with air attacks after the Islamic State had withdrawn from Derna. It will be interesting to say what if anything Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General(SRSG) has to say about Haftar's operations in Derna. No doubt, Haftar thinks that his operations come within the exceptions to the supposed cessation of hostilities that is part of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). The war on terrorism can continue. For Haftar all his opponents are terrorists. In the case of Derna one group within the Shura Council, Ansar al-Sharia are actually characterized by some countries including the US as terrorists. However, other Islamists often cooperate with them as happens in a number of Shura Councils.
Most reports of what is happening come from tweets. For example, about the clashes between revolutionaries and the LNA there is this tweet: "#Libya-#Derna: #MSCD claims to have destroyed 3 military vehicles of #LNA/Haftar forces in al-Hila & Budhahak" MSCD is the Mujahideen Shura Council of Derna.


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