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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Units of Haftar's Libyan National Army moving towards Sirte to attack the Islamic State

The Libya Herald reports that two groups from the Libyan National Army (LNA) are moving towards the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Sirte from both the southwest and the east.

From the west a Misratan brigade is moving eastwards towards the 200 kilometer long stretch along the coast controlled by IS. An army source told the Herald that more than a thousand men had left Ghabghab, which is the main army base at Marj, the headquarters of commander-in-chief Khalifa Haftar. The group was said to be heading for Sirte. The group probably is using some of the many vehicles and ammunition that Haftar recently received.
Colonel Idris Madi, is also said to be moving towards Islamic State territory from the south-west. He is said to be accompanied by Colonel Mohamed Nail, commander of the 241 brigade as well as Colonel Ali Al-Tabawey who commands the Tebu 25 Brigade. The latter unit already has fought IS in Benghazi. and other places. From the west in areas under the control of the GNA government forces from the city Military Council are gathering before heading east towards Sirte. A Facebook entry said: "Misrata Military Council deploys troops in Abu Grain, some 138km west of ISIS-held city of Sirte." It is not clear if there is any coordination of the Misrata movements with those of the LNA.
The Herald reports that Ibrahim Jadhran, a Haftar opponent, will not interfere with the advance of the army. His tribe said they will help move the army units east. Jadhran supports the GNA unlike Haftar. There is at least one tweet reporting Jadhran has been fired and a new head of the Petroleum Forces Guards (PFG) appointed by the Al-Thinni government: "Eastern government (Thini) sack Ibrahim Jathran and name a new commander for Oil Facilities Guard." This probably means that there will be no cooperation with the GNA government in the export of oil.
Earlier, the president of the State Council, Swehli, asked the GNA Presidential Council to attack the Islamic State. The State Council is composed of former members of the General National Congress many of whom oppose Haftar. The Council probably wants the GNA government to take over the area. If the LNA takes over the territory it will be no doubt be ruled by the HoR which does not recognize the GNA as yet. The HoR is supposed to be the legislature of the GNA but until it gives a vote of confidence in the GNA and accepts the LPA it is a separate government. The head of the UN mission in Libya, Martin Kobler, has not given any indication yet when and where the HoR is to meet next to try and vote on the GNA. Every attempt at a vote so far has either lacked a quorum or been disrupted. While a majority are said to support the GNA it is only on condition that General Haftar keep his job and that is in contradiction of section 8 of the Libyan Political Agreement.


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