Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Protesters angry at presence of unauthorized French forces in Libya

Thousands of angry protesters marched in a number of Libyan cities on Wednesday to denounce what they claimed were French airstrikes that targeted Defend Benghazi Brigades (DBB).

The protesters also complained about the silence of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) — headed by PM Faiez Sirraj — on the issue. Actually a recent tweet says:
In Tripoli, protesters marched to Martyr's Square chanting both anti-French and anti-GNA slogans. Protests were also held in Misrata, Gharyan and Zawiya. They called for the overthrow of the GNA and formation of a higher council of revolutionaries. Salah Burki Brigade, one of the most powerful in Tripoli according to the Libya Observer, denounced the airstrikes and French intervention in Libya. France denies that its planes carried out the overnight attacks that killed 13 members of the DBB.
French president Francois Hollande confirmed today that three French soldiers had been killed in what was described as a helicopter crash during a dangerous intelligence-gathering operation. In a speech he said: "At this moment we are carrying out dangerous intelligence operations [in Libya]." Earlier in the day, French government spokesperson, Stephane Le Foli,confirmed that French special forces were operating in Libya saying: "Special forces are there, of course, to help and to make sure France is present everywhere in the struggle against terrorists." The Defend Benghazi Brigades (DBB) claimed to have shot down the helicopter.
Al Jazeera says, "Libyan military officials would not comment on the report that French nationals were on board the helicopter but said that all four in the helicopter who died were Libyans." Al Jazeera does not say whether the officials were of the GNA or from the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar who are clashing with the DBB as they advance towards Benghazi.
The Defend Benghazi Brigades were formed back in early June and marched toward Benghazi to help the Benghazi Shura Council of Revolutionaries who have mostly been defeated by Haftar's forces. The group clashed with Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) forces in Ajdabiya and then moved on towards Benghazi where they captured some territory but it appears that they have recently suffered losses particularly after airstrikes following the downing of the French helicopter. The group has strong support from the Grand Mufti, a bitter opponent of Haftar and his Operation Dignity, meant to clear Libya of Islamists, or at least any one with Islamist leanings who opposes him.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadiq al-Gharyani said the French confirmation of the death of three soldiers in western Benghazi province is an apparent declaration of war on Libya and called on Libyans to denounce such an intervention: “Libyans must unite to fight the foreign attack, the issue is crystal clear now, our country is being attacked by a foreign country – the French are fighting the revolutionaries in Benghazi.”
Gharyani said that revolutionaries should stop supporting the the PC and the GNA, as their decisions were all in favor of General Haftar and his loyal followers. He also complained that what Libya was experiencing was " a crime crafted in the intelligence lobbies and executed by the international community with the blessing of the political parties who are supposedly called revolutionaries." The existence of the DBB is causing the GNA a huge headache since the group is directly challenging Haftar in battle in open civil war. Meanwhile, the GNA with the UN has been trying to bring Haftar and the House of Representatives (HoR) to support the GNA unity government. According to the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), the HoR must vote confidence in the GNA and then become its legislature. This has yet to happen and the government of Abdullah al-Thinni with the HoR, based in Tobruk in the east, remains separate from the GNA.
Over a week ago it was revealed through audio communications that U.S., UK and French troops had all been helping Khalifa Haftar in his attacks on Islamists in Benghazi. US and UK special forces are also supporting the offensive against the Islamic State in Sirte. As a recent tweet claims:
In other words, western powers are supporting both the GNA and Haftar even though they give lip service to only recognizing the LNA. This can only encourage Haftar to keep pursuing his aim to remain head of the Libyan armed forces in any new unity government.


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