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Friday, February 24, 2017

Clashes break out between rival militias in Tripoli

(Febbruary 12) There were clashes between the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade (TRB) led by Haithem Tajouri and a group of mostly Misratan fighters based in Tripoli commanded by Mahmud Baiyu who goes by the name Sharikan.

The Libya Herald reports that there were clashes between the two groups on Saturday in a southern part of Tripoli in the suburbs of Wadi Rabih, Ain Zara, Khala Al-Furjan, and Salahedeen. The clashes involved heavy weapons and tapered off only in the evening.
Locals claim that Sharikan moved to take a number of positions in Wadi Rabih that were held by the rival TRB. In fact it appears to be a turf war among rival militias. Sharikan was successful in the Khala Al-Furjan area. Sharikan is an ally of the Libyan National Guard formed just recently from brigades that are mostly but not all from Misrata. The group appears to be supportive of Khalifa Ghwell who was PM of the former Salvation Government and mounted a coup attempt some time ago. He has headquarters in the Rixos hotel complex. The group is discussed in a recent DJ article. Vehicle convoys of the Guards have entered Tripoli. Not surprisingly, the group is not welcomed by the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) or it Presidency Council (PC). A recent tweet says: "PC statement on National Guard " Outlaws and not Legitimate " "
The Herald reports:Today’s clashes mainly took place along the Wadi Rabih highway linking Swani and airport road in the southwest with Tajoura to the northeast of Tripoli. Sharikan’s area of influence extends from Swani and airport roads to the headquarters of the Man Made River complex at Wadi Rabih which he using currently as one of his bases. Tajouri’s zone extends from Tajoura down to the junction on the Wadi Rabih highroad leading to Ain Zara. The latter is also under Tajouri’s control.
The TRB has been involved in clashes before. On December 1st it clashed with and defeated an armed group associated with the Interior Ministry:The brigade said the reason of the attack is that the armed force was involved in murders, banditry, kidnap and smuggling the illegal immigrants despite the fact that the armed group is part of the Central Security Department of the Interior Ministry.
Just back on January 23rd, the TRB had warned that Tripoli could not bear further armed conflict. Tajouri's TRB is said to be the most powerful militia in Tripoli. At the time the TRB said the political process based on the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) is irreplaceable. However, there appears to have been no sign of much progress since the eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) rejected the UN brokered Government of National Accord(GNA) on August 22 last year. On its media page the TRB wrote: “We demand everybody keep Tripoli away from their struggle, as its residents cannot bear any new armed conflict inside the city. We announce, as Tripolitans, that we have never assigned anyone to represent us at talks and we confirm that anyone who attempts to act in such a way is just a liar.” The group appears to want to retain a degree of independence from the UN-brokered GNA while at the same time expressing support for the LPA which spawned the GNA. With the new Libyan National Guard entering Tripoli in force and having a number of militia linked with it there is a grave danger of an outright war between groups. Khalifa Haftar and his eastern-based Libyan National Army would no doubt be quite pleased to see his opponents at each others throats.

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