Thursday, February 23, 2017

New Libyan National Guards formed in Libya

(February 9) A number of different armed groups mainly from Misrata have announced the formation of the Libyan National Guards (LNG). Reports claim that dozens of Misratan vehicles entered the capital Tripoli overnight.

According to the Libya Herald the Guards are backing Khalifa Ghwell. Ghwell is the former prime minister of the former National Salvation government that was a rival to the then internationally-recognized government of the House of Representatives (HoR). After the Libyan Political Agreement(LPA) signed in Skhirat Morocco in December of 2015, the Salvation government was weakened. Neither it nor the HoR government recognized the GNA. However, many from the Salvation Government eventually joined the GNA as part of the High State Council. They met as the former General National Congress, the legislature of the Salvation Govenrment, dissolved it and then met as the High State Council. The GNA seized many ministries and militia loyal to the GNA seized the Rixos complex which was the headquarters of the GNC.
On October 16 GNC in what was consdiered a coup attempt Ghwell and armed supporters took back control of the Rixos complex. The GNA has never been able to retake the complex. Many of the GNA's Presidential Guards defected and gave support to the coup plotters. Now it seems that there are an even larger group of heavily armed brigades that will serve as a direct threat to the GNA.
Brigadier Mahmoud Al-Zigal announced the forming of the group. He said that the LNG is not linked to an political party and would operate away from regional, tribal, and politiical disputes. Its main objective was to rid Libya of the remnants of the Islamic State(IS). Although the IS no longer retains control of significant territory since their defeat in Sirte, there are still IS cells here and there throughout Libya no doubt.
Al-Zigal also said:“We will work on the protection of the state facilities and will guard the borders of Libya. We will fight the chaos caused by the spread of arms and shall defend all embassies and foreign diplomatic missions, in addition to our participation in fighting the illegal migration.”
The Presidency Council of the GNA has assigned these tasks to the new Presidential Guard. Just 3 days ago the EU applauded the deployment of the first units of the Guard. According to the Libya Herald the LNG is said to be under the authority of the remnants of the GNC the coup plotters led by Khalifa Ghwell.
Recent clashes in Tripoli have already involved gunmen loyal to Salah Al-Burki whose vehicles bore the insignia of the new LNG. His group clashed with the Abu Sleem Central Security Force of Ghneiwa. One of their main aides was killed in the clashes and they have vowed revenge. The Libya Observer notes that the Libyan National Guard was formed earlier:The Libyan National Guard was formed by the General National Congress in 2015. Military sources close to LNG confirmed that the new established force would not operate under the Salvation Government.It is surprising that the Observer would report that the LNG would not operate under the auspices of the Salvation Government since it, unlike the Herald, was favorable to that government on the whole. It certainly seems that the Guards do not recognize the GNA and is not linked to the eastern HoR government. Unless it recognizes the GNC Salvation government it hardly can claim any authority to guard borders or protect diplomats. It is amazing that the GNA has allowed the coup plotters to remain in control of their headquarters since last October without making any move to dislodge them. With this new development the GNA will be forced to once and for all defeat the group using force.
It is not clear what relationship this new group has to another group formed by the Misrata Military Council. This group joined the Libya Army as discussed in a recent DJ article. These groups however pledged loyalty to the GNA government. No doubt the two groups display a split within Misrata brigades between those who support the GNA and those who do not.


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