Militants attack eastern city of Ajdabiya in Libya

A recently formed militia of militants who fled Benghazi, the Defend Benghazi Brigades, have attacked the industrial zone of the eastern city of Ajdabiya but were reportedly forced to retreat by General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) are the armed forces of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR). Neither the HoR nor Haftar recognize the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). Haftar refuses to join in any unified command as demanded by the GNA. He considers many of the militia fighting for the GNA against the Islamic State to be his enemies. The Benghazi brigades are said to be led by Islamist Zivadj Belam backed by Ismail Salabi.
Akram Bu Haligha, spokesperson for the LNA's Ajdabiya Operations Room, said a convoy of 40 armed vehicles headed to Ajdabiya from the south. Haligha said: “The 101 brigade of the LNA were involved in a clash against the enemies forces at the area of the Man Made River project.” He accused Ibrahim Jadhran, head of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) of helping the militia to enter Ajdabiya. He further criticized the Brigades for violating the PC demand that different sides should not fight: “Even if we accepted that the Presidency Council is legitimate, this group has violated its [the Presidency Council’s] decision establishing a military operations room from Ajdabiya to Sirte and it prohibited all sides undertaking operations against others.” This is rather ironic since the LNA does not accept the Presidential Council (PC). They would not feel bound by the demand.
Three weeks ago, the Presidency Council set up the Ajdabiya-Sirte Operations Room under the command of Colonel Yousef Ageela. Most of the forces are of PFG men. The order was specifically aimed at the LNA. The Council insists that no military grouping other than forces under its command should undertake any activities in the area. The command has recaptured Ben Jawad, Nufliya, and Harawa from the Islamic State.
The Libya Herald argues that it is unlikely that the PFG would help the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) enter Ajdabiya. The defense minister, Barghathi of the GNA just recently visited the PFG and the group supports the GNA. Barghathi himself spent two years fighting militants in Benghazi. A tweet notes: "GNA's MoD describes "#Benghazi Defense Brigades" which were announced in last 2 days as outlawed terrorist militias. #Libya " However, it should be noted that Barghathi is an opponent of Haftar as is Jodhran of the PFG. The BOB are rumored to be among the forces that were fighting the Islamic State in the offensive against Sirte. The BOB are backed by Sadik Al-Ghariani the Grand Mufti and apparently some business people from Misrata, according to the Herald. Balam has reportedly been active in the eastern part of the Jufra district from which he may have launched his operation.
Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in a tweet condemned the attack: "Strongly condemn the militia's attack on #Ajdabia #Libya. Calls on PC & HoR leadership to quickly work together to advance political process'." He also used the attack as an argument for creating a unified command of all forces including the LNA, tweeting: "#Ajdabiya. crucial to work on joint comand of army under supreme comand of PC. only united & well equip #Libya can fight militia&terrorists". This is useless pleading. Kobler must know that Haftar refuses to accept the PC as commander in chief, and will not unite with militia loyal to the GNA but whom he considers his enemy.
The Libya Observer gives a rather different report on the attack: The Ajdabia Liberation Operations Chamber announced Saturday that it had taken complete hold of Al-Hay Al-Sinayi (Industrial Block) district in southern Ajdabia backed up by some of Defend Benghazi Brigades’ forces.
The member of Ajdabia Liberation Operations Chamber, Abdullah AL-Maghrabi, told Al-Nabaa TV that their forces seized some military camps previously possessed by Haftar’s militias in Al-Nahir district in southern Ajdabia supported by Defend Benghazi Brigades, confirming that a number of Haftar’s militiamen were killed and others wounded, without giving numbers.
Al-Maghrabi claimed that his group had also seized a number of vehicles including armored ones from the Haftar LNA. He said that Ajdabiya Liberation Operations Chamber was formed to free the city from Haftar's Dignity Operation and that now they had been joined by the BOB the two had started the process of freeing the city. Operation DIgnity was begun in May 2014 by Haftar to rid Libya of Islamists, or at least all who were opposed to him. The HoR reacted quickly to the attacks: The Speaker of the Tobruk-based HoR, Aqilah Saleh has announced mobilization of fighters and appointed the HoR’s Chief of Staff as a military commander for the districts between Tobruk and Derna as well as Ben Jawad town, in central Libya.
Slaeh’s mobilization decision comes after an attack carried out by Ajdabia Liberation Operations Chamber in cooperation with Defend Benghazi Brigades on southern Ajdabia, where the HoR is in control of the ground (150 km western Benghazi) on Saturday morning.
Note that Ben Jawad is under the control of the PFG who support the GNA unlike the HoR and Haftar. There could be more battles brewing between Haftar and the PFG, not only with militants in Ajdabiya.


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