By Ajnadin Mustafa and Saber Ayyub.
Tripoli, 4 April 2015:
Zintan Military Council has said that although its fighters are part of the . . .[restrict]Libyan National Army, they will not enter Tripoli.
The declaration came as the LNA yesterday announced it had retaken Aziziya, some 50 kilometres south of the capital, from Libya Dawn fighters following fierce fighting in the area, and that its forces were now based in the town’s stadium. It claimed control over the entire district including Bir Hassan, Nasiriya, Saadiya and Al-Heera. The front line, it said, was now just beyond the Zahra Bridge, 10 kilometres from the southern Tripoli suburb of Swani Ben Adam.
Meanwhile, two Libya Dawn checkpoints, one on the Airport Road and the other in the Swani district, were hit yesterday by RPG missiles although no one was hurt. The precise identity of the attackers is unknown although it is presumed that they were LNA supporters .
Despite pictures of LNA troops in Aziziya appearing on TV, the reports of Aziziya’s capture have been vigorously denied by Libya Dawn. It counter claims that it repulsed yesterday’s operation to take the town, killing and injuring “dozens” of LNA fighters in the process.
The area south and west of the capital has seen a constant ebb-and-flow of LNA and Dawn forces over the past few weeks. A fortnight ago, LNA forces briefly entered Aziziya town as Libya Dawn pulled back following the launch of a major LNA operation. The former were then said to have been ordered to withdraw by the regional LNA commander, concerned that they were overstretching themselves. Colonel Idris Madi was reported at the time saying that they were going to prepare for “the next battle”.
Yesterday evening, the LNA issued a statement calling on all army members in and around the capital to report for duty and prepare for the battle ahead.
The LNA has made several claims in the past that it was about to move on the city, none of which turned out to be true. However, there is currently a distinct air of anxiety in Tripoli among LD supporters that the situation could be different this time. On Friday, at pro-Dawn protests in the capital’s Martyrs’ Square, young men in the city were exhorted to join the battle against the approaching LNA and fight to the bitter end, with the promise that if they died in the struggle they would be rewarded in Heaven.
The announcement by Zintan that none of its units will enter Tripoli is viewed as a deliberate move to calm fears among the capital’s residents over their possible return as part of the LNA forces. It follows claims by Libya Dawn that the Zintanis were planning a reign of crime upon their return.
In the 23 months that Zintani brigades were present in the capital until forced out last summer by Libya Dawn, they were accused of various offences from extortion and theft to assaults on the General National Congress. [/restrict]