By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli/Tunis, 28 October 2015:
The Tripoli government intends to launch a military assault in the Wershefana district in response . . .[restrict]to Monday’s helicopter crash west of Tripoli killing all those on board which included top ranking Libya Dawn military officials.
Its chief of general staff, Major General Abdussalam Obeidi has declared the area a military zone, advised civilians to leave it, and has called for “revolutionaries” to mobilise and join the fight.
The helicopter was shot down near Maya, west of Janzour. It was on its way to Zawia and was carrying the body of Nureddin Kilani, the brother of the late Zawia military leader Mohamed Kilani back for burial. He is said to have been shot in earlier action against the Wershfana, and taken to Tripoli for treatment but died there. Another report, however, says he died in hospital in Turkey.
The body was being accompanied by senior Libya Dawn figures, including the head of Zawia Martyrs’ Brigade, Suhaib Shaba, and the the GNC’s western region commander Colonel Hussain Budaya. Also said to have died in the crash was the son of Mohamed Kilani, himself killed last year in fighting with the Wershefana.
Zawia municipality and the General National Congress have both declared three days mourning.
Wershefani fighters have been accused of shooting the helicopter down and in Benghazi, Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Mohamed Hejazi appeared to confirm this, stating that pro-government forces had been responsible. There are also reports that the helicopter wreckage showed signs of having been shot at.
However, the LNA Tripoli operations room, based in Zintan, has denied any involvement. The Wershefana Supreme Council has also denounced the downing of the helicopter. Claiming that the attack was done to incite hatred between the Wershefana and Zawia, it called for an immediate investigation to find those responsible.
Last year, devastating fighting in the Wershefana area, spearheaded mainly by Zawian forces left hundreds of Wershefanis dead and a legacy of bitter hatred there towards the people of Zawia.
Mindful that any repetition of such violence could further undermine the shaky Libya Dialogue process, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) today appealed to all parties to “exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any action that would further escalate tension”. Calling for an investigation into the cause of the crash, it appealed to local leaders and anyone else with influence to do their utmost to calm the situation. [/restrict]