By Ajnadin Mustafa.
Tripoli, 11 May 2016:
Protesters in Zinten yesterday prevented UNSMIL’s General Paolo Serra from leaving Zintan airport for the town . . .[restrict]after he had flown in for talks with its all-important military council. He was forced to return to the plane and fly out.
The Italian general who is Special Envoy Martin Kobler’s military adviser found himself facing a small but determined crowd who threatened violence if he tried to enter the town. Some held placards calling him “Graziani’s grandson” – a reference to Rodolfo Graziani, the commander of Italian fascist forces in Libya in the 1920s whose brutality resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Libyans, including Omar Mukhtar.
Serra has been coordinating UNSMIL and Presidency Council efforts to ensure security in Tripoli so that the Presidency can operate in peace. Zintan’s support is critical for this. However, Zintan which feels excluded from the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) now firmly supports the eastern alliance of General Khalifa Hafter and the Libya National Army, the opponents in the House of Representatives opposed to the Libyan Political Agreement, and the Beida-based Thinni government.
The protests are reported to have been organised by Zintan’s military strongman Mukhtar Al-Akhdar, the man who controlled Tripoli International Airport from the end of the revolution until his forces were forced to give it up in the bitter battle in mid-2014 with Misratan units which saw it largely destroyed.
They indicate a split in Zintan. It is reported that a meeting between Serra and the town’s military leaders had been approved by the Zintanis before Serra’s plane took off. [/restrict]