By Ajnadin Mustafa and Aimen Amzein.
Tripoli/Benghazi, 1 June 2016:
The Presidency Council headed by Faiez Serraj has set up a second operations room to fight the so-called Islamic state (IS). It will be responsible for action between Sirte and Ajdabiya. The new operations room is headed by Colonel Yousef Rajeb Ageela and has six other commanders in it.
Action west of Sirte is covered by the the Bunyan Marsous operations room set up by the Presidency Council four weeks ago.
The latest announcement, made yesterday, came as troops of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) commanded by Ibrahim Jedhran, claimed to have captured both Ben Jawad and Nufliya from IS.
It also came as Serraj and Ahmed Maetig, one of the five Presidnecy Council deputy leaders, conferred in Tripoli with the mayor of Ajdabiya, Salem Jadhran, Ibrahim Jadhran’s brother.
Officially the separate meetings were about financial and other support for public services in Ajdabiya. However, it has been reported that Salem was also acting on behalf of his brother to ensure military support for the PFG push against IS.
In its announcement, the Presidency said not only that all military forces in the Sirte-Ajdabiya area would be under the control of the operations room, it also prohibited any other military or paramilitary forces from combat operations in the area.
This is seen as a deliberate move against the Libya National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Hafter which has moved to take control of some of the oilfields in the region.
Despite claiming last month that it would attack Sirte, the LNA has not done so. In Benghazi, it is now being claimed that the it is holding back and has decided to let the PFG and the largely Misratan Bunyan Marsous forces west of Sirte bear the brunt of the fighting. The suggestion is that it will move in once they have defeated IS.
For its part, following the capture of Ben Jawad and Nufliya, the PFG is now heading towards Harawa, some 70 kilometres east of Sirte and seized by IS exactly a year ago.
The capture of Harawa would effectively hem in IS from the east and west of Sirte, although not from the south.
To the west, the Bunyan Marsous operations room says that it is now firmly in control of all the Khaleej power station, 20 kilometres west of Sirte, following heavy fighting there during the day. There was also fighting further south. According to the operations room, three of its soldiers were killed and ten wounded. It also reported eight air strikes on IS forces. [/restrict]