BDB column said to be in full retreat from Magroun
By Libya Herald reporters.
Benghazi, 20 July 2016:
The thrust by the Islamist Benghazi Defence Brigade toward besieged insurgent positions in Ganfouda has been thrown back by the army, according to independent reports.
The BDB had reached Margoun 60km from Benghazi. It is understood that there was an overnight air attack on their positions followed by the advance of army units.
The BDB fighters appear to have retreated rapidly southwards through Karkoura and Al-Jiladea toward Sultan. The bodies of eight captured soldiers, one from the 33 Brigade, were discovered when the army entered Magroun. It appeared that they have been executed before the BDB pulled out. A ninth solder was found unharmed, locked up in one of the houses. There are reports that 15 other bodies, mostly of civilians were also discovered. The likely causes of death have not been revealed.
Army spokesman Ahmed Mismari told Libyachannel that residents had been warned to stay indoors because the town was “full of dead bodies” that needed to be cleared by the Red Crescent. He also said that BDB fighters had taken shelter in houses during the overnight airstrike.
Abandoning Karkura, as they moved south, will have had some significance. The people of the town, renowned for its sea salt production, are largely from the Al-Moushaki tribe. One of BDB commander Mustafa Sharksi’s lieutenants is the local Talib Shadan Moushaki.
The advance of a such relatively small force toward Benghazi has puzzled some observers. It did not seem likely to have had an immediate effect on the military cordon that has trapped IS, Ansar al-Sharia fighters and their Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council allies in Ganfouda and Gwarsha.
However, the ultimate objective of the BDB’s operation may have been the small fishing port of Gemenis which is celebrated for its particularly fragrant mint. Indeed at one point someone in the advancing BDB messaged that they could already smell the mint. Geminis also houses one of Libya’s two largest police academies and, according to a local, would have been a strong defensive position with the small harbour for resupply, reinforcements and the evacuation of wounded.
There were supposedly some 30 vehicles in the group, almost all of which the army said it had destroyed ten days ago with air strikes. It also said it had captured Sharksi.
The army claims were evidently inaccurate. They never produced pictures of a captured Sharksi nor of the body of the Islamist leader Usma Jadhran whom they also claimed had been killed in the airstrikes. Usma is the Islamist leader in Ajdabiya and brother of Petroleum Facilities Guard commander Ibrahim Jadhran and of the town’s mayor Salem.
The BDB column claimed that it managed to shoot down an army helicopter on Sunday killing all aboard. France’s president Francois Hollande, today admitting that three Frenchmen had been in the aircraft, insisted it had come down as a result of an accident.
In the small hours of today, this second air strike on BDB positions in Magroun appears to have been of a different order of effectiveness than the original air force assault ten days ago.
There is speculation that rather than continue withdrawing southwards toward Ajdabiya from where army units were supposed to have been following them, the BDB fighters have cut across country toward Al-Bitham on the Two Hundred road running behind the Green Mountains from Ajdabiya up to Tobruk.