By Moutaz Mathi and Hadi Fornaji
Tripoli/Tunis, 20 July 2016:
France has vehemently denied allegations that its planes bombed the so-called Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) overnight at Al-Jlidiya, near Magrun, killing 13 of them.
In a short statement this afternoon, the French authorities said that they had carried out no airstrikes at all and that the accusations against it aired by some TV stations in Libya served merely to “sow doubt and division in the country”.
A French official meanwhile told the Libya Herald that the French government did not support Hafter or the Libya National Army. Its strategy was the destruction of the so-called Islamic State and terrorism in Libya.
The French statement (see below) followed a call earlier during the day by Libya’s controversial cleric, Sadek Al-Ghariani, for mass protests against France after it admitted the death of three French military officials in a helicopter crash on Sunday and the presence of French security forces in the country. On his Islamist Tanasah TV station, he accused it of effectively declaring war on Libya. He said people should take to the streets and demonstrate against its unacceptable intervention in Libya.
There was, he claimed, a “conspiracy” by foreign countries and their ambassadors together with their supposed Libyan agents to destroy the Libyan revolution.
On the equally Islamist Al-Nabaa TV, an organisation calling itself the League of Displaced Benghazi Families similarly called on people to go to Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli and protest.
Other protests came from Misratan politician Fathi Bashaga, the Muslim Brotherhood and the now generally invisible General National Congress (GNC).
In the event, there were demonstrations this afternoon in Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata and Gharyan. The biggest was in Misrata where several hundred turned out and a French flag was burned. In Tripoli, numbers were muted and in Benghazi even smaller.
In his denunciation, Ghariani also attacked the entire Libyan Political Agreement and the Presidency Council which he accused of failing to solve the electricity and cash shortages and of being responsible for the the crash in the Libyan dinar and inflation. He also called the takeover of ministry building by the PC as illegal.
He further demanded the rump of the GNC to hold a session as soon as possible to discuss the situation. Those who had joined the State Council must return to the Congress, he insisted.
The French statement read:
“France has carried out no air strikes in Libya. It formally denies accusations that contribute to sow doubt and division in the country.
On the contrary, it calls for every effort be made to strengthen national unity through political dialogue.
France resolutely stands with the Government of National Accord. All Libyan forces must be mobilised under its authority to fight against the terrorist organisation Daesh which threatens Libya, the region and the world.”