By Libya Herald reporters.
Tunis, 14 December 2016:
The Bunyan Marsous operation has named a military governor for Sirte in what is being taken as a reaction to Monday’s election of a mayor seen to be close to Khalifa Hafter.
BM commanders chose Brigadier Ahmed Abu Shahma to take over the town in seeming imitation of the replacement in the east in the country of elected mayors with officers appointed by the Libyan National Army.
Mukhtar Al-Madani the Sirte mayor who appears to have been ousted had been chosen only 48 hours earlier by six of his seven fellow councillors. When IS seized Sirte, Madani fled to Beida while his colleagues stayed in Misrata or Tripoli. He was later appointed mayor of Sirte by Beida-based premier Abdullah Thinni in apparent contravention of municipal law which says the council leader is selected by his or her fellow elected councillors.
However, not everyone sees the appointment of a military governor as the end of Madani’s brief leadership of the town. British ambassador Peter Millett, who along with UNSMIL chief Martin Kobler had warmly welcomed Madani’s appointment, told this newspaper tonight: “ I met Sirte mayor Mukhtar Madani in Tripoli today with a group of other mayors. He is the elected mayor. Obviously security of Sirte is a major priority, so the appointment of a “military governor” signifies someone responsible for security, not the replacement of the elected mayor. It’s not like the military governors in the East”.
Shahma will have Misrata’s 166 Brigade based in the town to help him keep order. It was the withdrawal of this brigade from Sirte in May 2015 that allowed the town to be taken over by Sirte.
The unit had originally been tasked with crushing IS and media were flown in to see the start of an operation that thereafter went sour. By June, 166 brigade was forced to abandon Sirte power station its last local foothold after being attacked by an “overwhelming” terrorist force in excess of 200 fighters.