By Moutaz Ali.
Tripoli, 2 December 2016:
The Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade (TRB) this evening announced that it had taken control of Camp 77 military camp next to the former Qaddafi compound in the capital’s Bab Al-Aziziya area. They also said they had taken the adjoining zoo and the Nasr forest park.
However, in a subsequent separate statement, it also said that it had no intention of seizing the Rixos complex, which is at the eastern side of the forest park and home to the former General National Congress, or the so-called Hospitality Palaces across the road from the complex.
These latter are currently being used as a base by former “Salvation Government” head Khalifa Ghwell and his supporters.
Earlier Ghwell, who seized the Rixos complex a month and a half ago and declared himself back in power, threatened he and the armed factions linked to him would respond to any attack on the Rixos or the forest park.
“We call all our linked armed factions to get ready for immediate action in order to defend residents and the state facilities,” his statement read.
Camp 77 had been under the control of radical Misratan militiaman Salah Badi and others for some time. He has been accused by armed factions in Tripoli of using it as a base for Islamic hardliners and other militants including those from the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council (BRSC) such as Wissam Ben Humaid who fled Benghazi after being forced out by Khalifa Hafter’s Operation Dignity.
The camp was taken during the morning by combined forces of the TRB, those under Abu Sleem strongman Abdul Ghani Al-Kikli (also known as Ghneiwa), Central Security Boards and other factions.
It has not been confirmed so far if the Deterrence Forces (RADA) led by Abdulraouf Kara had a role in the operation.
Following its capture, the TRB said it had discovered a huge amount of explosives at the camp, posting pictures of some of it on its Facebook page. It added that had arrested a number of people inside the camp and would publish their statements soon. They were said to be almost entirely from the east of the country.
Commenting before the camp was taken, however, the TRB said that a fight with the militants was “crucial” because they were terrorists.
The later statement about not taking the Rixos complex is seen as something of a climbdown by the TRB, although one analysis of yesterday’s clashes between the alliance of Tripoli militias on the one side (including the TRB) and the radicals on the other has been that they were testing each others’ strengths. Certainly, the clashes have seen a redrawing of militia areas of control in the capital.
Meanwhile, support for Ghwell has come from Misrata’s Al-Marsah brigade. In a separate statement it would beat “with an irony fist” any faction that thought of seizing the Rixos complex and the Nasr zoo. It complained that while it had been in Sirte fighting the so-called Islamic State, “some people have exploited our absence”. It would go to Tripoli as soon as possible, it said.