By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli, 25 March 2017:
The Presidency Council (PC) is forming an highly-paid 3,000-strong special military unit to protect Sirte. Until now the town has been occupied by the Misratan 166 Brigade and Sirte’s own 604 Brigade, both of which fought in the Bunyan Marsous (BM) operation that ousted IS terrorists last December.
The unit has not yet been given a name but the PC said it will be commanded by Brigadier Ali Abu Shahmeh and the men will each be paid LD 2,000 a month and engaged on rolling six-month contracts. The wage level is significant because ordinary soldiers are paid around LD 1,000 monthly while militia members receive between LD 2,000 and LD 3,000.
The new formation is to be under the direct command of the defence ministry. After the Benghazi Defence Brigades’ (BDB) brief retaking of the Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil export terminals at the start of this month, the PC’s defence minister Colonel Mahdi Al-Bargathi said he was sending 600 troops to reinforce the BDB.
The new Sirte unit is to be trained by the BM and is to be established immediately. It has been given four tasks. It is to protect the townsfolk from terrorists, support the Government of National Accord, protect private property and back up the police and the municipal council.
The PC announcement said nothing about the two existing brigades in the town which was placed under a curfew after that Libyan National Army ousted the BDB from the two Oil Crescent terminals a week after their seizure.
Meanwhile Sirte’s mayor and his two body guards are still missing despite demands for their release. Mukhtar Al-Madani and his two guards were seized in February on the highway somewhere near Khoms. Their vehicle has since been recovered near Tajoura.