By Libya Herald reporter.
Tunis, 19 May 2017:
Misratan lawmakers have described yesterday’s massacre in Brak Al -Shatti as a “cowardly act”. They also called for the “criminals” responsible to be punished, urging all the warring factions to exercise “self-discipline” so as to prevent any further flare-ups.
From both the House of Representatives and the State Council, the lawmakers also said that there needed to be a change in the forces charged with protecting Fezzan because “the city of Misrata is not a party to the conflict in the south of Libya”.
Going a step further, Misrata State Council member Begassem Igzeit told the online Mostakbal newspaper that the Presidency Council should withdraw all non-local forces from Fezzan.
He also described yesterday’s killings as carried out not by professional forces but by “bloodthirsty” terrorists.
The slaughter had been an “irresponsible and heinous crime against Libyans,” Igzeit said. He also noted how large numbers of Libyan National Army (LNA) fighters appeared to have been executed after having been captured.
His call is an explicit slap in the face for Misrata’s former Third Force, renamed Battalion No 13, which along with the Benghazi Defence Brigades is blamed for yesterday’s massacre in which dozens of LNA fighters died. Sent to Fezzan in January 2014, it is still in control of Tamenhint airbase northeast of Sebha.
For its part, the lawmakers’ statement is seen as a desperate attempt by the city’s political leadership to distance Misrata from the massacre and avoid retribution.
The move, however, was already being undermined by Battalion No 13. In an phone interview with Al-Ahrar TV last night, the battalion’s spokesman, Mohamed Gliwan, admitted that it had been involved in the Brak airbase operation. This was because the LNA was planning to use it to launch attacks against the battalion and its allies at Tamenhint and elsewhere. The battalion had attacked the base, destroyed the forces there and then withdrawn, he said.
Meanwhile, on the battalion’s Facebook page, which still bears the name of the Third Force, there has been a spate of posts justifying the attack on the basis that the LNA’s 12th Battalion and its leader Mohamed Ben Nayel had constantly attacked the Misratan forces and their allies, that he was not to be trusted and that he was about to launch a fresh attack.
Battalion No. 13 also rejected reports that they had summarily executed LNA soldiers, despite evidence to the contrary.
For their part, the battalion’s allies in the attack, the Benghazi Defence Brigades, proudly declared on Twitter their role in the capture of the airbase, announcing that they had captured mercenaries employed there by Hafter.
Meanwhile, LNA reaction has been swift with Khalifa Hafter sending troops to bolster his own 12th Battalion. His air force today has also bombed the Jufra airbase from which the units that attacked Brak and carried out the massacre are believed to have set out and to which they returned when they later pulled out.