By Jamie Prentis.
Tunis, 27 July 2017;
A row would seem to be brewing between Presidency Council (PC) head Faiez Serraj and his deputy Ahmed Maetig after Maetig decided in Serraj’s absence to award Bunyan Marsous (BM) fighters LD 5,000 each for taking part in the battle last year to wrest Sirte from terrorist control.
In another, decision, Maetig told community leaders in Gasr Ben Gashir, next to Tripoli International Airport, that they would be compensated for losses as a result of the area being targeted since 2014, although no figure was mentioned when he met with them earlier this week.
Serraj is understood to have told the PC it could take no decisions without his written approval while he was out of the country this week, first in Paris for talks with Khalifa Hafter and then in Rome to discuss migrants with Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni.
It remains to be seen if Serraj will seek to cancel the BM award made by his deputy, who comes from Misrata. If for no other reason, Serraj could argue that Libya simply cannot afford such munificence at this time. However, he has been placed in an impossible position, since if he seeks to annul the decree he will face protests from the BM and Misrata. The affair is being taken as further evidence of a deepening rift between the two men.
While his chief was away, Maetig committed the PC to spending a reported LD 150 million in payments to BM fighters. If the figure is correct, that would mean that some 30,000 members were involved in the BM operation, a number which some sources believe to be somewhat inflated. However, BM commanders said after their victory last December that 712 of their men had been killed and some 3,200 wounded.
Maetig did not say if he intended the money also to be paid to the families of men who died in the battles to oust the so-called Islamic State terrorists from Sirte.
Last year, while the largely Misratan BM forces battled for eight months to defeat the terrorists, the BM operations room frequently complained of a lack of medical, financial and logistical support from the PC in Tripoli. Yet once Sirte had been retaken, Serraj and the PC were praised by the international community for their resolute action in defeating terrorism.
It is now clear that either before the main attack on Sirte began last summer or in the closing stages of the battle for the town, a terrorist force was able to escape. One of their alleged camps to the south of the town was hit by US stealth bombers in January and the bodies of 90 terrorist suspects found.
The following month, another airstrike on a terrorist convoy was reported by people in Bani Walid. If that attack did in fact take place, no one claimed credit for it.
Now, a similar mystery air strike is reported yesterday to have hit IS fighters on the road to Jufra. Once again no one has claimed responsibility. Libyan National Army (LNA) had planes in action around Jufra last month but it has not mentioned yesterday’s air attack. Nor have the Misratans who have been operating some MiG fighters.