By Sami Zaptia.
Frankfurt, 1 September 2018:
The fragile ceasefire agreed yesterday in Tripoli’s ‘‘militia war’’ broke down today as the indiscriminate shelling of built-up areas continued. The ‘‘war’’ has become increasingly complex, with a myriad of militias from towns and cities – with different agendas and political leanings – joining in.
Calls for restraint and the avoidance of civilian casualties by the international community seem to be falling on deaf ears.
The militia fighting, coinciding on the first of September, the anniversary of Qaddafi’s 1969 revolution, only added to the conspiracy theories and multi-layered possible political motivations at play.
The coercive ineffectiveness of the internationally-recognized Faiez Serraj-led Presidency Council and Government of National Accord was further displayed with the news that Mohamed al-Haddad, commander of the Central Military Zone, disappeared believed to have been kidnapped in his own hometown of Misrata today.
Haddad was appointed by Serraj, in his role as Supreme Commander of the (Tripoli-based) National Army, (together with Osama Juwaili, Western Military Zone Commander) jointly in charge of overseeing the ceasefire using ‘‘neutral’’ forces.
The facts of the matter on the ground are that gunfire ad projectiles continued to fall on built-up areas across the capital overnight. Projectiles were reported in Dahra (Waddan Hotel), Ben Ashour, Girgarish, Ghoat Shaal etc. Although injuries were reported, there have been no official reports of deaths.
The targeting of urban centres is believed to be premeditated, with sides blaming the other for attempting to turn Tripoli’s residents against them. The Tarhuna-based 7th Infantry Brigade led by the Kani brothers, has denied firing any projectiles into urban areas. They blame the Tripoli-based militias of firing on their own residents in a desperate act in face of defeat.
The Tripoli-based militias accuse the Tarhuna forces of, on the one hand, being remnants of the Qaddafi fighting forces, and at the same time of supporting the ‘‘Islamists’’ of former Libya Dawn prime minister Khalifa Ghwell and the former Libyan Fighting Group.
The Tarhuna forces refute these accusations, insisting they merely want to liberate Tripoli from the corrupt letters of credit militias. They also distanced themselves from Khalifa Hafter’s Karama movement and Libyan National Army (LNA) and former Libya Dawn and Somood commander, Salah Badi, who joined the fighting and made his way to the edge of Tripoli.
Whatever the truth is, the infringement of the ceasefire by unconfirmed parties, has led to both sets of protagonists abandoning the ceasefire tonight. The situation is fluid with much cat and mouse fighting, but the Tarhua forces seem to be making advances in their positions and the Tripoli militias, with some support from some Misrata militias, have failed to push back the Tarhua forces. Indeed, it seems the Tarhuna forces are making steady progress into the capital.
Fighting has been reported on a multiplicity of fronts between the Tarhuna forces and the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigades, Ghenewa Kikli’s Central Deterrence Forces and the Halbous 301 brigade in Airport Road, Khalat al-Furjan and Salah al-Deen.
Meanwhile, the Tripoli Airport Road fuel storage tanks were hit by a projectile. They are leaking fuel but not on fire as the fuel depot’s loud alarms sound and nearby residents are urged to leave their homes. Smoke was also reported at Tripoli International Airport. It will be recalled that both sites were the victims of the 2014 militia war too.
The Tarhuna forces criticised Serraj for attempting to ‘‘buy them out’’ during mediation talks, claiming he had offered them US$ 250 to withdraw from their south Tripoli positions and return to their hometown. They claim they refused this ‘‘bribe’’ and insisted on the Tripoli militias being disbanded in favour of creating unified national army and police forces. When this condition was not met, they vowed to continue fighting until they clear Tripoli from the corrupt letters of credit militia gangs – as well as Serraj himself.
Tonight, Tripoli is in a precarious situation as rumours of Tripoli militias withdrawing or abandoning positions circulate or their leaders fleeing the country, in the real fear of the Tarhuna brigade taking over the capital.