Weekly Security Report by SNE Special Projects 20th May 2014

Given recent developments,   the situation across the whole of Libya remains extremely uncertain; any non-essential   travel plans should be reconsidered.

On 18 May 2014, the General National Congress (GNC) building   was attacked by heavily armed forces directed by Major General Khalifa   Heftar, which took over control of the parliament. Heftar, who is also responsible   for leading a massive assault ostensibly against extremist groups in Benghazi   on the 16 May 2014, has since stated that the GNC has been suspended, and   that the sixty-member Constitutional Assembly will govern in its place, along   with the current interim government headed by Abdullah al Thinni, which will   continue to act on an emergency basis until fresh elections can be held for   the legislative body. It is currently unclear whether Heftar’s plan will be   implemented, but while Justice Minister Saleh al Marghani has insisted the   government remains in control of the GNC, calling Heftar’s attack an   “attempted coup”, but it currently appears unlikely that the GNC will   continue to operate following the attack. Heftar has rejected allegations   that he has led a coup attempt, arguing that his forces are not seeking to   take power for themselves, but to reassign power to a more legitimate   body.  While Heftar has been outspoken   for several months about the increasing Islamist influence within the GNC and   the need for its termination, it is possible that the decision to take   control by force was motivated in part by the vote that was scheduled for 18   May 2014, to confirm the proposed government led by recently elected Prime   Minister Ahmed Miitig. While Miitig was elected to the GNC as an independent   and has denied alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood backed Justice and   Construction Party (JCP), he is widely viewed as an Islamist candidate.   Following the attack on the GNC, Heftar’s forces claimed to have detained a   number of GNC members; while reports that GNC President Nouri Abu Sahmain was   one of those detained were later denied, there has been no further news   regarding those captured during the attack. A spokesperson for Heftar’s   forces claimed that they had arrested a number of GNC representatives due to   their involvement in “supporting terrorist activities”.  In the short-term, however, very little   governing is likely to take place, as the attack at the GNC sparked clashes   which quickly spread across the capital, illustrating Tripoli’s volatile,   militia-ridden landscape. The worst violence was reported from the   south-western districts of Hay al Akhwakh and Abu Salim, where the   Zintan-based Qaaqaa and Sawaiq brigades clashed with forces from Tripoli   Military Council (TMC), allegedly backed up by an Abu Salim-based Islamist   brigade. Local sources claimed that grenades were launched towards   residential buildings, and heavy exchanges of gunfire were heard for several   hours. The fighting also spread along Airport Road. Sources within the   Zintani brigades have indicated that reinforcements had been called from   Zintan to back up the forces in Tripoli. The Zintan troops are believed to be   aligned to some extent with Heftar’s forces, in that both groupings have   opposed the GNC, and some reports suggested that Zintani militiamen were   involved in the storming of the GNC building.   Clashes were also reported   from the eastern area of Ben Ashour, which later spread to Suq al Juma   towards the Mitiga Airbase, a stronghold of Misratan brigades. Misratan   forces outside of the capital have stated that they will deploy to Tripoli in   support of the government, after GNC President Abu Sahmain requested that the   Misratan-based Libya Shield Force safeguard the city. The Mitiga Airbase is   likely to be a focal point of future clashes, as Abdullah Naker, a prominent   Zintan Brigade leader, requested that civilian residents in the area   surrounding the Airbase evacuate, suggesting his forces intend to assault the   base. Thus far, reports have claimed that up to ten people have died during   the clashes in Tripoli, with up to 100 more being injured, but accurate   reports are extremely hard to come by.    With extra forces from all sides being called to the capital, further   clashes are possible. Particular caution should be afforded to the central   areas where government buildings are located, particularly in the Zawiyat al   Dahmani district, as well as the south-western districts and suburbs along   Airport Road, and the eastern suburbs towards the Mitiga Airbase. However,   there is potential for conflict to break out anywhere in the city, as   criminal elements may seek to exploit the chaos to their advantage.

SNE advises against all non-essential travel at this time.  We are continuing to assess the situation on
an hourly basis and more will be known in the next 24 hours.  If you require further advice please contact
our in-Country team +218 911 713972 or email
[email protected]

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