Weekly Security Reporty by SNE 26 August 2014

An interesting week in Libya with the Islamist militias challenging the legitimacy of the new House of Representatives (HoR) who are currently sitting in Tobruk after seizing control of Tripoli international airport on the 23 August away from the Zintan militia group who have held it since the end of the 2011 revolution. Earlier in the week the HoR branded the various militia groups within Libya as "terrorists”. The Misrata militia group, who are considered by most as the strongest independent group within Libya at present, captured the capital's international airport after a battle lasting over a month. Islamist-affiliated forces from Misrata and other cities took over the airport from the Zintan militia, which have held it for three years. Violence in Libya has surged recently between the rival groups who overthrew the former regime of Gadhafi in the 2011 uprising. Tripoli international airport, Libya's largest, has been closed for over 5 weeks now because of the fighting and hundreds of people have died since the fighting broke out in Tripoli in July.

Also in the early hours of Sunday 24 August there were new reports of airstrikes in Tripoli hitting the Islamist 'Operation Dawn' forces in the Al Fallah and Al Akwakh districts of Tripoli. The strikes were reportedly directed at several Islamist positions, including at the Ministry of Interior HQ and the Chief of Staff office. While heavy casualties were believed to be incurred, the Islamist militias did not retreat and continued to hold the territory in the area.

The debate over the new House of Representative (HoR) continues within Libya and there were more demonstrations after aser, early evening prayer on Friday “For and Against” the House of Representatives (HoR) in a number of towns and cities all over Libya.

In the Ghoat Shaal area of western Tripoli demonstrators marched to the Tripoli Headquarters of the UN where they read out a statement supporting the HoR and called for an end of the fighting in Tripoli by militias and called for a regular army and police. A similar demonstration took place in Benghazi opposite the Tibesti hotel in support of the HoR, the regular army and police and against militias and terrorism.

On the other hand, a better organized and a larger demonstration took place in Martyr Square, Tripoli, which rejected the legitimacy of the HoR and condemned its call for international intervention. It condemned the air raids against the Libya Dawn militias, condemned Haftar’s Dignity Operation in eastern Libya, declared their support for Libya Dawn and called for the formation of a government from the real thuwar (revolutionaries). There was also a large demonstration in Misrata, as well as reports of demonstrations in Sirte, Sebha and Ghirian

The airstrikes set fire to a warehouse, which may have been used for weapons storage. Two of the wounded were reportedly sons of Ibrahim Bin Rajab, the head of Misrata's military council. General Khalifa Haftar's air force claimed responsibility for similar airstrikes on fighters in Tripoli last week. Haftar has been targeting armed fighters as rival militias have been fighting among each other for dominance in Tripoli.

Most of the residents in the worst-affected areas of the city have already moved out to neighbouring areas of Tripoli, other cities within Libya or even neighbouring countries such as Tunisia where they may have family. Tripoli Local Council’s crisis committee claimed that around 43,500 people have now been displaced since the start of this new series of fighting.

Following advances made by Operation Dignity forces against Ansar al Sharia throughout 19 and 20 August in Benghazi, heavy clashes have continued in the Bu Atni and Laithi districts, although it does not appear that the “front lines” have changed since three military bases were retaken by Saiqa Special Forces troops. Sporadic clashes have also broken out in the southern districts, with several air strikes also being noted, one of which damaged a pipeline leading to a water cut in most of the south of the city.

Tribal and military groups in the rest of the country have also become increasingly involved with the current power struggles in Tripoli and Benghazi, a council of elders from the southern region of Fezzan confirmed its support for the House of Representatives, indicating backing for anti-Islamist forces in both main cities. Authorities in Tunisia and Egypt confirmed on 21 August 2014, that most flights to and from Libya would be suspended, due to concerns that airports in western Libya are operating outside of government control.

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