Libya makes gains against ISIS but internal discord threatens progress
TUNIS - Militias aligned with forces of Libya’s internationally supported government have rolled back gains made by the Islamic State (ISIS) in the central Sirte region but it has come at a price with 150 fighters killed and more than 600 wounded.
The Government of National Accord (GNA) praised the fighters for their sacrifices in Sirte and urged Libyans to fight terrorism across the country. It pledged better treatment for the wounded after relatives of some fighters staged protests over the lack of medicine and hospital staff shortages.
Infighting and rivalries among various militias and officials are said to threaten progress on the battlefield despite GNA spokesman Mohamed al-Ghassri optimistically saying: “The operation to clear Sirte from Daesh will not last much longer.” Daesh is an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
The Libyan National Army headed by General Khalifa Haftar is in open conflict with Islamist militias from western Libya. This could lead to broader strife because of tribal and regional structures involving the army and Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), secular militias temporarily allied with the Misrata militia
PFG commander Ibrahim Jadhran is reported to be manipulating the shutting of oil ports under the control of his forces, though he had pledged allegiance to the GNA.
Conflict over control of the oil wealth was exacerbated by House of Representatives Speaker Ageela Saleh appointing army chief of staff Abderrazak Nadhouri as military head of the oil-rich region stretching from Derna to Bin Jawad.
Adding to the discord was influential Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadiq al- Ghariani telling Islamist militias to fight Haftar and his forces.
“I call for attacking the oppressors, I urged the revolutionaries to head to Benghazi after Sirte… to fight Haftar and his soldiers only. [Muammar] Qaddafi’s former brigades have joined Haftar’s forces to practise oppression, tyranny and injustice on people,” he said, referring to the country’s dictator who was deposed and killed in 2011.
As the war of words and on the battlefield continues so do economic troubles for ordinary Libyans.
Most banks in the country have lacked cash for months and food prices have skyrocketed due to the soaring currency value of the Libyan dinar on the black market.
Power cuts have hit most of the capital Tripoli and parts of southern Libya have endured total blackouts. People in several parts of the country have become accustomed to the sound of generators running day and night, a far cry from when Libyan exported electricity to neighbouring countries.
The government has vowed to tackle the power outages, acknowledging the influence of militias in control of the electricity grid.