Libya: Islamists Move Battle to the South as Extremists Allied with the Chadian Opposition Take Control of Marzuk

ThumbnailUnprecedented security tension sits in the southwestern Libyan city of Marzuk after it was seized by extremist groups allied with the Chadian opposition at the behest of Islamists on the al-Wefaq government, specifically the commander of the western region, Osama al-Jouili.

Libya’s political Islamist movement, hidden behind the Al-Wefaq government, insists on moving the battle with the Libyan army from Tripoli in the west to the south, using Chadian opposition gangs,  feeding the ethnic conflict between the Tabu component and Arab tribes.

On Sunday, the Southern Protection Force (UNIFIL) militia, led by Hassan Musa of a tabu tribe backed by Chadian opposition elements, took control of the town of Marzuk, about a week after the army, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, recaptured the strategic city in southern Libya.

Local media reported that the militias had committed crimes against humanity and the homes of the city’s Arab residents had been burned and destroyed. Talal Al-Mehoub, chairman of the Defence and National Security Committee of the Libyan parliament, said the “Chadian militias”, which burned houses in the city of Marzuk, receive direct funding from the government of Fayez al-Sarraj.

“We have consistent information on these terrorist groups receiving funding from the government of Al-Sarraj and the Central Bank, where oil money comes to the central bank, and these militias are financed by Osama al-Jouili, commander of the western military region,” he said.

“The Presidential Council has become a terrorist council, not a council of reconciliation, and it does not represent Libya, especially since the council is unconstitutional, lacks its legitimacy from all directions, sponsors terrorism, and represents a danger to Libya and the region in general,” al-Mehoub said.

“The Libyan army is professionally dealing with mercenaries in southern Libya, and it will respond strongly and firmly, and it will try Al-Sarraj for the crimes he committed by supporting terrorist militias coming from outside Libya,” he said.  Observers believe that the army has withdrawn a number of its forces in southern cities to take part in the battle to liberate Tripoli, creating a security vacuum exploited by militias.

Since the beginning of August, the city of Marzuk has been experiencing security tension soured by repeated attacks by the Southern Protection Force militia, which is made up of remnants of terrorist groups expelled by the army from Benghazi and Derna, as well as elements loyal to former oil guard commander Ibrahim al-Jadaran. The militia is allied with Chadian opposition gangs working to change the demographic map of the south in cooperation with the Libyan Tabu, which is being addressed by individual Arab tribes as the Presidential Council ignores this phenomenon, which led them to support the army’s control over Fezzan.

According to Libyan sources, at least 90 civilians have been killed since the start of the events in the city, and more than 200 others have been injured as a result of violent clashes that escalated in August.

The Defence and National Security Committee called on the international community, the United Nations mission and the Arab League to take all measures against terrorist financing operations in Libya and to take positions against those who finance terrorist groups because they pose a threat to international peace and security.

The Presidential Council of the government of Al-Wefaq is silent about these dangerous developments taking place in the city, as it has not taken control of the city, apparently due to differences within the government of reconciliation.

However, municipal council member Marzzak Atika Bashir confirmed that the attacking forces carried the flag of the  Southern Protection Force,  which belongs to the Presidential Council of the government of Al-Wefaq, stressing that the aim of these operations is to take revenge on the Arabs in the city and implement the demographic change plan that became clear after 2011.

MP Said Amghaib warned of the danger of the scheme targeting southern Libya. He stressed that after the fall of Marzuk, all the south-west and its inhabitants are in danger and its people reject division and are united and to confront this imminent danger, calling on the people to stand together in the face of any plan targeting the south, the source of oil and bounty.

In January, the Libyan army launched a military operation that ended with near-total control of the entire south (Fezzan province), including the country’s two largest oil fields. Observers do not rule out that the Islamists’ goal of destabilizing the south is to extract oil fields from the military to weaken its position in possible potential future talks.

Since the army launched the Tripoli liberation operation on April 4th, Islamists have been trying to open a new front in the south to vent their besieged forces in the capital.

In early May, the Justice and Construction Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, called on the presidential council to speed up its control of the southern region.

The Justice and Construction Party urged the Presidential Council to assign a military zone to Sabha and an anti-terrorism force to gain control of all areas of the south, which means igniting a new war with the army, which has been in control of the region since February.

Al Arab