At dawn on Friday, violent clashes erupted in the Al-Takbali camp in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, between the 444th Battalion Brigade of the Western Region Staff Command and the Stability Support Organization militia of the Presidential Council, in the latest round of the struggle for influence.
Informed sources told Al-Arab that “warlord Abdul-Ghani (Ghaniwa) al-Kikli, who leads the stability support militia, pushed his elements to take control of the camp headquarters of the Tripoli Military District, located in the Salah al-Din neighborhood, 10 km south of the center, taking advantage of the opportunity to move most of the elements of Brigade 444 to the valleys and forests of Bani Walid and Tarhuna.
The sources pointed out that fierce clashes were witnessed at the gate of the camp and the surrounding areas, in which medium and heavy weapons were used, and that the 444th Brigade summoned its forces outside the capital to join the battle, implementing a bypass plan, through which it succeeded in defeating the Stability Support Militia and capturing a number of its members whose identities were revealed in a video posted on Friday morning.
The sources also confirmed that the confrontations resulted in the killing of two members of the 444th Brigade and another of the Stability Support Militia, in addition to a number of injuries of varying severity on both sides.
Observers believe that al-Takbali’s clashes revealed the depth of the rift within the militia front in Tripoli and the conflicts known to the military front of the Presidential Council and the Government of National Unity, which were evident from the reactions after the battle stopped, while others spoke of a rebellion operation that the Tripoli Military Zone affiliated with the Council tried to implement against the General Staff of the government of Abdul Hamid Dabaiba.
Muhammad al-Haddad, chief of the General Staff of the army, appointed by Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba, chief of the ground staff, and a member of the 5 + 5 Joint Military Committee, Vittori Ghribel, went to the headquarters of Brigade 444 to check on the conditions inside the al-Takbali camp and the Tripoli military district, after the attack launched by Presidential Council forces.
Al-Haddad praised the courage of the 444th Brigade and its ability to confront the attack, which he described as treacherous, which indicates the support that the aforementioned brigade receives from the government, while local media sources attributed the Stability Support Militia attack to the presence of Syrian mercenaries in the ranks of the 444th Brigade.
The local newspaper, Al-Marsad, quoted unidentified sources from the Stabilization Support Service as saying that the background of the problem is that the 444th Brigade embraced the Syrian mercenaries in the Yarmouk camp in Salah al-Din, after what they blocked the road last week.
The source said, “The Syrians in the entire region from al-Takbali to the Police College and Yarmouk are under the protection of 444 and it is no longer acceptable for them to stay there, despite repeated calls to stop harboring them.”
“They have to get the Syrians out of the region peacefully and immediately, and stop wasting millions on them, and we don’t want anyone’s blood to be spilled,” he added.
In turn, Abdel Baset Marwan, commander of the so-called Tripoli Military District, said that the decision to storm the camp was taken because of what he considered deviations within the brigade under its control. We noticed that the brigade deviated from its job and refused to comply with military orders, in addition to attending meetings that they were not allowed to attend.”
Marwan continued in a videotape published on Friday, saying that “the 444th Brigade has no independent responsibility, and its members are affiliated with the Financial Division of the Tripoli Military District. We were surprised they opened a special account with money estimated at 10 million Libyan dinars (2.2 million US dollars), We contacted the bank and asked that they close the account, but the money already been withdrawn.”
Marwan explained, “The situation had to be corrected. On Thursday, Lt. Col. Mahmoud Hamza went to the Intelligence Department asking for permission to leave for Turkey, without informing the region’s commander. He left at nine Thursday evening. We assigned the rescue company to take control of the arms depot because there are individuals who have been recruited who have nothing to do with the military at the headquarters, and we have previously warned about that, to no avail.”
Marwan added that he bears responsibility for the attack, calling on the Presidential Council, in its capacity as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, to open an investigation in this regard.
Marwan’s statements raised a number of questions about the nature of the meetings that Hamza was attending without the knowledge of the Tripoli Military District and whether the General Staff is a party to it? Is it related to the activities of the Joint Military Commission? And the millions that were pumped into the account of the 444th Brigade and withdrawn Thursday? And the secret of the brigade commander’s trip to Turkey?
The militia of the Stabilization Support Service, which was formed by a decision of the Chief of Staff in western Libya, Muhammad al-Haddad, last January, undertook the implementation of the attack on the al-Takbali camp. The militia leader, Abdul Ghani al-Kikli, who was also appointed as a national security advisor by the outgoing Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj, was entrusted with the implementation of the attack on al-Takbali camp.
But the 444 militia repelled the attack, and continued to advance after it regained control of parts of the Salah al-Din area and the Tripoli Military District, and chased the fugitives with “Simafro College of the Plateau” near the Oia clinic. A vehicle belonging to the Stabilization Support Organization was also burned.
Abdul Malik Al-Madani, spokesman for the media office of the so-called “Operation Volcano of Rage” formed by the militias of the western region, claimed that “a rebellion attempt inside the capital, Tripoli, led by a group of soldiers and with the support of allied gangs, was thwarted, after they tried to control the Al-Takbali camp and implement an external scheme, But the men of the homeland were on the lookout for them and inflicted heavy losses on them and were able to capture dozens.”
Al-Madani added, through his account on the social networking site Facebook, “This is not the first time that the gangs’ alliance has destabilized security inside the capital, but it is the first time that a number of military officers have been involved in this rebellion.”
Militias threaten the safety of civilians
Circles from inside Tripoli indicate that there are cracks within the militia front, especially between the battalions of the Presidential Council and its pro-government counterpart. What happened on Friday reveals the extent of the differences related to centers of influence and the struggle over legitimacy within blocs dominated by militia.
The Arab Organization for Human Rights in Libya called for a ceasefire in the Salah al-Din region, south of Tripoli, expressing concern about the outbreak of fighting on Friday. In a statement, the organization expressed its regret at the inability of the National Unity Government to control the movements of these armed formations within neighborhoods crowded with civilians, stressing that ensuring the safety of civilians is the responsibility of the National Unity Government.
It stressed that the resurgence of armed conflicts in more than one area during the past weeks poses an imminent threat to the safety of hundreds of thousands of civilians in a number of those cities as a result of the use of multiple types of medium and heavy weapons.