Libya Situation Update: 18–21 February

  1. 18 FEB: A number of tribal sheikhs and LNA military leaders from the Al-Awaqir Tribe met in the Suluq area 50km south-west of Benghazi to endorse LNA 204 Tank Battalion Commander, Mahdi Ibrahim al-Burghathi, for the position of Defense Minister in the GNA Cabinet. Those who attended the meeting included Abriq Bouali al-Louati, a prominent al-Awaqir tribal sheikh, Salah Bulgheib, commander of military intelligence, Lt. Faraj Aqaim, commander of Counter-terrorism for the HoR Interior Ministry, and Ayad al-Fassi, commander of the “Awliya al-Dum” Battalion. (Facebook)

2. 18–21 FEB: A mortar round crashed into a civilian home in Sabha on 18 February as tensions between the Awlad Suleiman and Ghaddadfa tribes within the city continue to rise, breaking into heavy clashes between the groups in the Manshiya district of the city on 20 February.The casualty count rose to 3 killed and 35 wounded on the 17 February anniversary of the 2011 Libyan Revolution, due to sniper and mortar attacks in the Manshiya district, allegedly conducted by Pro-Ghaddafi tribesman. Local authorities have attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate with those responsible for the attacks. The HoR published a statement condemning the attacks. On 21 February, the Hasawna Tribe attempted to mediate for a ceasefire to end ongoing clashes. (Fezzan Libya Media Group)(Fezzan Libya Media Group)(HoR Statement)(Libya Herald)(Fezzan Libya Media Group)

3. 18–19 FEB: MSC Derna forces advanced against IS forces as the latter retreated to the middle the 400 Neighborhood in Derna under heavy artillery fire. MSC Derna forces also seized several positions on al-Salat( الصالات) Street and in the Workshops (الورش) area south of Sahal al-Sharqiya in the city. MSC Derna published a video showing its forces fighting urban street battles against IS in the 400 Neighborhood, using a T-55 Tank, APC, and mortars. Separately, on 19 February Officials from the LNA Omar al-Mukhtar Operations Room claimed that LNA fighters have begun to engage IS militants in the Fatih area of Derna.This is the closest that LNA troops have advanced to Derna for almost a year. (al-Wasat)(MSC Derna Media)(Libya Herald)

4. 19–20 FEB: U.S. defense officials confirmed that an American aircraft based out of RAF Lakenheath targeted IS militants including Noreddine Chouchane, a Tunisian involved in both the Sousse and Bardo attacks on 19 February. The strike destroyed a farmhouse southwest of Sabratha, killing at least 45. Two Serbian Embassy Diplomats kidnapped in November 2015 were also allegedly killed in the attack, making it likely that the two had been kidnapped by IS forces. The Pentagon claims that the farmhouse was being used by IS as a training facility for foreign fighters and that “the Libyan government” was notified of the attack in advance. It is unclear which government was notified, but GNC Prime Minister Khalifa al-Gwell confirmed that the Tripoli government received no such warning. No reporting has emerged regarding the success of the attack, although IS documents were found in the debris. The HoR condemned the US airstrike against IS in Sabratha on 20 February, claiming that they were not informed of the strikes beforehand. (CNN)(BuzzFeed)(Twitter)(Pentagon Statement)(Twitter)(Long War Journal)(BBC)(Libya Herald)(Libya Observer)(Libya Herald)(Libyan News 1)(al-Wasat)

5. 20 FEB: The Sabratha Military Council released a statement announcing that it would mobilize its forces in order to protect local citizens and their properties from IS in the town, condemning those who sheltered members of the terrorist group. (Libya Observer)

6. 21 FEB: IS fighters, allegedly of Tunisian and Moroccan origin, conducted a failed IED attack on the municipal council building in the city of Zlitan, heightening security. A local citizen was also found executed, and his body thrown into a local store. (al-Wasat)

7. 21 FEB: MSC Derna released a statement applauding a recent effort by a GNC committee to change existing Libyan laws to comply more explicitly with Sharia Law.The group reiterated its forces will support whomever is willing to base all laws for the country off Sharia Law as the sole source of legislation. (Libya Observer)

8. 21 FEB: Unidentified attackers detonated an IED at the Chadian Martyrs Office in the center of Zawiya. No casualties were reported. (Afrigate)

9. 21 FEB: Unidentified (possibly foreign) warplanes struck a ship allegedly carrying ammunition and weapons for IS off the coast of Sabratha. (Libya’s Channel)(Levantine Group)(Afrigate)(Libya 24 TV)

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