Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

A guide to the main groups in Libya

Al-Ahram Weekly

Libya has historically been made up of a complicated patchwork of tribes and regional loyalties. Since the revolution and the subsequent fall of former strongman Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, however, that intricate patchwork has become even more complicated.

A large number of groups and militias, with various degrees of allegiance to the central government and different agendas, have sprung up. The last few weeks have seen an explosion of activity, with many of the armed groups launching attacks.

Major institutions

General National Congress: The GNC or parliament, Libya’s highest political authority, includes 200 members elected in July 2012. It is dominated by Islamists and has been criticised for giving Islamist militias legitimacy by assigning them security tasks as part of efforts to restore security in post-revolutionary Libya.

The government: A victim of GNC political wrangling, the government regularly complains about its lack of powers, particularly in security matters. Former premier Ali Zeidan tried to stand up to the GNC and was ousted in March. He was replaced by Abdullah Al-Thani, who resigned a few weeks later. In early May, the GNC elected a new premier, Ahmed Miitig, who was due to present his cabinet for approval last week. Libya’s embattled government has now proposed that parliament go into recess in a bid to stave off a possible descent into renewed civil war.

The army: Still being trained and heavily outgunned by former rebel groups that raided the arsenals of the Gaddafi regime. Some groups have joined the army’s ranks but retain their own commanders and look after their own interests.

Armed groups in Benghazi

The “National Army”: This is not to be confused with the actual national army and is a paramilitary force created and run by retired former general Khalifa Haftar. Several army officers, including from the air force, deployed at bases in the east have joined him. The authorities in Tripoli have accused the National Army of trying to mount a coup.

February 17 Martyrs and Rafallah Al-Sahati Brigades: Two powerful militias officially under defence ministry control and tasked with several missions, particularly in the south. However, they are generally considered to be largely independent of the Libyan central command and follow a more Islamist-led agenda than the National Army.

Ansar Al-Sharia Brigades: Classified by Washington as a terrorist organisation, this group is suspected of involvement in targeting officers and soldiers and in the September 2012 attack on the US consulate that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Ansar Al-Sharia also has branches in the eastern town of Derna, Sirte in central Libya and Sabratha in the west. The group has said that some of its fighters were killed in the recent Benghazi clashes.

Cyrenaica Force: Its members support a federal government and seek autonomy for eastern Libya. It includes guards from petroleum installations who have blockaded oil terminals.

Armed groups around Tripoli

Zintan’s Al-Qaaqaa and Al-Sawaiq Brigades: Formed in the western town of Zintan, these are well established in the capital, controlling the airport and several military sites, and are seen as among the best armed and most disciplined groups. Hostile to the Islamist groups, they are considered by their rivals as the armed wing of the secular movement. Officially under defence ministry control, they claimed an 18 May attack on the GNC and demand its dissolution.

Operations Cell of the Libyan Revolutionaries and Libya Shield Force: This is comprised of several Islamist militias considered to be the armed wing of Islamist groups within the GNC.

Misrata militias: Like their rivals from Zintan, these groups from the coastal town of Misrata are seen as among the best armed and most powerful of the militia groups. Some have joined other groups, like the Libya Shield Force or the Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries, but often only to protect the interests of their hometowns. Unlike the Zintan groups, they defend the GNC’s legitimacy.

(Source: Middle East Eye)

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