Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Libya: Sarraj Appoints New Military Commander in Sabha

Libya: Sarraj Appoints New Military Commander in Sabha

Thursday, 7 February, 2019 - 08:15
Members of the Tripoli Protection Force patrol an area south of the Libyan capital on January 18, 2019. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj upped his criticism of the military operation launched by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), to liberate the south amid fears of renewed clashes between militias in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Sarraj appointed a new military commander for the south’s main city of Sabha, as he seeks to take control of al-Sharara, the country’s biggest oil field, ahead of Haftar.

The Presidential Council, chaired by Sarraj, demanded in a statement Tuesday the immediate halt of all military operations in the south, saying the area requires joint efforts to end the hardships of its people.

Sarraj appointed Lieutenant General Ali Kana as Commander of Sabha Military Region, the government announced on its Facebook page.

Haftar, whose forces are closing in on controlling the south, has pushed further into the region as part of a large scale operation aimed at liberating it from criminal gangs, terrorists, and Chadian opposition fighters.

The LNA accuses the Chadian opposition of trying to expand its influence in southern cities through the transfer of arms and human trafficking.

The Army Information Division announced the arrival of “new military reinforcements to support the army operation in the south.

LNA spokesman Khalifa al-Obeidi said the new force, which is heading from Benghazi to al-Jafra base in the south, is “fully equipped.”

Observers believe that Haftar and Sarraj are racing to regain control of Sharara field, after Fezzan Rage Movement announced a group of gunmen tried to storm the field. 

Earlier, Commander of the Western Military Region Major General Osama Joueili declared that a unit of the oil fields guard were relocated to Sharara field.

The Libyan Observatory website quoted Joueili as saying that members of this unit have been assigned to protect Sharara field since 2012, but later stopped. Ordered by Sarraj, the unit moved to the south due to the recurring security breaches which prompted putting the field under force majeure.

The Major General estimated the losses as a result of halted production to be more than one billion dollars.

In addition, the 301st Infantry Battalion announced it is redeploying its members south of Tripoli within the framework of the implementation of security arrangements approved by the government and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). It came after recent clashes between militias in the capital that resulted in the death of 16 people.

The Battalion said in a statement on Wednesday evening that it received orders from higher authorities to secure and stabilize the areas and locations assigned to it, indicating that it is ready to support all other security and legitimate military forces.

In other news, the Derna branch of the Libyan Red Crescent said it had retrieved four unidentified bodies from the Old City of Derna.

The Red Crescent indicated that it recovered the bodies after a tip-off from local sources, pointing out that the bodies were handed over to the competent authorities to complete procedures.

Meanwhile, LNA spokesman General Ahmed al-Mesmari warned there was a plan to establish an extremist state in southern Libya and neighboring countries.

Mesmari was speaking at a press conference in Benghazi, east of Libya, according to al-Wasat website.

The spokesman indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood rejects elections over fears it will lose the race as it did in the parliamentary polls.

Mesmari also condemned Qatar's al-Jazeera channel for leading a smear campaign against Libya’s National Army, calling on citizens to trust the General Command and Armed Forces.

He pointed out that the region from Sabha to Ubari, southern Libya, is under the control of the army, noting that Sarraj has no authority there.

Editor Picks