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Libyan Presidential Council Seizes Control of West as Sewehli Escalates Anti-Haftar Rhetoric

Libyan Presidential Council Seizes Control of West as Sewehli Escalates Anti-Haftar Rhetoric

Saturday, 11 November, 2017 - 07:45
Members of the Libyan National Army gesture during clashes in the Khreibish district in Benghazi, Libya, November 9, 2017. (Reuters)

The Libyan Presidential Council of the National Accord government imposed its control of the western part of the country after completely capturing the region of Warshefana.

The achievement coincided with a war of words by High Council of the State chairman Abdulrahman Sewehli against National Army commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The capture of Warshefana, which lies 30 kms south of Tripoli, blocks all attempts of infiltration to the capital. It was seized after ten days of fierce battles between the forces of the commander of the western region Osama al-Juwaili and the “Tripoli Rebels” brigade, which is loyal to Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, against the National Army.

Sarraj voiced on Thursday night his satisfaction with the “cleansing of Warshefana from criminals”, warning “outlaws and mercenaries” that they will not no longer be allowed in the region.

Addressing the people in wake of his forces’ victory, he declared: “The locals, who abandoned their homes and region due to the spread of crime, will be able to return once again.”

He revealed that security forces, the police and state institutions have been ordered to resume their duties in there.

Warshefana is the second region, after Sabratha, that has been seized by Sarraj’s forces. Sabratha was liberated on October 7. These two developments appear as a clear challenge to vows he had made to Haftar as he inches close to Tripoli.

Army spokesman Ahmed al-Masmari had pledged to liberate Tripoli from “militias in order to end the state of division should political dialogue fail.”

Haftar had on October 14 declared before his forces that the army now controls 1.73 million kms of Libyan territory and 30,000 kms only remain.

His rivals have however questioned the claims, saying that several regions are not loyal to the National Army.

Meanwhile, Sewehli seemed to have abandoned his previous caution, launching a critical verbal attack against Haftar, speaking on more than one occasion of “terrible war crimes” being committed in the areas under the field marshal’s control in eastern Libya.

In a letter to the foreign minister in the National Accord government, he protested against Libyan Ambassador to the United Nations Elmahdi Elmajerbi’s “deliberate failure” to mention the Derna and Abyar crimes before the Security Council on Wednesday.

“This is a disregard to the lives of dozens of women, children and men that were lost in these crimes,” he said in his letter to FM Mohammed Taher al-Siala.

Elmajerbi’s speech before the Security Council “did not rise to the expectations of our people, who have been waiting for accountability in systematic war crimes and human rights violations that have been committed in the past months.”

Furthermore, the UN ambassador claimed that Libyan judicial and security institutions were capable of imposing the law “and this totally untrue,” continued Sewehli.

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