Possibility of Tripoli Clashes Stokes Fear amid Talks to Unite Libya’s Military

Possibility of Tripoli Clashes Stokes Fear amid Talks to Unite Libya’s Military

Tuesday, 20 March, 2018 - 08:45
People gather at the scene where a car bomb exploded late on Saturday close to the recently re-opened Italian embassy in Tripoli, Libya January 21, 2017. Picture taken January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer
Cairo – Khaled Mahmoud
Fear of rising confrontations pitting armed militias overrunning the Libyan capital Tripoli against each other has increased over recent days, well-informed local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Army officers sitting for meetings in Cairo, in hopes of reuniting the war-torn country’s military, have also reportedly attempted convincing former Defense Minister Mohammed al-Barghouthi to become the next army commander-in-chief. But any confirmation is tied to achieving collective consensus.

“Officers from the Cairo meeting called me to ask about my opinion on restructuring the army and the proposition on two people assisting the commander-in-chief," Barghouthi said.
The country needs a unified military institution, Barghouthi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“There cannot be a state under a divided army, three governments and two parliaments. These divisions must come end, and the army must unite under one government to prepare for upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections and a constitutional referendum,” he added in his support for Cairo efforts.

What is known as the Baqarah battalion, led by Bashir al-Baqarah, is currently mobilizing its troops and in Tripoli, in anticipation of a new round of battles against rival militias loyal to the Government of National Accord, military officials told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Based on the Baqarah militia’s deployment, clashes could break out in Tripoli within days. Baqarah militants, who include extremist fighters fleeing the eastern region, are likely preparing to attack the base of Mitiga International Airport, the only airport in western Libya,” said a military officer.

“They have workshops operating around the clock to prepare machinery,” another security official said about the Baqarah militias’ stronghold activity in Tajura, the eastern suburb of Tripoli.

Speaking under conditions of anonymity, the official said the moves might be aimed at shuffling cards further and thwarting any effort to unify the army—a much anticipated end goal of meetings sponsored by the Egyptian authorities.

In the meantime, the Tripoli-based Supreme Security Committee warned of what it described as ‘malicious attempts inciting sedition to destabilize security’.

The body went on to condemn any exploitation of the right to demonstrate and the needs of people to achieve personal agendas.

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