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Exclusive - Tripoli Gripped by Fear as Libyan National Army Marches on Capital

Exclusive - Tripoli Gripped by Fear as Libyan National Army Marches on Capital

Saturday, 6 April, 2019 - 07:45
LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari points at the Libya map during a new conference in Benghazi, Libya on April 4, 2019. (Reuters)
Cairo – Jamal Jawhar
The residents of the Libyan capital Tripoli have been gripped by fear that the Libyan National Army (LNA), of commander Khalifa Haftar, would storm their city after it declared a push west to eliminate terrorist groups.

The capital has witnessed a sudden spike in prices of goods. Militias, some of which are affiliated with Fayez al-Sarraj’s Presidential Council, and others linked to the so-called Fajr Libya alliance went on high alert for what they described as the “coming war”.

Several citizens detailed to Asharq Al-Awsat the security arrangements that have been taken by the militias, especially those coming from the coastal city of Misrata that lies 200 kilometers east of the capital.

A resident from the Misrata suburbs said that the al-Somoud brigade, led by Salah Badi, had mobilized towards southern Tripoli. Badi is a former commander of the Fajr Libya alliance.

The resident, who took part in the 2011 uprising that ousted long-time ruler Moammar al-Gaddafi from power, revealed that the arms that were used in the revolt have now been taken out again to defend the capital.

“Several civilians have taken out the medium weapons, which they had hidden in their houses, in order to defend themselves,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Misrata boasts six brigades that comprise 200 units. They also have weapons caches in several regions. Local and international reports said that the weapons range from tanks to various rockets and medium arms.

According to a 2012 census, 1 million people reside in Tripoli. The majority suffer from economic hardships and complain of abuses committed by the militias that have taken over banks and judicial and public authorities. The impending war on the capital will only exacerbate the suffering, said some observers.

A resident of the southeastern neighborhood of al-Shok, Hamid bin al-Warith told Asharq Al-Awsat that the locals are in a state of panic and fear of war.

This has forced several residents to flee from areas south of Tripoli to areas to its west and east because they are more secure.

“The Muslim Brotherhood militias have arrived at the scene and the crisis has united everyone. Some citizens have started to carry arms to defend themselves,” he added.

Sarraj will rely in his battle against the LNA on nine militias that are allied to him. These militias have been tasked with protecting ministries and public institutions since the signing of the Skheirat agreement in Morocco in 2015.

The most prominent of these militias is the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade, led by Haitham al-Tajuri. It is among the largest militias that control the capital. Other groups include the al-Nawasi Brigade, led by the Qadour family, the RADA Special Deterrence Forces, led by Abdulrauf Kara, and the “Abou Salim” unit that is affiliated with the central security agency.

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