(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
A newly formed militia calling themselves the Defend Benghazi Brigades clashed with General Khalifa Haftar’s forces south of the coastal town of Ajdabiya on Saturday, sparking strong condemnation from the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
The Defend Benghazi Brigades is mainly composed of fighters who were pushed back earlier this year by Haftar’s Operation Dignity forces, who have been at war with several armed Islamist groups inside of Benghazi for over two years.
The clashes between the new militia and Haftar’s forces have reportedly resumed on Sunday in the industrial zone in Ajdabiya, which is near several key oil terminals in the east that are patrolled by the Petroleum Forces Guards (PFG) who are loyal to the GNA and are fighting against ISIS in the east.
The GNA released a statement on its Facebook page on Sunday condemning the attack by the new militia, which resulted in the death of at least three people and wounded 10, reported Reuters.
“The Presidential Council (of the GNA) strongly condemns this criminal act and holds the leaders and members of these militias fully responsible,” said the statement
“These militias are attacking to assist the remnants of the Islamic State terrorist organization in Benghazi and Ajdabiya which have faded and had their strength sapped by the strikes by our brave military.”
The GNA’s reaction to the attack that was carried out by the Defend Benghazi Brigades is significant because it shows Libyans, especially the parliament in the east who have yet to endorse the GNA’s cabinet, that the fledgling unity government is not aligned to Islamist militias and that it aims to establish national resolve and stability in the country.
The GNA has also formed an operations room in the area between Ajdabiya and Sirte three weeks ago to combat ISIS held Sirte from the east, with PFG fighters capturing the towns of Ben Jawad, Nufilaya, and Hawara.
With the establishment of the operations room headed by Colonel Yousef Rajeb Ageela, the GNA has prohibited any military grouping not under its command from undertaking any activities in the region.
Aguila Saleh, the Speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) reportedly announced a state of emergency on Sunday, and ordered the mobilization of its forces, commanded by its chief of staff Abdul Razak Al-Nazhuri, to the area between Derna and Ben Jawad.