Former bitter PC foes now fight for it in Tripoli – Al Marsad

Libya, 12 April 2019 – The camp in east Tripoli’s Tajoura district of militant commander Bashir Khalfallah, better known as “Bugra” (“The Cow”), was hit in LNA airstrikes on Saturday morning. The Rahibat al-Drua camp, home to Bugra’s former 33rd Infantry Battalion, was also being used a base by members of the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) as well as militants from Zliten and Misrata, including the Somoud brigade of Misrata’s Salah Badi.

Photos show smoke rising over the camp after the attack. Reports speak of at least three dead, possibly ten or more. An airstrike was also reported on the nearby air force academy.

LNA bombing in Tajoura today

Earlier, for the first time, Bugra was seen taking part in fighting in Wadi Rabie, southeast of Tripoli, on the side of the forces supporting the Presidency Council (PC).

Previously, Bugra, a close ally of “Grand Mufti” Sadiq al-Ghariani and of Tajoura’s hardline Islamist mayor, Hussein Ben Attia, was a bitter and determined opponent of the PC.

On 25 January last year, the 33rd was disbanded and described as being pro-terrorist by the head of the PC, Faiez Sarraj, following its attack that day on Mitiga airbase. With some 50 armed vehicles, it was trying to free militants from a jail in the airbase. These were said to be members of Daesh, Al-Qaeda, the BDB and the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shoura Council (BRSC), all being held by the pro-PC Rada (Special Deterrence Force) which controls the airport.

Other BDB and BRSC fighters were said to have been involved in the attack as well.

Eleven members of Rada, as well as of the Nawasi forces and the Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigade (TRB) who had rallied in support of Rada, were killed in the fighting, as was an employee of Libyan Airlines in the fighting. A number of civil aircraft were hit, one of which is still abroad undergoing repairs.

Rada labelled Bugra as “enemy of the Airbus” as a result.

The attack on Mitiga was the second by Bugra who is known to support former Libya Dawn “prime minister” Khalifa Ghwell and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.  He attacked on 13 December hoping to spring the prisoners but withdrew when reinforcement arrived. He again attacked, once more unsuccessfully, in April 2018.

On the same day as the January attack and the disbandment, Tripoli Security Directorate issued a statement of its own, describing Bugra’s forces as lawbreakers and the attack as “treacherous”. Today, despite the earlier condemnation, they are now on the same side.

It is not the only case of former enemies of the PC rallying to its side.

Photos have emerged over the weekend of one of the TRB commanders nicknamed “Zikra” alongside Misratan militant commander Salah Badi, who has been trying to overthrow the PC for the past three years. Badi was also prominently involved infighting against Tarhouna’s 7th Brigade in south Tripoli in September and January.

Zikra with Salah Badi this weekend

Zikra was earlier this week seriously wounded in fighting in south Tripoli.

Zikra in hospital afte being sounded in south Tripoli

Last Thursday, Badi also appeared with Ziyad Kafu, regarded as the “financial and economic arm” of the TRB.

Back in November Kafu was arrested on corruption charges by Rada when he arrived at Mitiga from Turkey but was then released after alleged threats from the TRB. His appearance alongside Badi this week had reportedly angered relatives of the 110 people killed in the September clashes.

Noting the PC’s willingness to use militants in its battle against the LNA, the New York Times on Friday published a lengthy article on the struggle, stating that what was a surprise attack was quickly repelled by what the newspaper described as “a group of criminal gangs and extremists”.  This, it suggested, raised questions for the United States and other Western powers.

The report, entitled “Thugs and Extremists Join Battle for Tripoli, Complicating Libyan Fray” can be found here.

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