Sabratha operations room switches to LNA, says extremists among GNA forces – Al Marsad

Libya, 15 May 2019 – Following last month’s appointment of a new mayor of Sabratha by the Beida-based interim government and then the announcement by the town’s security directorate that it was switching allegiance to the Libyan National Army (LNA), its operations room, led by Gen. Omar Abdul Jalil, has now continued the change. It announced on Tuesday that it had cut ties with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and was now part of LNA.

Sarraj with the commander of Sabratha operations room, Omar Abdul Jalil (Photo: archives)

Explaining its reasons, the operations room said that events in the country proved that militias in the area linked to the GNA were aiding and abetting extremism.

The operations room had been a major ally in the region west of capital of the Presidency Council and the GNA ever since it crushed Sabratha’s Islamist militia, the Amu Brigade, in October 2017 and forced it out of the town. At that point it was known as the “Anti-ISIS Operations Room” (AIOR).

In a statement, the operations room said that it was now clear that militias in the area had been providing cover for members of Daesh. The statement went on to say that last Monday’s LNA raid on the headquarters in Zawia of the extremist Farouk brigade had resulted in the death of Safwan Abdelmajid Jaber, a militant who announced his allegiance to Daesh in 2016 and and who has been wanted ever since by the Attorney General. He was accused of taking part in a deadly attack outside the Sabratha’s Security Directorate in 2016.

“What happened yesterday in Zawia is further proof that the curse of militias is what led our beloved country to this state of chaos. Salvation will only come when we eradicate them”, the statement added.

Locals say that the defection of the operations room and its accusation that militias supporting the GNA have been involved in terrorism for the past three years is a major blow to the PC. It had been trying to convey the message that it was the LNA that was soft on terrorism.

The story

Satellite images show the Zawia building targeted by Monday’s LNA. These raids resulted in the death of an Daesh member. Two others, so far unidentified, were also killed.

These recently-taken images, obtained by Al Marsad and published after close examination, show a number of armored vehicles and tanks in the Farouk  brigade’s camp, situated at near the eastern entrance of Zawia, next to the bridge and on the crossing between the road leading downtown and the coastal road.

Despite allegations claiming that this was a civilian site, the images prove beyond doubt that it is military. Tanks and armoured vehicles were hidden among trees for camouflage.

Questions

Although the brigade, with its extremist views about the Sharia and opposition to a civil state, has been publicly denounced, the misleading reports about it conducted by some media raises a number of questions. One is why certain channels projected it in positive terms and why some reporters were allowed in to film and disguise the site, trying to claim that what had been attacked was a civilian location.

The headquarters of the Farouk brigade (right) and the bridge on the left.

When cross-referenced with the geographic location, satellite images and paired with videos of the bombing, it is clear that the strike was surgical and did not go beyond the specific target which was to destroy or damage the armoured vehicles, as shown in the satellite images.

Yet the mayor of Zawia, Jamel Bahr, claimed in a press conference on Monday evening that included a number of other western mayors that the raid had injured civilians in a nearby hospital. He presented no proof of his claim. Earlier, just after the raid, he simply claimed that a civilian site had been bombed. But this was exposed as a lie, despite attempts by some media to promote it.

As in Syria, where they saw action, the Farouk brigade fighters and their friends in the media appear to have retained a sense of humour amid their  claims that the site was civilian. A civilian car plate was somewhat clumsily planted in front on an armoured vehicle destroyed in the raid clearly trying to make it look as if civilian property had been damaged. Amazingly, while the vehicles were completely burnt out, the plate miraculously survived the inferno unscathed.

Armored vehicles with a civilian number plate placed in front of one of them to give the impression that they were civilian cars at a civilian site

Following the bombardment, both Libya Al-Ahrar TV and Libya Panorama TV, the latter being close to the Muslim Brotherhood, declared that civilian locations were targeted, and continued to insist on this story until the latter made the mistake of broadcasting a video featuring the voice of one of the individuals in the targeted site asking the cameraman not to film military vehicles at the site.

Al Marsad copied this video which was then deleted by Al-Ahrar and subsequently re-posted but with no sound. It subsequently launched a complaint to Facebook against Al Marsad saying that it owned the rights to the video.

 

Libya Panorama then claimed that the targeted site belonged to what it called “First Recon Battalion – Border Patrol”, although it is one of the sites of the Farouk brigade.

Contradictions

Following these contradictions, and hours after the bombardment was over, the quest to find out the identity of the deceased began, especially given that the TV channels which had claimed that civilians were killed were refusing to release any names. Furthermore, no families or tribes reported anyone missing.

Photos: An airstrike targeting one of the locations harbouring the extremist Farouk brigade on the outskirts of Zawia resulted in damage to the building and some vehicles in addition to neutralising a communication room in the same site. This runs counter to the claims made by Libya Panorama which said that the airstrike targeted a civilian site.

Meanwhile, similar sources confirmed that the only identified body was that of the fugitive Safwan Abdelmajid Jaber, wanted by the Attorney General because of his involvement with Daesh.

He fled Sabratha in 2016 after the fighting between AIOR and Daesh and their allies on the local military council led by Taher Al- Gharabli, including the Anas al-Dabbashi Brigade, led by the the militant Ahmed Dabbashi, also known as Al- Ammu (“the Uncle”).

Meanwhile, some social media sites claimed that while Jaber was indeed killed in the attack, that was because he was being held there as a prisoner along with his cousin Ali and another individual called Ahmad Sassi al-Fallah.

Contrarily to these allegations, Sassi was in fact discovered to have been arrested, but by the Special Deterrence Forces RADA in Tripoli. Safwan Jaber was never arrested and was still on the wanted list when killed. Moreover, the targeted location was not a prison used by the Ministry of Justice. The allegation that he was killed in jail is a case of fake news.

Ahmed Sassi

Recently, reports have indicated that dozens of wanted individuals who fled Sabratha were actually in Zawia, protected by extremists, especially the Farouk Brigade, who operate within what is called the Libya Revolutionaries’ Operations Room. It is  led by Shaaban Hadia (nicknamed Abu Obeida Al-Zawi), Abdelbasset Al- Shawesh (nicknamed Abu Aws) and others.

There have been pro-Haftar groups of people in Sabratha even during the time it was in the hands of militants, but they had to be remain covert.  In July 2017, however,  a group of pro-Haftar supporters protested publicly. They were described by as “despicable” by the municipal council which demanded they surrender themselves to the authorities.

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