Tripoli water supply stopped by gunmen – Al Marsad

Libya, 20 May 2019 – The Man-Made River (MMR) water supply to Tripoli has been cut as a result of gunmen attacking the Al-Hassouna pumping station near Shwerif, some 400 kilometres south of the capital, and forcing staff to turn off the valves. The attack took place yesterday.

In addition to many districts of the city, towns in western Libya, including those in the Jebel Nafusa, are also now without water.

In a statement, the MMR company said that the gunmen had said that the supply would remain cut until “their demands were met”.

The group responsible for the attack are reported to be the Ahnish gang, a pro-Qaddafi militia in the Brak Al-Shatti area currently led by Khalifa Ahnish. On a number of occasions over the past year and a half, it has attacked the same pumping station and turned off the valves in an attempt to force the release of its leader Mabrouk Ahnish, brother of Khalifa. He was captured in the Wershefana district west of Tripoli in October 2017 with a groups of Sudanese mercenaries. He was handed over to Tripoli militia leader Abdul Raouf Kara who is still holding him at Mitiga airbase.

The Ahnish were also said to be behind the kidnapping in July last year of a South Korean and three Filipino engineers, also at the Al-Hassouna station, trying to use them to bargain for Mabrouk’s freedom. They were finally released and flown to Abu Dhabi last week. According to the UAE foreign ministry, they were freed following “intensive efforts” made by the the foreign ministry “in coordination and cooperation” with the Libyan National Army.

The Presidency Council’s interior ministry headed by Fathi Bashagha has put out a statement blaming the Ahnish for the latest attack, claiming that the gang is now “part of the forces of the war criminal Khalifa Haftar” and calling it a war crime. It claimed that that the fact that the LNA helped secure the freedom of the three Filipinos and the South Korean was proof of its involvement with the Ahnish.

Condemning the attack today, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya and deputy head of UNSMIL, Maria Ribeiro, also said that “such attacks against civilian infrastructure that are essential for the survival of the civilian population may be considered war crimes”.

Like the Tripoli interior ministry, social and other media supporting the Presidency Council have also accused the LNA of behind the attack, suggesting that it was intended to put a stranglehold on the city.

However, areas south of Tripoli currently controlled by the LNA, including Qasr Ben Ghashir, as well as Gharyan and Asabea in the Jebel Nafusa are also affected.

Furthermore, Khalifa and Mabrouk Ahnish’s political loyalties are far from obvious, apart from being supporters of the former Qaddafi regime.  The Ahnish are seen generally as independent rogue elements pursuing their own agenda, top of which is forcing Kara to free Mabruk Ahnish. In late 2017, Khalifa Ahnish made it clear in a video that he did not support Haftar, saying that he was with Ali Kani, who led a pro-Qaddafi force in the south at the time but who in February this year was made commander of the region by Presidency Council head Faiez Sarraj. Following the 2017 video, Kani denied any connection with the Ahnish brothers.

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