Dispute Over Money Behind Militia Attack on Sarraj’s Headquarters in Tripoli – Al Marsad

The Italian news agency, Agenzia Nova, reported that the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) appears to be facing increasing difficulties since 4 April when the forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar started its advance towards the capital Tripoli. The LNA offensive turned into a siege. Al Marsad translates here the Agenzia Nova report from Italian into English as it sheds important light into the reasons for the militia standoff outside the Prime Minister’s and Finance Ministry in Tripoli.

[Libya, 6 December 2019] –  In the wake of the regional and international controversy over the past few days that was raised by the agreement that the GNA signed with Turkey on maritime boundaries and economic zones jurisdiction between the two countries, which preceded the current visit by the GNA Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha, to Qatar, the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj appears fragmented from within.

The dual attack waged yesterday by one of Misrata’s militias, the main ally of Fayez al-Sarraj, at his presidential palace and at the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance, has caused a great deal of controversy among observers of the Libyan affairs. This negative development comes at a difficult time for the Tripoli government, increasingly gripped by a financial crisis that forced it to cut the salaries of certain segments in some of the GNA state departments.

The Commander of the Misratan Counter-Terrorism Battalion, Ahmed Fetouri, has come to forcefully demand the dismissal of the GNA Minister of Finance, Faraj Boumtari, on charges of corruption. “The Finance Minister Boumtari has appointed one of his friends, Salah Abdul Salam al-Beshti, as Financial Auditor at the General Consulate of the State of Libya in Istanbul,” Fetouri told Agenzia Nova. The Commander of the Misrata militia claims that Minister Boumtari left to Tunisia “after fleeing from the back door of the Ministry of Finance located on the al-Sikkah Road in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, because he was unable to face the militants knowing that they had irrefutable and convincing evidence documenting his corruption.”

Despite these serious accusations, a delegation used its good offices today to mediate between the Ministry of Finance of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the armed militias of the city of Misrata. A source from the GNA Prime Minister’s Office whose identity cannot be disclosed for security reasons told Agenzia Nova that “the delegation composed of tribal and military leaders representing Prime Minister al-Sarraj and Finance Minister, Faraj Boumtari, went to Misrata this morning. It is expected that the delegation will meet with the senior commanders of the Counter-Terrorism Battalion that attacked the GNA Prime Minister’s Headquarters yesterday and clashed with the Presidential Guard, the Special Deterrence Force (RADA), the General Intelligence Services, and the Central Security guarding the official premises of Fayez al-Sarraj.

The same source explained that the reason behind the dispute between the Ministry of Finance and the Misrata militias is because of an overdue amount of LYD 330 Million Libyan Dinars that must be paid by the ministry to the battalion. The source added that the attackers claimed that this amount was earmarked for salaries for the month of November. The battalion has also asked the Finance Minister to allocate another amount to buy vehicles, weapons and bulletproof vests.

The Misrata militias that attacked the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance and the Presidential Palace in Tripoli yesterday requested the salaries of October and November to be immediately paid out. The delay in payments must therefore be the basis for the clashes around the headquarters of the Presidential Council. It should be recalled, in this context, that the armed group attacked the GNA Prime Minister’s Office, disarmed his Presidential Guards unit and seized several cars from the building, in search of the Finance Minister. Prime Minister al-Sarraj was in his office at the time of the attack. According to the Al-Arabiya news network, al-Sarraj received militia representatives who came to negotiate some financial demands and it seems that the latter withdrew after reaching an agreement with them in principle.

To address this crisis, which then resulted in the clash with the Misrata militias, a meeting of the Libyan Presidential Council’s sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), was convened yesterday in Tripoli, chaired by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who also holds the role of LIA’s Chairman of the Board of Directors. At the meeting, the Tripoli-based Presidential Council reported in a statement, attended by the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya in Tripoli, Siddik al-Kabir, the Minister of Planning, Taher al Juhaimi, the Minister of Finance, Faraj Boumtari, Minister of Economy Ali al Essawi, and the Chairman of LIA, Ali Mahmoud. The Presidential Council Media Bureau did not clarify whether the meeting had been called in connection with the armed attack launched by a Misratan militia against the Ministry of Finance headquarters.

Meanwhile there have been violent clashes with heavy and medium weapons yesterday between the Libyan National Army (LNA) troops and the forces of the Tripoli-seated Government of National Accord (GNA) in the Wadi al-Rabia area, south of the capital Tripoli. Local media reported field progress accomplished by the LNA forces advancing in the Ain Zara neighbourhood. Violent clashes erupted during the night also in the area of Garabulli between the forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) and those of the Government of National Accord (GNA). Fighting according to local media in the Four Streets area in Ain Zara and on the road to Souq al-Jumaa according to eye witnesses.

Source: Agenzia Nova

© Al Marsad English (2019)