Mohamed Niss

Mohamed Niss

Still on the Loose: Libya’s Most Dangerous Jihadists - Part II
Thursday, November 14, 2019

More violence?

Tripoli Braces for Hurricane Igtet
More violence?
Sabratha Libya

At around 7.30 this morning, Sabratha’s Counter-Daesh Operations Room (CDOR) and allied forces announced "the full liberation” of Sabratha from Dabbashi forces.

CDOR made substantial ground gains over the last few days in the city’s western and northern axes. Last night, they captured Shahrazad resort, the main barracks of Ahmed (the Uncle) Dabbashi, commander of the Anas Dabbashi Brigade. It was just a matter of time before CDOR - which is said to be aligned with the Libyan National Army (LNA) - controls the whole city.

In a last-ditch bid to prevent such scenario, Zintan’s Usama Ajwaily and militias from Zawya have been regrouping on Wednesday evening near Surman (65 km west of Tripoli) but they failed to the enter city after its notables and groups of civilians gathered at the gates of Sabratha to tell them that they were not welcome. This came after LNA’s Air Force posted a photo (below) of Sukhoi Su-22 on its Facebook page with a caption that read: “The SU-22 bomber is ready to carry out its predefined missions”.  Although it remains unclear whether CDOR received any air support from LNA’s al-Watya airbase (90 km SW of Sabratha).

Sukhoi Su-22 in LNA's al-Watya Airbase. Photo: LNA Air Force

The fighting erupted on 17 September when a member of Anas Dabbash Brigade was shot dead at a CDOR security checkpoint before escalating out of control into an ideological and political war involving quietest Salafis and LNA on one side, and Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and Government of National Accord (GNA) on the other.

CDOR seems to have benefited from two recent morale-boosting developments: First, a rally by the city residents (above) who demonstrated on Tuesday against a statement from GNA’s General Staff that called for a ceasefire. “We condemn the General Staff’s order aimed at lifting the siege on these terrorist militias who are backed by Daesh and the so-called Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council when victory is within reach,” protestors said in a statement. A video posted on Facebook afterwards showed CDOR’s commander, Brigadier Omar Abduljalil, assuring the protesters that his troops will continue the fight against what he described as “terrorist and criminal militias”. The second was the comment made on Tuesday by Khalifa Hifter, LNA’s General Commander, where he said that the violence in Sabratha was “a legitimate war between LNA officers and criminal gangs”.

Eyewitnesses told this website that residents have taken to the streets in celebration of CDOR’s victory over Ahmed Dabbashi who is said to have fled to neighbouring city of Zuwara with taking with him what remained of his fighters.

Many in Libya saw the violence in Sabratha -a major hub for smuggling oil and illegal migrants- as a turf war to control smuggling routes. The timing is clearly linked to rumours about $5 million paid by the Italian intelligence service to Anas al-Dabbashi Brigade in exchange for stopping the flow of migrants to Italy. GNA’s health ministry said on Saturday that 26 people were killed by the clashes and 170 others were wounded.

Today’s development has substantially changed western Libya’s territorial control map as the LNA not only increased its presence there, but is now in control of a strategic city from which it can mount attacks on Tripoli, Zawya and the border crossing with the Tunisia.

UPDATE: CDOR issued a statement warning the residents of Sabratha against reprisals on Dabbashi supporters and urged them to refer any disputes to the city’s security agencies. The photos  below were posted on Facebook purporting to show tanks and vehicles seized from the Dabbashi Brigade, amid reports that Ahmed Dabbash is now based at an oil terminal near Zuwarah known as ‘Mellitah Oil and Gas Complex’. 

Tanks and vehicles seized from the Dabbashi Brigade. Photo: Facebook

UPDATE 2: Sources from Zintan claimed that a column of 40 armed vehicles led by Ahmed Dabbashi has just passed the village of Shakshouk headed toward Zintan where it’s expected to seek refuge at bararcks controlled by Usama Ajwaily’s forces.

UPDATE 3: Fayez Serraj, head of GNA’s Presidency Council, issued a statement welcoming “the positive developments in Sabratha” and describing CDOR as a “GNA force”. A video was posted on Facebook earlier today showed CDOR’s commander, Brigadier Omar Abduljalil, thanking supporters who have gathered outside CDOR’s HQ to celebrate the victory over Dabbashi while chanting pro-Hifter slogans.

UPDATE 4: CDOR released video showing its commander, Brigadier Omar Abduljalil, declaring the city’s “liberation from terrorists and ideological groups”, thanking the “GNA and Sabratha neighbours for their support”, and vowing to combat, crime illegal migration and rebuild Army units.