Forces from the western town of Zintan have launched an attack on Wearshafana (1) in a bid to “reclaim it from the People’s Front,” a senior Zintani commander has announced.
The attack began on Wednesday night with Howitzer and Grad barrage directed at the barracks of the Fourth Brigade, Wearshafana’s main military force. Brigadier Bashir Najih, the Brigade’s commander, confirmed the attack and said it caused no casualties.
The Zintani offensive is aimed at capturing two military facilities in Wearshafana known as the Naval Academy and the barracks of the Fourth Brigade, according to Imad Tarabelsi, the commander of Zintan’s Qaqaa militia, who claimed that both facilities are being occupied by forces from the People’s Front for the Liberation of Libya – a newly formed military force believed to be affiliated with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.
The Zintani forces represent the city’s Military Council which is led by Osama Ajwaily, who also serves as commander of the Western Military Zone of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Libya’s UN-backed government. Fayez Serraj, president of the GNA, remained silent throughout the attack. His press office yesterday released photos showing him meeting notables from Wearshafana. Media reports claimed after the meeting that Serraj has advised the Wearshafanis to hand over the two facilities to Ajwaily if they want to avoid war. General Omar Tantoush, commander of Wearshafana’s Military Council, told Libya-24 TV that his forces are ready to “fight to the end to protect their land”. Sources told this website that Zintan has done a deal with Serraj to neutralize the pro-Gaddafi forces in Wearshafana in exchange for granting them control over the coast road between Tripoli and the Tunisian border.
On Tuesday, we published the video below showing forces from the Military Council of Zintan headed toward Wearshafana before being deployed to positions near the region’s southern and western borders. Zintan’s military council released a statement last night calling on civilians in Wearshafana to stay at home and keep away from military targets. The situation is likely to escalate as military and tribal build-up continued by both sides.
(1) Wearshafana is a rural region located 25 kilometres west of Tripoli and it consists of several villages dominated by a tribe with the same name considered one of Libya’s largest tribes.