Libya: clashes between militias reignite. Pacification still far away.

(To Filippo Del Monte)
09/09/21

While Taliban power is consolidating in Afghanistan, the Mediterranean continues to be a disputed area, a sea of ​​confrontation before meeting. One of the powder cases of (fu) Mare Nostrum Libya remains, in which in these days there is a resurgence of clashes between opposing factions that are undermining the "pacification process" announced by the interim Prime Minister and Defense Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibeh.

During the last week there have been violent clashes in Tripoli between the militiamen of the 444th Brigade and those of the Support Force for Stabilization (ASS) which also led to the occupation by the former of the Ministry of Health. Members of the ASS have been arrested by the forces of the 444th Brigade and this has contributed to exacerbate the tension between the two groups that are clashing for control of the territory.

The 444th brigade responds in a hierarchical line to orders from the command of the Military Region of Tripoli and is therefore dependent on the Ministry of Defense. This large unit is commanded by Captain Mahmoud Hamza - well-known Salafist militiaman, former member of the Special Deterrence Forces (RADA) and integrated into the reconstituted Libyan Army - which last April led the brigade in police operations against armed groups in the capital who had refused to submit to the orders of the Ministry of Defense .

However, the commander of the Tripoli Military District, General Abdel Basset Marwan, highlighted some "obscure points" in the actions carried out by the 444th Brigade, accused of pursuing its own policy independent of the Government and having participated in this regard in unauthorized meetings with other militias and would also have opened an independent account where 10 million dinars (about 2 million US dollars) would have been paid in contravention of the rules as it could not have a separate budget from that of the Military District of Tripoli. In particular, the existence of this unauthorized fund suggests that Mahmoud Hamza's brigade has many other sources of livelihood than the official ones.

In the complex political-military balance of Libya and Tripoli in particular, the 444th brigade is considered part of the pro-Turkish groups, representing an extremist wing and that does not fully respond to the wishes of Ankara, especially since today it is essential for Erdogan to support the process of pacification of the country to settle its position and not to foment further armed clashes.

The rival group of the 444th brigade, the Stabilization Support Force, is instead a military apparatus founded on January 18, 2021 on the orders of the then Prime Minister of the GNA Fayez al-Sarraj decreeing the unification of the Tripoline militias that had supported the war against Haftar's troops in the previous months. In particular, the leadership of the ASS is made up of a president, Abdelghani al Kikli (founder and commander of the dissolved militia called "Abu Salim Central Security Force", a veteran unit of the war against Gaddafi in 2011 and then remained active in support of Tripoli against Tobruk and then by Sarraj against his internal rivals), and by three vice-presidents, respectively Hassan Muhammad Hassan, Abu Zariba and Musa Abu Al-Qassem Musa Masmus, three of the most important militia leaders in the capital. The backbone of the ASS is the group called "Ghaneiwa", direct heir to the Abu Salim militia and to the employees of al Kikli, who was the protagonist of the recent gunfights in Tripoli.

Not being able to guarantee security on the streets of the capital, not having the power to disarm the militias and to curb the appetites of their leaders, even those now "institutionalized" and fully inserted into the ganglia of the government machine, not it is a good "calling card" for Dbeibeh nor for the UN officials who still hope to be able to call elections for December 24, 2021 as scheduled.

Not to mention that the transition executive in office also has a foreign policy problem to solve and that is one of the thorniest legacies of Sarraj and the last phase of the open war against Haftar: the question of the borders of the Turkish-Libyan EEZ. . During a visit to Athens by Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush, his Greek colleague Nikolaos Dendias took the opportunity to point out that the Mītsotakīs government does not like the current maritime jurisdiction agreement signed between Turkey and Libya. The Libyan EEZ, whose extension was functional to the enlargement of the Turkish one to the detriment of Greece, is one of the hottest maritime policy dossiers as it has caused serious tensions between neighboring countries and is a clear tool in the hands of Ankara to probe the seabed and extract oil, fully responding to the strategic dictates of the Mavi vatan which are based on the idea of ​​"diplomacy of warships and drills" of former Rear Admiral Cihat Yaycı, current president of the think tank "Türk Denizcilik ve Global Stratejiler Merkez" (Turkish Center for Maritime and Global Strategies).

Photo: 444th Brigade