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article imageDefend Benghazi Brigades clash with Haftar's Libyan National Army

By Ken Hanly     Jul 10, 2016 in World
Benghazi - In early June, a number of Benghazi revolutionaries announced that they had formed the Defend Benghazi Brigades (DBB) who pledged their support for the Benghazi Shura Council fighting against the Libyan National Army led by General Khalifa Haftar.
The group said that they would defend revolutionaries fighting Haftar and the Libyan National Army in the town of Ajdabia as well. The group claimed not to be linked to any party of organization but said: "We invite Haftar’s followers to go back to their senses and return to the February revolution track after the truth of the Dignity Operation had unfolded.” Operation Dignity was launched by Haftar in May of 2014 to rid Libya of those he considered radical Islamists but in fact any group with Islamist tendencies who opposed him. It began in Benghazi with attacks on two Islamist militia bases but also involved attacking and burning the parliament in Tripoli. The February revolution was the overthrow of Gadaffi.
The group admitted that the religious source for their views were Fatwa House and the Grand Mufti. Haftar and the LNA have been successful in driving most of the Benghazi Shura council from the city. Much of the city has been damaged by the battles. At one time the Council controlled most of the city. Many citizens have been displaced by the constant fighting.
The group first traveled to the city of Ajdabiya to the east of the oil port of Ras Lanuf. apparently they came in a convoy of 40 armed vehicles from the south. The group is led by Ziyad Belam backed by Ismail Salabi. The Libya Herald claims the group is an attempt to reconstitute the Benghazi Shura Council which has been virtually defeated by Haftar's Libyan National Army.
A spokesperson for the LNA Operations Room said that the LNA and the DBB clashed near the area of the Man Made River project. He accused Ibrahim Jodhran head of the central region Petroleum Facilities Guard of helping the militia. Jodhran is an opponent of Haftar. The spokesperson also claimed that the Presidential Council had violated its own order to the military Operations Room for the Sirte-Ajdabiya area that only military forces under its command should undertake operations in the area. The DBB appear not to be under command of the Presidential Council (PC) of the GNA. However, neither are the LNA!. The Operations Room with the help of the PFG have recaptured a number of towns east of Sirte including Ben Jawad and Harawa. The defense minister of the GNA Mahdi Barghathi said members of the DBB were extremists who would be opposed.
According to the Libya Herald the PFG has also vowed to fight the DBB. The DBB reportedly seized part of Ajdabiya but were driven out by elements of the LNA. The Libya Observer reports that the DBB has moved towards Benghazi and has seized the Sultan district that is between Ajdabiya and Benghazi. The district is 40 km east of Ajdabiya. The group claim to have seized the Al-Jalidiya checkpoint along with a number of weapons and ammunition. Among items seized were tanks and military vehicles. As the group advances they are being bombed by Haftar's air force. The group leader according to the Oberserver is Brigadier General Mustafa Al-Sharkasi.
The Libya Herald reported that the LNA claimed to have captured Al-Sharkasi during an attempt to relieve trapped terrorists in Ganfouda. The DBB denied the report and showed a picture of him, but it was undated and so shows nothing. The group also claimed as in the report from the Observer that they had seized the army camp at Al-Jaidiya checkpoint with weapons, ammunition, tanks and vehicles. The army version is that they hemmed the DBB in and captured Sharksi. There is even a report that the radical Islamist brother of Ibrahim Jodhran was killed. It may be some time before we know exactly what happened and it may be that we never will know for sure. The Adjabiya hospital said that it received three bodies all of whom were thought to be from the DBB but several injured were from both sides. What is clear is that Haftar's LNA faces clashes on another front in opposition to Operation Dignity.
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