The Libyan National Army (LNA) under commander in chief General Khalifa Haftar has also claimed credit for clearing the Islamic State out of the surrounding areas but it is not clear how much they helped. Even after the Islamic State had retreated Haftar’s forces continued airstrikes against Derna. Haftar considers the Shura Council to be allied with Al Qaeda even though they deny any such connection. He has carried on the attacks since he consider the Shura Council to be radical Islamists and his enemy. He says the attacks are part of what he calls his Operation Volcano, part of Operation Dignity. Operation DIgnity was begun back on May 16, 2014, with attacks on Islamist militia bases in Benghazi but then involved the burning of the Libyan parliament as shown on the appended video.
Haftar considers any Islamists opposed to him as radical Islamists to be defeated, including many of the militia loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). Haftar rejects the GNA and supports the rival Tobruk-based House of Representatives. (HoR). The HoR is required to vote confidence in the GNA according to the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). It would then become the legislature of the GNA. However numerous meetings called to hold a vote have either been disrupted or failed to have a quorum. A meeting just last Monday lacked a quorum.
The attacks on Derna by Haftar are happening at the same time as he is supposed to be marching to liberate Sirte, as he announced some three weeks ago. However, the only forces fighting Sirte are those of the GNA in the west, mostly militia from Misrata, and in the east forces of the Petroleum Facilities Guard headed by Ibrahim Jodhran, an opponent of Haftar and supporter of the GNA government. The Islamic State territory is now just a few square kilometers in the city of Sirte. Until there were a number of civilian casualties both the GNA and Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary General(SRSG) kept quiet but now Kobler has spoken out condemning the civilian casualties. In a tweet he says:
Deeply saddened to hear of civilian casualties from airstrikes #Derna, 2 women & 2 child died. Densely populated areas must not be targeted Note that he fails to condemn the airstrikes themselves. Others go much further.
Military veteran and army officers in Derna have condemned what they describe as Dignity Operation airstrikes on the city that left a number of civilians dead. Colonel Yahya Al-Osta said on Sunday that the airstrikes that killed civilians, including children were carried out by armed militias and mercenaries who have no links to the army. The planes no doubt are from the air force which is headed by an ally of Haftar. Al-Osta called Haftar a criminal and said that his militia groups are a far cry from military values and principles when they start targeting civilians and populated areas, He said: “We want police and army that protect civilians, not attacking them”. Graphic photos of some of those killed can be found if you search for the hashtag #Derna on twitter.
Among those killed were a father and his son on his way to another town to cash out their salaries. In another strike a woman and her two children were killed. A tweet shows the location with no military target. Another tweet says: A kids play area in the city #Derna was attacked from LNA ..At least a kid is killed through these air attack. Another tweet reports: “Former eastern defence zone commander, Suleiman Mahmoud appeals to pilots under Hefter’s command to refuse orders targeting Derna civilians.” Some strikes are aimed at certain companies as shown in the damage to a Turkish company’s buildings. Fortunately, much machinery is OK.