The conflict between Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) heated up last month after the DMSC shot down an LNA jet over Derna and allegedly killed and mutilated its pilot Adel Jehani, triggering a tightening of the LNA siege on the city. The LNA’s Omar al-Mukhtar operations room has enforced a limited blockade on the city since the DMSC evicted ISIS fighters from the Fatayeh district more than a year ago, but basic goods and medical supplies were previously allowed in.
Local sources report that the LNA’s Saiqa Special Forces have reportedly moved forward to join the LNA in preparation for a major assault on Derna in conjunction with an internal uprising, targeting key DMSC leaders, and military targets. It is reported the Saiqa commander, Wanis Bukhamda stated that his attention is now focused on taking Derna. The LNA imposed siege on the city has provoked wide spread condemnation as it prevents much needed supplies of fuel, water, and other amenities from entering the city. Derna’s local council and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Maria Ribeiro, expressed concerns of a looming humanitarian crisis in the city. On August 7, the GNA’s Presidential Council issued a statement calling for “all relevant parties” to push for an end to the siege, and to put a stop to the “severe suffering” of the residents.
The siege was rebuked by Mohammed al-Ammari, an Islamist-affiliated member of the GNA as well as members from Derna in the High Council of State because it punishes all residents of Derna, regardless of whether they are civilians or members of DMSC.
Last week media sources reported that Italian authorities suspect that IS and other jihadi networks in Libya are working with the Italian Mafia and illegal fuel smuggling operations. According to La Republica, the police had found substantial amounts of Libyan and Syrian crude that “shouldn’t have been there” and were greater than some local refineries’ inventories. Despite a lack of concrete evidence of connection between the mafia and extremist groups, rumors circulate about cooperation in the illicit economy via fuel and drug smuggling in the Sahara Desert.
GNA-aligned al-Bunyan al-Marsus forces continue to conduct anti-ISIS reconnaissance missions in Abu Hadi area, south of Sirte. The looting of power cables and other infrastructure continues too as criminal networks take advantage of the conflict in the city.
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