MS Risk Blog

Libyan Government no longer in control of Tripoli

Posted on in Libya title_rule

4 September, 2014: On Sunday, the Libyan government announced that it no longer had control of Tripoli. A government issued statement read, “Ministry and state offices in Tripoli have been occupied by armed militias who are preventing government workers from entering and are threatening their superiors.” Fajr Libya has called on the outgoing government– the Islamist dominated General National Congress (GNC) – to resume operations.

The announcement comes nearly two weeks after Fajr Libya (Dawn of Libya), an Islamist militia group from Misrata, announced the capture of Tripoli International Airport after over a month of fighting. Prior to the capture, the airport, and the city of Tripoli were under the control of Al-Zintan Revolutionaries’ Military Council, a pro-government group and one of the largest and most disciplined militia groups in Libya. Fajr Libya’s capture of Tripoli effectively gave the group control of the seat of the nation, which has had serious implications for Libya’s faltering government.

The fighting between Zintan and Fajr Libya, which began in July, has caused significant damage to Tripoli airport and a number of aircraft. The airport has been closed since mid-July. Prior to the fighting at the airport, the Libyan Airlines fleet included seven Airbus 320s, one Airbus 330, two French ATR-42 turboprop aircraft, and four Bombardier CJR-900s. Afriqiyah Airways held three Airbus 319s, seven Airbus 320s, two Airbus 330s, and one Airbus 340.

The oil-rich nation is at risk of becoming a failed state as competing militias and terrorist groups are able to take advantage of the weakened political and security infrastructures. The fighting has caused a number of diplomats, NGOs and foreign nationals to evacuate Libya, often through its borders with Tunisia and Egypt.

Neighbouring countries fear that Libya could become a safe haven for terrorist organisations. Recent airstrikes have been conducted against Fajr Libya, and have been attributed to a joint operation between Egyptian and the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has not commented on the strikes, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi has vehemently denied the claims but has suggested that suggested that military action is being considered. US Secretary of State John Kerry announced last week that the US would be delivering Apache attack helicopters to Egypt. The U.S. is taking a more conservative role in the country, but it is not known whether the helicopters would be used on objectives in Libya.

Unconfirmed rumours have gained traction that an Islamist militia group in Libya has reportedly taken control of eleven commercial jetliners in Tripoli. The report was said to have been initially issued by a Moroccan military expert named Abderrahmane Mekkaoui, who reported the airline theft on 21 August. In the report, Mekkaoui states that “credible intelligence” indicated the Masked Brigade “is plotting to use the planes in attacks on a Maghreb state” on the 9/11 anniversary. Rumours of the stolen plains are gaining traction in social media, however neither the US State Department nor any other government has confirmed the reports of the stolen jetliners.

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