EXPLAINER: Rundown of the Libyan militias fighting in Tripoli’s deadly clashes
Bloody clashes and battles among different militias have been raging in Libya’s capital Tripoli for more than a week. The clashes erupted after forces affiliated with the 7th Brigade stormed military headquarters southwest of Tripoli. Few days after the battles erupted, more militias got involved in the fighting. So who are these militias and what are their affiliations? The most prominent ones are:
The Deterrence Force
The Deterrence Force is led by Lieutenant Abdelraouf al-Kara and its headquarters is in the Mitiga Base. It follows the interior ministry of the national accord government. It participated in the fighting during the first few days but then withdrew and preferred to dissociate itself from the current fighting.
It’s a highly-trained militia that secures Tripoli’s only airport and it controls al-Qaeda’s prison where there are more than 1,300 prisoners who are mostly ISIS fighters and members of smuggling and kidnapping gangs.
Battalion of the Revolutionaries of Tripoli
The Battalion of the Revolutionaries of Tripoli which is led by Lieutenant Haitham al-Tagouri is a mixture of battalions from the capital’s center and east. It declared its loyalty to the national accord government in 2016 and has followed the latter’s interior ministry since then.
The national accord government relies on it in securing southeast and east of the capital. Hence it clashed more than once with the 7th Brigade militia due to the latter’s attempt to approach the capital’s borders. The Battalion of the Revolutionaries of Tripoli is thus the first line of confrontation against the 7th Brigade’s advancement in Libya, and it has lost a number of its posts southeast of the city.
Force of Deterrence and Rapid Intervention
The Force of Deterrence and Rapid Intervention is led by Abdel Ghani al-Kikli, aka Ghenewa. Most of its fighters consist of outlaws. Since it controls vital areas in center Tripoli, particularly the Abu Salim neighborhood, and since most gunmen in the center’s neighborhoods there are loyal to it, the interior ministry integrated it in its forces.
The 7th Brigade
The 7th Brigade, aka Kanyat since its four leaders hail from the Kani family, is headed by the oldest among the latter four, Mohammed al-Kani. The 7th Brigade had announced its loyalty to the national accord government and the ministry of defense integrated it with its forces in 2017.
The brigade however clashed with Battalion of the Revolutionaries of Tripoli several times as it sought to have a foothold inside the capital.
At the beginning of last week, the 7th Brigade carried out a sudden operation and seized camps in Qasir Ben Ghashir in Tripoli and quickly advanced and seized security and military headquarters in south and southwest Tripoli. The national accord government militias could not deter its advance thus raising plenty of questions about who stands behind it and who supports it.
The 7th Brigade has repeatedly said it’s part of the “national army” and that it “follows the government that the Libyans choose.” In other statements it said it follows the ministry of defense of the national accord government.
In terms of its goals, it said it wants “to liberate Tripoli and its people from the ISIS-like (gangs) looting public funds,” in reference to militias that control Libya and benefit from financial privileges which the government enjoys.
Other militias whose affiliations remain unclear joined the fighting such as the Steadfastness Front which is led by Salah Badi, one of the commanders of the Fajr Libya Operation.
Another militia is called the National Mobility Force and it’s led by a civilian called Saeed Qowygel. It moved from its posts in Janzur, west of Libya, on Saturday night and seized security posts in Al-Seyahya and Ghut Shaal areas.