Friday, May 16, 2014

Libyan militias get tough with Islamists

(Benghazi) Since the fall of Libyan President for life (not) Muammar Gaddafi, the country has resembled something of the old wild west, where guns and thugs rule. This has resulted in numerous killings simply due to the fact that the armed goons felt secure in the fact that Libya is still trying to find its feet, that it is a huge country and that the people in power used to be their ideological comrades.

Well, one such group, the Libyan National Army, led by retired General Khalifa Haftar, has decided in the fashion of the Sparks' song "This town isn't big enough for the both of us", and so at death o'clock Friday morning they launched a preemptive strike on their fellow thugs in Benghazi.

Using helicopters to draw first blood, the LNA targeted Ansar al-Sharia militants, but also destroyed the local headquarters of the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, which is funded by the defence ministry. Initial reports presumed that the Government was showing the goons just who wore the trousers in Libya. However, it soon became apparent that the Government was caught with its pants down, and while dismissing the actions as an unlawful act, the fact remains that the LNA is comprised of forces from the country's nascent army. In reply to the Government's communique that the LNA does not represent them,  Mohamed Al-Hejazi, a spokesman for Haftar's forces, replied:
"We're telling them we have the legitimacy from the civilians who suffer on a daily basis from the killings targeting the police and military," he said. "We are fighting militias who threaten stability."
The city was calmer in the evening after the clashes in the morning, when witnesses said at least one regular army helicopter had been used in the assaults on the Islamist bases. At least 79 people were killed and almost 141 injured in the fighting, medical sources at local hospitals reported.