Libya Tribune

By Wolfgang Pusztai and Arnaud Delalande

Beginning in December 2016, the Saraya Defend Benghazi — also known as Benghazi Defense Brigade — an Islamist militia group that formed in June 2016 to oppose Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, was involved in the attack on facilities in Libya’s Oil Crescent.

The LNA decisively repulsed the attacks. But the wider conflict is only deepening — and could spark a new civil war in Libya pitting the two major claimants to the country’s leadership. Haftar and his allies in Tobruk on one side. On the other, the Government of National Accord in Tripoli.

Resource constraints on both sides could head off further fighting — assuming the local allies of both Haftar and the GNA behave themselves.

The December fighting was fierce.

On Dec. 8, 2016, LNA aircraft launched what appeared to be retaliatory air strikes targeting SDB/BDB forces and their allies in the vicinity of Al Jufrah air base, killing field commander Katibat Umar Al Mukhtar and wounding 13 people.

Apparently anticipating a counterattack, in the aftermath of the Dec. 8 air raids the LNA deployed SA-9 air-defense systems in Ras Lanuf. Another 9K31 Strela-1 vehicle was spotted in Zintan at the end of December 2016 and may have been involved in the Dec. 22 destruction of a MiG-23 fighter belonging to the pro-GNA Libya Dawn Air Force.

On Dec. 26, 2016, fighting broke out between Misrata’s 3rd Force — a unit that’s notionally aligned with the Government of National Accord in Tripoli— and the LNA’s 12th Infantry Brigade near Tamanhint air base in Sebha province. The 12th Infantry Brigade emerged victorious — and captured Gwairat Al Mal from 3rd Force.