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Libya Shield forces take up positions to protect Tripoli

Last updated: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 1:43 AM
Forces from around the country head to Tripoli to defend it. — Libya Herald

Umar Khan

TRIPOLI – More than a thousand vehicles belonging to the Libya Shield forces for Central and Western Regions are reported to have arrived in Tripoli over the past four days. The troops have been deployed to various military locations in and around the capital. The move is to defend it from forces causing instability or planning a move to impose their will on Congress and the government by force.

It is the largest mobilization since the liberation and follows the decision by president of General National Congress (GNC) Nuri Abu Sahmain to order the Libya Shield to secure strategic locations in the capital and provide overall security there. The decision was authorised by the President of Congress as well as the newly-appointed Minister of Defence, Abdullah Al-Thinni, and the new Army Chief of Staff, Abdulsalam Al-Obaidi.

The Libya Shield forces for Central Region are under the command of Colonel Muhammed Musa and are usually stationed in Misrata. They have been deployed on numerous occasions in different towns including Kufra, Bani Walid and Sebha. However, the command structures of these umbrella brigades remain weak as they are formed of smaller brigades and units from many different locations and with individual commanders. The forces for Libya Shield for Western Region are already making their way into Tripoli and have also taken control of the much attacked military base named after General Abdul Fatah Younus, 27 kilometers west of Tripoli, after receiving orders from the Chief of Staff office.

Colonel Musa has mobilized roughly 1,200 vehicles from different towns including Zliten, Bani Walid, Khoms, Zawiya, Gharian, Tarhouna and Sabratha. But most of its firepower comes from Misrata –Colonel Musa’s hometown.

The new Chief of Staff and Musa have been in touch with the Supreme Revolutionaries’ Council (SRC) about the current mobilisation of forces and the general plan to dissolve all brigades, including the Libya Shield. The Executive officer of SRC, Muhammed Shaaban told the Libya Herald that there is consensus among all members of SRC to support the new Chief of Staff. He said, “We met Colonel Musa last night and assured him of all the support he needs. We agreed that the army should be the first priority now and that brigades would dissolve as soon as new Chief of Staff takes concrete steps towards forming a strong national army.”

When asked why the SRC didn’t support the former Chief of Staff, Yusef Mangoush, and resisted calls to join the army, Shaaban said that no concrete steps had been taken to build the trust in the revolutionaries.

“He (Mangoush) was a nice man but was surrounded by people not sincere to the formation of army. The revolutionaries want to see trustable army commanders and not the people they were fighting against in the revolution,” he said.

However, Shabaan noted that situation was now different and his members would support any initiative by the Chief of Staff to build a strong army. He added: “The new Chief of Staff is a very respectable man. He is very committed to making a strong army and revolutionaries trust him as he is a real fighter.”

Shabaan defended the decision to bring Libya Shield forces into Tripoli and said it had stabilised power in the capital. He spoke of the threat of a coup.

“It was timely to authorise the Libya Shield movement. The threat of a coup was very real and those informed know about its repercussions. It is not a move against Zintan or any other town. Colonel Musa confirmed that he received calls and assurances of support from Zintan. Many units that are part of the (Libya Shield) western forces are on their way to Tripoli now. We all know that Zintan has many real revolutionaries. It’s the political armed gangs based in Tripoli that are the problem.”

A senior security source who was present at the meeting between Abu Sahmain and the leaders of the revolutionaries also confirmed that, despite planning the mobilisation for some time, they had had to rush as there was a threat to Congress.

“We knew about plans to undermine the GNC ,” the source said, “and we were coming up with a plan. But it all had to be rushed when we saw bolder moves in the Western Region including theft of military equipment.”

The source continued: “The initial idea was to authorise the ‘Revolutionaries Operation Room for Tripoli’ but it included some figures who are controversial and we feared it might be hijacked by people with certain ideas. So the head of the GNC rightly asked the Chief of Staff to mobilise the Libya Shield forces.”

The source also confirmed that the forces are made up from different parts of the country including units from Zintan.

“All brigades and units from towns that fall under the Central and Western region are on duty. It is not a random move that all brigades would be coming to Tripoli. Only the ones ordered by the Commander are coming and they includes some units from Zintan,” he said. He also said that there are other proposals on the table on supporting the Chief of Staff on the formation of national army.

“There is genuine desire to form the national army and support the Chief of Staff to make it happen. One suggestion is to appoint army commanders who were loyal to the 17 February revolution from the beginning as well as the defectors that parted ways with the (Qaddafi) regime after seeing the bloody crackdown – but not the ones that jumped from the sinking ship. These points would be accepted by all the revolutionaries as this has been their demand from October 2011. They can serve under such officers. The brigades would then be dissolved – because the main factor stopping them from joining the army would be taken care of.”

The Deputy Interior Minister Abdul Basit Zwai told the Libya Herald that the government would support Congress’ decision and this would improve the security situation. “The authorisation comes from the head of the GNC and the Libya Shield forces would reverse the deteriorating level of security,” he said, adding: “It would also help provide security to the diplomatic missions after recent attacks on the diplomats.”  – Libya Herald

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