|Given recent developments, the situation across the whole of Libya remains extremely uncertain; any non-essential travel plans should be reconsidered.
On 18 May 2014, the General National Congress (GNC) building was attacked by heavily armed forces directed by Major General Khalifa Heftar, which took over control of the parliament. Heftar, who is also responsible for leading a massive assault ostensibly against extremist groups in Benghazi on the 16 May 2014, has since stated that the GNC has been suspended, and that the sixty-member Constitutional Assembly will govern in its place, along with the current interim government headed by Abdullah al Thinni, which will continue to act on an emergency basis until fresh elections can be held for the legislative body. It is currently unclear whether Heftar’s plan will be implemented, but while Justice Minister Saleh al Marghani has insisted the government remains in control of the GNC, calling Heftar’s attack an “attempted coup”, but it currently appears unlikely that the GNC will continue to operate following the attack. Heftar has rejected allegations that he has led a coup attempt, arguing that his forces are not seeking to take power for themselves, but to reassign power to a more legitimate body. While Heftar has been outspoken for several months about the increasing Islamist influence within the GNC and the need for its termination, it is possible that the decision to take control by force was motivated in part by the vote that was scheduled for 18 May 2014, to confirm the proposed government led by recently elected Prime Minister Ahmed Miitig. While Miitig was elected to the GNC as an independent and has denied alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood backed Justice and Construction Party (JCP), he is widely viewed as an Islamist candidate. Following the attack on the GNC, Heftar’s forces claimed to have detained a number of GNC members; while reports that GNC President Nouri Abu Sahmain was one of those detained were later denied, there has been no further news regarding those captured during the attack. A spokesperson for Heftar’s forces claimed that they had arrested a number of GNC representatives due to their involvement in “supporting terrorist activities”. In the short-term, however, very little governing is likely to take place, as the attack at the GNC sparked clashes which quickly spread across the capital, illustrating Tripoli’s volatile, militia-ridden landscape. The worst violence was reported from the south-western districts of Hay al Akhwakh and Abu Salim, where the Zintan-based Qaaqaa and Sawaiq brigades clashed with forces from Tripoli Military Council (TMC), allegedly backed up by an Abu Salim-based Islamist brigade. Local sources claimed that grenades were launched towards residential buildings, and heavy exchanges of gunfire were heard for several hours. The fighting also spread along Airport Road. Sources within the Zintani brigades have indicated that reinforcements had been called from Zintan to back up the forces in Tripoli. The Zintan troops are believed to be aligned to some extent with Heftar’s forces, in that both groupings have opposed the GNC, and some reports suggested that Zintani militiamen were involved in the storming of the GNC building. Clashes were also reported from the eastern area of Ben Ashour, which later spread to Suq al Juma towards the Mitiga Airbase, a stronghold of Misratan brigades. Misratan forces outside of the capital have stated that they will deploy to Tripoli in support of the government, after GNC President Abu Sahmain requested that the Misratan-based Libya Shield Force safeguard the city. The Mitiga Airbase is likely to be a focal point of future clashes, as Abdullah Naker, a prominent Zintan Brigade leader, requested that civilian residents in the area surrounding the Airbase evacuate, suggesting his forces intend to assault the base. Thus far, reports have claimed that up to ten people have died during the clashes in Tripoli, with up to 100 more being injured, but accurate reports are extremely hard to come by. With extra forces from all sides being called to the capital, further clashes are possible. Particular caution should be afforded to the central areas where government buildings are located, particularly in the Zawiyat al Dahmani district, as well as the south-western districts and suburbs along Airport Road, and the eastern suburbs towards the Mitiga Airbase. However, there is potential for conflict to break out anywhere in the city, as criminal elements may seek to exploit the chaos to their advantage.
SNE advises against all non-essential travel at this time. We are continuing to assess the situation on
an hourly basis and more will be known in the next 24 hours. If you require further advice please contact
our in-Country team +218 911 713972 or email [email protected]