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New York Times: Thugs & extremists join battle for Tripoli against LNA

The Address | Benghazi – Libya

TRIPOLI – A week after General Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, launched an operation to liberate Tripoli, “an assortment of criminal gangs and extremists are rushing into the fight against him,” the New York Times reported on Friday.

“An increasingly unsavory cast” has joined fight against LNA, New York Times correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick wrote, “including a group closely tied to a militia sanctioned as a terrorist organization by the United States and the United Nations; an extremist warlord sanctioned for undermining Libya’s stability; and other militia leaders sanctioned for migrant trafficking.”

The United States, in coordination with the United Nations Security Council’s Libya Sanctions Committee, imposed financial sanctions on Libyan militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran in September last year following his repeated attacks on the country’s oilfields.

This was followed by another U.S.-U.N. decision in November last year to the adopt sanctions against Salah Badi, the commander of the Al Somood militia. Badi’s militia took part in a series of deadly clashes that terrorized Tripoli’s residents.

Both Jadhran and Badi are currently part of a militia-alliance, which includes militia leader of the so-called Tripoli’s Revolutionaries’ Brigade (TRB), Haitham al-Tajouri, to fight LNA in Tripoli.

Alongside those forces are notorious migrant traffickers, including Abdul Rahman al-Milad, also sanctioned by the United Nations.

These militias “have ruled the city as a kind of mafia” under the ostensible rule of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which is “an almost powerless unity government created by the United Nations,” according to the New York Times.

The newspaper pointed out that militias in Tripoli “have profited by extorting protection money from banks and government ministries, according to United Nations experts and an authoritative study by Wolfram Lacher of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.”

The largest of these militias is Al-Tajouri’s TRB “who cruises the city in a white G-class Mercedes and posts photos on Facebook of his vacations in Dubai.”

Al-Tajouri’s habit of wearing luxurious labels like Versace or Dolce & Gabbana to the front lines of the battle “has become a running joke on Libyan social media.”

“Several hard-line Islamists previously based in the eastern city of Benghazi who had scattered after General Hifter took over the city in 2017 have also returned in Tripoli, talking openly about revenge against him.” The American newspaper reported.

“One of them, the Benghazi Defense Brigade, had included the militia designated by the United States as a terrorist organization after it played a role in the attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.”

The New York Times concluded its report by comparing “the dynamic” in Tripoli to what happened when Field Marshal Haftar first sought to control Benghazi in 2014.

“Some hard-line militant groups had been active in Benghazi before he arrived,” the newspaper stated before adding that Field Marshal Haftar’s operation in the city “prompted other militias to embrace the extremists as partners.”

The European Union had previously confirmed such reports. In a statement issued Thursday night, the EU said its member countries “express their concern at the involvement of terrorist and criminal elements in the fighting, including individuals listed by the U.N. Security Council.”

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