Two major pronouncements were made this week. 1. Misratan forces continued their protracted advance into Sirte as battles supposedly moved into what Banyan Marsus is calling their ‘final stages’. 2. Simultaneously as the fight against ISIS has become less popular for some militia men in Tripoli, non-ISIS jihadis such as the grand mufti are expressing support for ISIS.
In the first development, the GNA affiliated Misratan forces announced on 7 August that the countdown to the end-game against IS in Sirte had officially begun, after a week of US airstrikes has reportedly given significant advantage to these forces, enabling them to take control of the ‘Hay Dollar’. Battles are now concentrated in Hay Al Deyafa and near the ‘Indian flats’ just west of the main IS HQ areas Ouagadougou complex, Sirte Hospital and the University. The Misratan-led Bunyan Marsous operation room is also coordinating Libyan airstrikes against IS locations in the city, via their connections to American targeteers.
US support is also fuelling divides with Misratan ranks between pro-GNA formations and more anti-GNA hard-line militias. These divides may escalate the closer the BM gets to victory in Sirte. Anti GNA sentiment remains high in Misratan ranks, with many fighters rumoured to be actively ready to move against the GNA in Tripoli after victory in Sirte.
In the second development, tensions are flaring between the grand Mufti Sadeq Al Ghariyani and Abdurraouf Kara head of anti-jihadist Al Rada force which is also one of the biggest pro-GNA militias in Tripoli. Ghariyani had accused Kara of using RADA to crack down on BRSC and Benghazi Defense Brigades members in Tripoli. In response, RADA issued a strong statement on 4 August admitting links between the BRSC and IS, and linking BRSC fighters to IS cells inside Tripoli who conducted operations even against Rada itself. RADA reportedly is already holding more than 200 IS operatives in Tripoli in detention. On 3 August, another Tripoli militia was involved in a shooting with a BRSC militiaman in Tripoli who raised the IS flag on his home in Tripoli road. These tensions, which increased after the US airstrikes, indicate that the capital Tripoli is likely to witness heightened instability in the future and possibly even conflict between pro and anti GNA militias, especially if Misratans and Islamist hardliners join ranks again in opposition to the GNA in Tripoli.