Clashes broke out in Ajdabiya on 15 December after LNA units, headed by Ltn. Mohammed Daooud Al Gabsi of border guard brigade, and Ltn. Mohammed Ebsit, deputy commander of the Ajdabiya operations room, began manhunts for members of the Ajdabiya Revolutionary Shura Council (ARSC) in the city, allegedly affiliated with Ansar Al Sharia. Twenty people have already died in the fighting, including a member from the local city council, but mainly young civilian volunteers with the LNA units, where clashes are mainly focused in the 7th October district and the Industrial area. Despite local efforts to defuse tensions, clashes continued after Airstrikes targeted residences of ARSC leaders in the city. The Local council and tribal elders have called for a ceasefire, noting with concern the arming of young civilians by LNA units, and holding these units responsible for the deaths resulting from the clashes. Clashes are likely to continue in the near term magnifying the risks to the oil ports and wells in the region.
The HoR-affiliated, (and Federalist oriented) Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) are stationed in Ajdabiyya to protect against terrorist attack by IS, but the close ties between the PFG and ARSC militias are antagonizing the supporters of the LNA. Reports of PFG units deserting their posts in Brega port and nearby areas after IS elements were spotted, highlight these concerns.
The ARSC militias battling with LNA units issued a statement on 20 December, declaring that ‘unknown elements’ were killing people affiliated with the Army and Police in order to paint the ARSC as the perpetrators and agitate between revolutionaries and civilians in the city. In their statement, they denied the killing of any police and army personnel not involved in the fighting for Haftar, confirming their right to combat Haftar and any LNA forces who attack their members or their property. On 21 Dec ARSC issued another statement, announcing the deaths of 4 members including a key leader, Ahmed Mazeg Al Zway.
Although the statement makes no explicit mention, it hints that these ‘agent provocateur’s could in fact be forces affiliated with the ARSC, namely Ansar Al Sharia militants (AL Qaeda), because the statement refers to those ‘who were not actually involved on the front lines’, and interestingly drops out the word ‘alliance’ from the full title of the ARSC. Although reports indicate that AAS is not in a formal alliance with IS in Libya (despite an alliance of convenience against Haftar in Benghazi), they have chosen to remain non-aligned in Derna and Ajdabiya, and this issue poses grave risk of splintering of the ARSC and bolstering ISIS in the region. The headless body of a salafist, found on Monday in Ajdabiya confirms that these cells are actively embedded in the city.
In Sabratha, jihadi actors are also beginning to pose a significant threat to the city and the nearby region, especially the strategic facilities of Mellitah and Zawiya and their pipelines. After the show of force by AAS linked militias in Sabratha last week, an explosion destroyed the intelligence building in the city on 17 December. No group has yet claimed the attack, but recent developments in this region see the possibility for emergence of a new non-state militia in this region under a similar format to Derna, Ajdabiya and Benghazi.
In Benghazi, The Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC) published some photos, showing an IED exploding against LNA soldiers in the district of Bu-Atni. Battlegrounds in Benghazi are seeing a proliferation in mines and roadside IED’s as the most preferred method by these militias against the LNA. Amongst the many photos published by the LNA, one shows a roadside IED concealed in stones, with the pressure plate triggers extends out across the road in Buatni. The BRSC also released a photo presentation displaying the burning of the engineering faculty in Benghazi’s University, accusing the LNA of mortar shelling.