Ibrahim Beit al-Mal, the head of the Misrata Military Council (MMC), the local umbrella of all Misratan militias, unveiled preparations to liberate Sirte from ISIS on 6 February. Al-Mal said that the forces currently encircling Sirte include Misratans, a battalion from the South named ‘Ahrar Fezzan’, in addition to a contingent from Eastern Libya led by colonel Mohammed Abu Dhafira, a military commander from Ajdabiya. Al-Mal assured listeners that he is also coordinating with the commanders of the aforementioned forces, as well as military officers in the rural areas around Sirte.
Meanwhile, al-Mal accused the GNC of insincerity, saying the GNC is not serious about fighting ISIS. He also criticized the GNC have for its lack of instructions, financial or logistical support to forces moving against ISI in Sirte. Operation ‘Sirte Liberation’ according to al-Mal, is a completely voluntary effort, set up and coordinated by military officers from the Central and Southern region who have not received formal instructions from any governmental body.
On 5 February, the MMC demanded closure of the coastal road between Misrata to Abu Grien. Abu Grien, which is nearly 100 Km west of Sirte, was reportedly overrun by ISIS last week following clashes with Misratan forces guarding a checkpoint near the city.
MMC affiliated forces are reportedly mobilising to Misrata’s eastern and western gates, at Krarim and Dafinya respectively, while others are deploying to Sdada bridge, which lies at the midpoint between both cities. However, the MMC, representing the Misratan military forces supporting the UN-mediated Government of National Accord (GNA), and the key interlocutor for international efforts to fight ISIS, may be facing risks of fracture and infighting in the wake of the GNA’s perceived appeasement of Khalifa Haftar. This development could derail local efforts to assemble a unified anti-ISIS coalition.
While the MMC has thus far served as the umbrella and interlocutor for Misrata’s various militias, political developments are fueling rifts between militias who support the GNA, despite its endorsement of Haftar, and those who will oppose it. On 3 February, a televised statement was issued by Misrata Defense Operations Command (MDOC), warning military leaders in the city that involvement in the current political dispute would have ‘disastrous consequences for Misrata and the February 17 revolutionaries’. The MDOC stressed its support for the General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli, and claimed that the MDOC’s subordination to the MMC was a voluntary act aimed at integrating into the legitimacy of the state. However, the MDOC has openly begun to question whether the MMC is not more representative of narrow interests.
On 9 February, Benghazi inaugurated a three day Libyan International Conference to Combat Cyber Terrorism. The conference includes a number of international experts on electronic and cybercrime who will give lectures and conduct workshops, providing awareness to attendees on how extremism is propagated via the internet.