On 29 July, the Sabratha municipal council mobilized a new security force called the ‘anti-Islamic State (ISIS) Operation Room’ after agreement for the move was reached with local tribes last week. The force is intended to police the areas around Sabratha and Mellitah, and the council appointed Col. Omar Abdul Jalil from Sabratha as head of the new force. Tensions between the new force and the notorious local ‘Ammo’ militia led to a brief closure of the coastal road around Mellitah. In consequence, the ‘Ammo’ militia, which is led by Ahmed Dabbashi and reportedly runs the migrant smuggling networks across this region, withdrew from some of its current positions to around 20 km west of Sabratha.
The anti-ISIS force announcement comes in a broader context of Sabratha municipal council’s recent efforts to empower local governance and strengthen rule of law from the bottom up. On the same day, Sabratha municipal council successfully launched the debut meeting of its ‘association of municipalities’. The association includes 45 local councils and aims to give local governments more weight in policy, security and service delivery.
Local tensions in Sirte between residents and Government of National Accord (GNA)-affiliated, Misratan-led al-Bunyan al- Marsus (BM) forces continue for fear of a Libyan National Army (LNA) incursion into the city. BM forces raised the anti-ISIS alert level last week and on 26 July, they claimed to have detected more ISIS movements on al-Load agricultural project on the road between Sirte and Jufra. On 27 July, unidentified aircraft launched two airstrikes targeting ISIS positions on the road, according to local sources.