Last week, clashes resumed between the Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Haftar and the coalition of jihadis in Benghazi as the LNA attempted to take full control of the Abu Saneeb area of Ganfuda. On 12 January, 17 year old Mohammed Sallabi was killed in a fight between the jihadi coalition and the LNA in Abu Saneeb, an area in west Benghazi. Mohammed is the son of Usama Sallabi a well known cleric, and brother of both Ali Sallabi, the prominent Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, and Ismail Sallabi, who is a commanding officer in the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) militia. On 13 January, 4 jihadi fighters were reportedly killed during the LNA advance. One LNA Special Forces soldier was killed in the clashes. Fozy Mohammed al-Faidi, a senior BRSC and Ansar al-Sharia commander, was also killed. The LNA suspects al-Faidi, aka Abou Saleh, of conducting a number of beheadings and IED assassinations against LNA officers, including the killing of LNA air-force pilot Labidi.
The LNA assault included airstrikes on the Abu Saneeb area, while ground forces made some new advances and retook Treek al-Haraba. Two LNA soldiers died in the assault; Special Forces squad commander Ali Eissa al-Hawari, head of the 17th combat company, and Mohammed al-Hassi from the Zawiyya Martyrs brigade. The fate of jihadi commanders Wissam Bin Hamid and Jalal Makhzoum remains unknown. Two weeks ago, there was much controversy over whether Wissam Bin Hamid, iconic BRSC leader, was killed in an LNA airstrike. However his death remains unverified. In the Ard Zuwawa area of Benghazi, the eastern government’s Ministry of Interior’s investigation team arrested a number of suspected jihadis who were said to have been carrying extremist reading material.
In a joint press conference with the House of Representatives (HoR) spokesperson and the parallel government in eastern Libya, the LNA spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari said that the LNA has killed over 70% of the jihadis who broke out from Ganfuda on 5 January. He said the LNA plan was to allow them to dissipate into the open desert before picking them off individually. He added that the security situation in the oil crescent area was stable, and that the LNA had territorial control up to Al-Aamra area just east of Sirte. Mismari revealed that the LNA is planning to incorporate all the regular army soldiers and officers across the country into its structure, and that the near future will see many battalions re-join the army.
In a statement issued on 11 January, the Derna Youth Association (DYA) announced its support for local reconciliation efforts and rejected the latest statement issued by the Derna Mujahadeen Shura Council (DMSC) on 9 January pledging allegiance to the controversial Mufti Sadeq al-Ghariyani in Tripoli. The DYA said that the DMSC is undermining the positive initiatives brokered locally to ease the LNA siege and tensions with neighbours, warning that a return to conflict will spark a civil war without end.