On 1 June, a group composed of hardline Islamist revolutionaries from Benghazi and Ajdabiya issued a televised statement, aired by former Libya Dawn mouthpiece Al-Nabaa, declaring the establishment of the “Benghazi Defense Brigades” (BDB). The BDB claimed that its legitimacy is derived from Dar Al-Ifta, the religious authority headed by Grand Mufti Saddiq Al-Ghariyani. The statement was delivered from the town of Hun, in Al Jufra, where many former Libya Dawn militias have assembled to support the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) anti-ISIS operations in Sirte. Al-Ghariyani’s involvement is quite ironic as he has previously praised Ansar al-Sharia and other jihadi groups.
The BDC said it would begin a new phase of operations to ‘defend’ Benghazi from the Libyan National Army (LNA), and pledged full solidarity with the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council. The BDC also announced that once Sirte’s liberation is complete, a safe corridor will be made available to Benghazi from Ajdabiya. The announcement is reportedly helping to galvanize and embolden many remnants of Islamist-revolutionary fighters from both eastern and western Libya who had splintered due to alignments with ISIS and Ansar Al Sharia (AAS). These groups are now gathering in Jufra, and actively participating in anti-ISIS operations south of Sirte. Following the announcement, GNA Minister of Defense Mahdi Al Barghathi promptly denounced the BDC as a terrorist outfit that will be treated the same as ISIS and AAS, indicating that a real disconnect exists between the GNA and the militias acting on its behalf.
The legitimation of non-state actors is not solely confined to hardline Islamists, but also includes Federalist and Petroleum Facilities Guard militants who are fighting under the GNA banner, in addition to tribal militias from Awlad Suliman in Sebha who are advancing on Harawah. All of these developments indicate that the mélange of non-state actors currently operating under the GNA’s anti-ISIS banner represents a significant threat to Libyan stability, while also complicating the viability and image of the GNA, not to mention the entire political process, if supreme unified command is not effectively exercised.