On 23 December, a senior moderate cleric who was a symbolic figure for the Misratan militias that formed the core of the al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) coalition, such as the Halbous and Mahjoub brigades, was abducted, tortured and forced to leave the country. On 24 December, a key official from Misrata’s customs police was shot at Misrata’s port. Local sources say that the shooter was also another customs police officer and that the incident was caused by a disagreement over corrupt smuggling arrangements. These incidents have fuelled tensions within Misratan ranks and led to calls by some Misratan fighters for others in Tripoli and southern Libya to retreat from their bases and return to Misrata. The city seems to be on the path to more division between forces aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA)/al-Bunyan al-Marsus and those aligned with Islamists/ the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), also ‘nominally’ affiliated to the GNA.
This fragmentation is also causing instability in Tripoli. On 26 December, clashes broke out in Tripoli in two locations south and south east of the capital, between the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade (TRB) led by Haithem Tajouri and Misratan militias based in these areas. Large forces from Misrata are expected to redeploy to Tripoli in the near term to prevent nominally pro-GNA militias there from collaborating with a Haftar-aligned movement to control the capital. This follows Haftar’s call two weeks ago for soldiers to ‘prepare to liberate Tripoli’.
The UN political process remains in deadlock. Last week, the GNA self-authorized Libya’s 2017 budget and is attempting to build up its military force through the formation of a Presidential Guard. On 20 December, Omar Laswad, member of the GNA’s Presidential Council (PC), issued a scathing statement condemning the decisions of the PC and the GNA as illegitimate. He warned that the current trajectory of the political process, especially in the illegal use of Libya’s assets, will lead to insolvency and eventually the collapse of the Libyan state. Laswad claimed that the GNA’s controversial Presidential Guard was to receive 1 billion USD of funding. On 25 December, Laswad issued another statement warning members of the PC and GNA of an imminent attack on the oil crescent.