By Noora Ibrahim.
Benghazi, 13 August 2014:
Benghazi residents say they are worried about Ansar Al-Sharia forces now deployed at . . .[restrict]a check-point within striking distance of Benina airbase.
The newly operating checkpoint, which lies at the crossroads between Benina Airport, Hay Salam and their stronghold of Laithi, is one one of the Islamists’ gains following heavy clashes in Benghazi in July.
Saiqa Special Forces’s presence in and around Benghazi is now almost entirely limited to Benina Airport with Saiqa Special Forces Commander Wanis Bukhamada and other prominent figures from the brigade now operating out of Tobruk, an Operation Dignity stronghold.
Air Force Brigadier-General Saqr Adam Geroushi, the commander of Operation Dignity’s airforces told the Libya Herald that Benina Airport was highly prized and would signify a major gain by the Islamists if they were able to take it. The airport is the base of Dignity forces’ helicopter unit.
Benina Airport was closed in July after four rockets struck its newly refurbished international departures lounge. The Airport and the Airport Road were previously a flashpoint for clashes between Ansar Al-Sharia and Saiqa. The homes of residents in the area came under bombardment from shelling on several occasions during fighting between the two sides.
A senior official within Operation Dignity has indicated that Saiqa Special Forces faces a series of serious internal challenges. He claimed the group had been “infiltrated” by thugs and drug users and was, despite the work of some committed members, no longer fit for purpose.
Human Rights Solidarity-Libya has published a report detailing a number of human rights abuses by the group after the bodies of 35 prisoners, allegedly killed by Saiqa, were found at their base in Buatni after it was stormed by Ansar Al-Sharia at the end of July.