By Mohamed Shikhi.
Benghazi, 17 May 2015:
One of the main commanders of the pro-Islamist Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council (BRSC), Wisam Ben Hamid, . . .[restrict]has claimed that his forces have now destroyed 80 percent of the Libya National Army in Benghazi and that they will win “for sure”. He also alleges that before launching Operation Dignity in Benghazi a year ago, General Khalifa Hafter tried to do a deal with the Libya Shield No. 1 brigade, led by Ben Hamid.
The surprising claims were made in an interview on Al-Nabaa TV yesterday evening, the first anniversary of the start of Hafter’s operation.
“Our forces, the Majlis Shura, have now destroyed 80 percent of the Libyan Army. They are thieves who are killing civilians” he said. “There is only a few of Hafter’s forces . . . who have been left alone on the battlefield because Benghazi knows very well that the city can be only secured by the revolutionaries . . . Our forces will win for sure”, Hamid declared.
He also revealed that “Hafter tried many times to make contact with us before he entered Benghazi by sending his sons and some of his relatives. But we refused because Hafter wanted to be the Libyan Sisi,” a reference to Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who as head of the army overthrew the country’s then Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.
The claim about having destroyed four-fifths of the Libyan National Army does not tally with the situation on the ground in Benghazi where BRSC forces, which include Ansar Al-Sharia, have been pushed out of much of the city.
Ben Hamid, who has not been seen in public for many months, in fact appeared to accept this on more than one occasion in the interview. When asked about Dignity, he said that Benghazi was refusing to accept the real revolutionaries because it had been misled by a media campaign waged by Hafter and his supporters.
He also said that Shield No.1 had been unacceptable to people in Benghazi, which was why the BRSC had been set up in its place.
When, last July – one of the last occasions he appeared on TV – he was filmed alongside Ansar leader Mohamed Al-Zahawi at the Saiqa camp in Buatni which they had just captured, the heavily bearded and triumphant Ben Hamid took a strongly Islamist line promising that their joint forces would take control of all Libya, impose Sharia law, and kill “all apostates”.
There was none of the rhetoric this time. The long beard was gone and there was no reference at all to the presence of Islamic State (IS) forces in the 30-minute interview. Nor was there any reference to the Sharia, although he used the word “Sahawat”, employed by IS forces in Iraq to describe those opposed to them, to refer to Hafter’s forces.
As to why the BRSC had not arrested anyone behind the assassinations and attacks in Benghazi when the organisation was set up and commissioned by the General National Congress to secure the city, the question was left unanswered.
When asked whether he would accept Libyan security being solely in the hands of the police and army, there was distinct mockery. “When there will be police and army ? Then everything will be fine,” he said sarcastically with an apparently forced grin on his face.
Throughout the interview, however, the former Benghazi car mechanic who made his reputation fighting against Qaddafi’s forces in the revolution, appeared ill-at-ease and emotional. His voice was often shaking and he repeated himself several times.
Continuing his seemingly delusional grasp of reality, he finished the interview by promising displaced pro-BRSC families would be able to return to Benghazi “soon” and that his fighters would take their place as the city’s elite.
It is not known where the interview took place. It is thought to have possibly been in Misrata where his family, including his father-in-law Salem Jaber, an Islamist imam, are now reported to be staying.