By Libya Herald reporters.
Benghazi/Tripoli, 21 May 2015:
Militants, said to be local fighters supporting the Islamic State (IS), this morning blew up . . .[restrict]two of the checkpoint gates outside Ajdabiya. The checkpoints were the Tobruk Gate on the desert road to Tobruk and Zueitina Gate on the road to Benghazi. No one was hurt in the attacks.
Reports that these were suicide bombings are incorrect.
Ajdabiya Municipal Council offices were also targeted this morning by rocket-propelled grenades.
The gates were destroyed at around 6 am following fighting between the checkpoint guards and local pro-IS operatives from the Ajdabiya Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council (ARSC).
Set up in March along the lines of the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council, the ARSC has become closely aligned to the Islamic State (IS). Three days ago it posted photos of what it said was one of its brigades stationed at the towns’ southern gate on the road to Kufra.
Locals claim IS wants to follow the lead of Derna and Sirte.
The fighting in the town yesterday between ARSC and the Libyan National Army-linked forces controlled by Ibrahim Jadhran broke out yesterday after the local council ordered ARSC to leave. During these clashes, the ARSC commander, Miloud Al-Galouni Al-Zwai, was killed.
He had commanded the local Libya Shield unit which had become increasingly sympathetic to IS and which merged with other Islamists to form the ARSC, although it still maintains its own identity within the council.
“There were violent clashes lasting until this early morning which led to the bombing of these gates”, a local Ajdabiya resident told the Libya Herald. “We have been apprehensive because there has been an ongoing security issue for more than two weeks because of . . . the absence of the army which is now supporting [LNA] troops in Benghazi.”
The fighting is not only ideological, it is also tribal.
The town, the operations centre of Jadhran’s oil blockade last year, has been split between pro and anti-LNA forces, mirroring the local divide between the Magharba and Zuwaya tribes. The split become fully apparent eight months ago when Jadhran’s brother Salem, one of the town’s newly-elected municipal councillors, and a member of the Magharba, was chosen as mayor. Three of the seven councillors, Zwai members, refused to accept the election. Ajdabiya has been increasingly polarised since then, with the council and the local pro-LNA forces supporting the Magharba and its allies and the ARSC linked to the Zuwaya.
The circumstances that led to the death of Al-Zwai are still vague, although a Tebu member from the Wahli family who live in the town is alleged to have been involved. As a result the Wahli home was burnt down by the angry Shield members late last night.
The Wahli family is aligned with the Magharba.
IS is active in the area. Both the five-member crew of the Cyrenaica TV kidnapped last August and the two Tunisian journalists Sofiane Chourabi and Nadhir Gtari kidnapped the following month were seized near Ajdabiya. All are now said to have been executed by IS.