By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli/Benghazi, 28 June 2015:
Some 23 members of the Libya National Army (LNA) support forces and the Shoura Council . . .[restrict]of the Mujahideen in Derna (SCMD) were reported killed in fighting between them today to the west of the town near Ain Mara. The LNA are reported to have lost 15 men and SCMD eight.
The SCMD was also involved in artillery fire with Islamic State (IS) forces east of Derna near the cement works at Fataiah and at a place close by named Kufat Seba (“Seven Caves”). There were no casualties reported in the latter fighting despite the use of heavy weaponry. However, there are reports that IS has warned residents in Derna’s Bab Torbuk district to evacuate it because it intends to target it.
The fighting in Ain Mara, 25 kilometres west of Derna, is said to follow an order by General Command to local LNA units to move towards the town in preparation for taking it over from the Mujahedeen who defeated and expelled IS forces two weeks ago. A showdown between the two has been threatening since the takeover, with the LNA saying it intends to arrest SCMD leaders, widely seen as sympathetic to Al-Qaeda.
However, the head of the LNA’s air forces, Air Force General Saqr Geroushi, has told the Libya Herald that although it continues to bomb IS targets around Derna on a daily basis, the LNA would not enter the town at present unless local residents are directly threatened. The conflict there was between Islamists, IS and the mujahideen, he said. The LNA would not take sides. It would eventually enter, however, and would demand that Abu Sleem and its allies hand over their weapons. “If they say they are sorry, we will forgive them,” he stated.
At the moment, though, the LNA has been hampered by the row over the status of the Derna operations commander, Colonel Faraj Barasi, and the fact that most of its forces in the area are “support” units – local militias that have attached themselves to the LNA but who are untrained. Many of those killed today in the fighting with the Abu Sleem Brigade were from Ain Mara.
On the other side, the SCMD is for the moment widely supported by local Derna residents, thankful at its removal of IS.
How long that lasts is open to question. Last week, it was reported that the Abu Sleem Martyrs Brigade, the main element in the SCMD, had asked the Ministry of Justice in Beida to send judges to reactivate the judicial system in the town and that IS’ Sharia Court had been abolished. There are now indications of the SCMD following in IS footsteps and trying to impose the same Islamist ideology on the town. It is now claimed that the SCMD is calling for the reimplementation of Sharia law. There are reports too that it has threatened locals who have refused to join its ranks.
Following its takeover of the town it called on locals who had collaborated with IS to turn themselves in. Four hundred have reportedly done so and pledged to now support the Mujahidden, according to a Derna source. However, it is also reported said that a 27-year old, named as Mustafa Al-Garagani had been killed because he had not done so. He had not been involved with IS, his cousin is repored as saying, but was a friend to someone who was and this had been held against him. He was gunned down in a drive-by killing after sunset prayers on Saturday night and buried today, Sunday.
There have been other assassinations again in Derna since the start of Ramadan and a Pakistani man was wounded in a further assassination attempt although he was not thought to be the target. [/restrict]