By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli/Misrata, 7 May 2016:
The offensive against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Sirte is imminent according to the . . .[restrict]Presidency Council’s newly-formed anti-IS operations room. Set up yesterday by the Presidency in response to Thursday’s deadly double suicide at the Abu Grain checkpoint 120 kilometres south of Misrata, it said in its first statement today that preparations were fully in hand to eliminate IS and that all revolutionaries in Libya should be on standby, awaiting further instructions.
Based in Misrata, the new operations room is headed by Brigadier Bashir Al-Gadi and five other senior officers, all believed to be Misratans.
In setting it up, the Presidency Council said that it would come under the direct control of the supreme commander of the Libyan army – meaning itself. The Presidency also prohibited any military or paramilitary forces engaging in combat operations between Sirte and Misrata “outside the legal framework, except in cases of self-defence”.
The decision has, however, drawn sharp criticism from House of Representatives’ President Ageela Saleh. Today, he accused the Presidency Council of usurping his authority by setting up the operations room. Without an endorsement from the HoR, it did not have the authority to do so, he said today.
In a related development today, Abdulrahman Sewehli, the president of the Tripoli-based State Council, met today with Al-Gadi and other members of the new operations room to discuss the planned offensive against IS.
Sewehli also visited some of those in hospital wounded in Thursday’s Abu Grain attacks.
The visit follows that yesterday by members of the Presidency Council, including Ahmed Maetig, himself from Misrata, who arrived to offer condolences for those killed in the attack and see the wounded in hospital.
Altogether, nine people died and 105 were injured in the double suicide bombing. Four were killed in the first suicide attack which was then followed by clashes with IS gunmen, and another four in the second which occurred some hours later after reinforcements from Misrata had arrived to join the fight against IS.
The checkpoint is still believed to be in IS hands. “We cannot say that it is back in Misrata’s control,” a Misrata official said this evening. Planes from Misrata are meanwhile reported to have carried out air strikes agains IS in the Abu Grain area during the day. [/restrict]