By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli/Misrata, 3 May 2016:
There were clashes today in the town of Zillah, 400 kilometres south east of Sirte, . . .[restrict]between forces said to linked to the Libyan National Army and those of Ziyad Belaam, the leader of Benghazi’s Omar Mukhtar Brigade.
Reports have also been circulating of air strikes against the LNA forces. Officials in Misrata this evening would neither confirm nor deny them. However, one told the Libya Herald said that some of the wounded from Belaam’s forces would shortly arrive in the city for treatment.
Belaam commands the largely Islamist Omar Mukhtar Brigade which as part of the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shoura Council has been fighting the LNA in Benghazi for the past two years. He, however, went to Turkey for treatment after being shot in September 2014. Since his return he has not been back to Benghazi, moving instead between Misrata, Tripoli, the Jufra district (of which Zillah is a part) and, reportedly, Sabratha.
According to the Misratan official, today’s clashes did not involve the mainstream LNA. He claimed that Belaam’s men had targeted fighters from the Sudanese rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) which was now working with the LNA and who had moved into the area. They had been discovered by a Belaam patrol this morning, he said. He added that following fighting, Belaam’s men had pulled back but had managed to capture 10 vehicles from JEM.
In February, however, the LNA was reported to have attacked and inflicted serious damages on a JEM unit some 200 kilometres north of Kufra. JEM forces, who were used by Qaddafi during the revolution have been operating in Libya since being largely crushed in Sudan’s Darfur province.
For his part, Colonel Ahmed Mesmari, the LNA’s spokesman, claimed that those who attacked Zillah today were the rump of terrorists who had fled Benghazi recently. He said that the LNA was in the town and had forced them to retreat some 30 kilometres away from it.
Other reports also speak of LNA forces now in control of the Zillah following today’s clashes, although photos claiming to show LNA vehicles in the town, show a motely collection of vehicles that would more usually be associated with an irregular militia.
There have been reports in recent days of both pro-LNA forces (in particularly Tuareg fighters) and pro-Misrata units heading towards Jufra to take part in separately planned operations to strike Sirte from the south.
The mainstream LNA forces are said to be blocked outside Ajdabiya, although a source with Ibrahim Jadhran said that some had arrived in the town. Jadhran, however, is reported to have set conditions for the LNA to pass through Ajdabiya.
With both LNA and Misratan forces looking to be the first to liberate Sirte, there have been fears that both could end fighting each other to stop them reaching the town. [/restrict]