By Libya Herald reporters.
Benghazi, 7 August 2017:
Khalifa Hafter has reappointed the man he fired a year ago as head of the Omar Mukhtar operations room against Islamists in Derna. Last August, Hafter said the officer was not considered sufficiently aggressive.
Kamal Al-Jabali resumes his position as commander of the Omar Mukhtar operations room because, according to Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Ahmed Mismari, the previous chief, Brigadier Salim Al-Rafadi, was injured in a car crash last week. The full extent of Rafadi’s injuries are unclear. Some reports say he has a broken leg, others that he suffered only bruising.
Rafadi took over this January from Yousef Al-Mabrouk Al-Mansuri who had been Jabali’s first replacement.
Hafter originally fired Jabali after LNA positions outside Derna were overrun by local Islamists in an humiliating defeat which cost the lives of a dozen soldiers. At the time, a source told the Libya Herald that Jabali was not considered sufficiently aggressive and too happy simply to negotiate local ceasefires.
In Derna tension has risen over the past week as all roads in and out of the town have been blocked. The blockade followed the downing of an LNA warplane whose pilots were seized by the Derna Mujahedeen Shoura Council (DMSC). One of the flyers, Colonel Adel Jehani, was executed and images of his body posted online. The DMSC has apologised for this and said those who killed the pilot have been arrested.
The head of the LNA’s air force Major-General Saqr Geroushi announced today that one of the Mig-23 warplanes at Labraq airbase is being renamed after Jehani.
In a clear sign that the LNA is preparing for a tough fight for Derna, the LNA’s Saiqa Special Forces has been moved forward to join the troops investing the town. Saiqa was responsible for the final breakthrough in the fighting against militants in Benghazi’s Gwarsha, Ganfouda, Suq Al-Hout and Sabri districts. Within its ranks is Major Mahmoud Warfali whose alleged appearance in four summary execution videos is being investigated by the LNA. Saiqa commander Wanis Bukhamda is reported to have said that his attention was now focused on taking Derna.
Meanwhile, Hafter was in Cairo yesterday for talks with Egyptian Chief of Staff and Mahmoud Hegazy. Hafter was said to have praised recent efforts by Egypt to bring together figures from Misrata and the east of Libya in an attempt to find reconciliation. It was reported afterwards that both men agreed they would continue to work together to fight terrorism and bolster security across Libya and Egypt.