By Ajnadin Mustafa.
Cairo, 4 September 2017:
The Libyan National Army’s Omar Mukhtar operations room which is tasked with the capture of Derna from the mujahedeen forces controlling it has denied escalating military action around the besieged town. Operations room spokesman Salah Bujidar said that there had been small scale clashes between mujahideen forces and the LNA but nothing more. The mujahindeen fired shells on a daily basis fired shells at army positions, he said, and it responded in kind.
Despite Bujidar’s statement, residents in the town are living a life of complete misery. Ten days ago, it was announced that the commander of the operations room, Colonel Kamal Al-Jabali, had tightened the siege by closing the last remaining access route in and out of the town.
There is no fuel for vehicles or generators, no cooking gas and precious few medical supplies, although medicines for those with diabetes, blood pressure and cardiac conditions are reported to have been allowed in. Vegetables and fruit from farms in the vicinity of the town controlled by the mujahideen are said to be available although in limited supply but not other foodstuffs such as rice, pasta, oil, tomato paste or other staples. Shops are empty. To buy food and other commodities, people are allowed out to shop elsewhere but have to walk the one and a half kilometres from the last mujahideen checkpoint to the LNA frontline and there pick up transport to take them to Beida or elsewhere.
Bread, the basic staple of the Libyan diet, is a rarity, with bakeries forced to close because either there is no flour, or the ovens cannot work because there is no power – or both.
Appeals from Derna residents or from others across the country to the LNA to relax the siege and at least allow in fuel, medicine and flour have fallen on deaf ears.
The siege was tightened at the end of July after members of the mujahideen summarily executed an LNA pilot, Colonel Adel Jehani, whose plane was shot down. The mujahideen have since said that those responsible had been arrested but there is no evidence of this.