By Hadi Fornaji.
Tunis, 17 October 2017:
Clashes continued today in Tripoli’s Ghararat district near Mitiga airport and next to Suq Al-Juma despite an announcement by the Rada (“Deterrence”) forces of Abdul Rauf Kara that they had contained the situation and were in full control of the area.
This afternoon, Tripoli port was closed by militiamen and, with it, the Corniche from Busetta to past the Radisson Blu Mahari hotel, as well as other streets in the area.
“They weren’t Rada”, one driver who had been forced to take a different route told the Libya Herald. “They were civilians with Kalashnikovs.”
Elsewhere, though, there were large numbers military forces patrolling the downtown area.
Although it had been operating during the day apart from four flights which had to be cancelled, Mitiga airport was also again closed late this afternoon, with passengers and staff evacuated for their safety. Heavy firing could be heard and, according to an airport statement, the fighting was all around the airport, not just at Ghararat. Incoming flights were diverted to Misrata and it was hoped that the airport would reopen tomorrow, Wednesday,
In clashes earlier in the day, one of Rada’s top commanders was killed. Numeri Mohamed Al-Jamil, who was said by the force to have taken a prominent role in tackling local drug dealers and other criminals, died instantly when his vehicle was hit by an RPG.
At that point, Rada had already declared the Ghararat area a military zone, ordering people to stay off the streets for their safety, and saying that it had arrested a number of “criminals” there.
Reports of homes in the area being hit by missiles and of six people being killed as a result of the fighting have not been confirmed. What is also not fully clear is the relationship between those whom Rada is fighting.
Ghararat has had a reputation of being somewhere to avoid and home to drugs dealers and the like, and certainly it is thought that some of its residents involved in such activities have reason to dislike Rada and want to attack it. However, yesterday, in a move that was presented as being to be linked to the fighting, Rada announced that it had prevented an attack in Tripoli by a pro-Qaddafi group from the south but now based in the Wirshefana area and consisting mainly of mercenaries. Among those it says were arrested were Al-Mabruk Juma Sultan Ahnish, from the south of the country, and Rifqa Al-Sudani, also apparently known as Imam Daoud Mohamed Al-Faki.
The latter was said to be Ahnish’s driver and supposedly a member of Sudan’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement, although some sources have expressed doubts about this, suggesting that Al-Faki is also Libyan. They were arrested in the Wirshefana area by local Rada forces there and sent to Tripoli.
To further complicate matters, the brother of Al-Mabruk Ahnish, Khalifa Ahnish, a member of the Magarha tribe, last night threatened to stop the Man-Made River water supply to Tripoli if Al-Mabrouk were not freed within 72 hours. In a video made inside one of the pumping stations on the line, he specifically threatened to burn it as well as close down gas pipelines from the south and the Tripoli-Sebha road.