By Jamie Prentis.
Tunis, 22 January 2018:
The Rada Special Deterrence Force announced that it has arrested 61 people and released another six, following the attack on the Mitiga airport compound that shook Tripoli last week.
Spokesman Ahmen Ben Salem had previously told the Libya Herald “it was impossible to count” how many were arrested, such was the high number. Rada said the attack from militias mainly from Tajura was an attempt to break out some of their comrades held at Mitiga’s jail.
Demonstrations in Tajura have been held urging the release of those detained by Rada. The criticism is that many have been arrested based purely on suspicion and no charges have been made against them.
Today, the 33rd Brigade, a militia that led the Mitiga assault and was until last week recognised by the Presidency Council’s (PC) defence ministry, said it would stand up for the oppressed and the displaced.
In a nod to allegations it is close to Islamists, the 33 Brigade applauded controversial former Grand Mufti Sadqi Al-Ghariani and extremists recently ousted from Benghazi, while threatening Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Hafter.
It also criticised the ‘‘frigate PC’’ (which had arrived in Tripoli onboard a frigate) delegation that recently visited Mitiga, saying it showed blatant solidarity with the “so-called deterrence force” (Rada).
The Brigade, led by a man called Bashir Khalfallah, more commonly known by his nicknamed Al-Bugra or ‘the cow,’ said they would ignore decisions made by the PC, an apparent reference to the government decision to ‘disband’ their group.
At least 20 people died and dozens more were injured as the 33 Brigade launched an attack on Mitiga and its environs. The airport was closed and has only recently reopened in the last two days.
There were rumours that a ceasefire had been agreed after Rada and the 33 Brigade appeared to be readying themselves for another round of clashes, before quickly backing off. However, Rada has insisted it would never strike a deal with “outlaws”.