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Libya: Sarraj, Haftar Share the ‘Liberation’ of Sabratha | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Head of Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj. Reuters

Cairo — The ISIS Fighting Operation Room (IFOR), loyal to Head of Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj, announced on Friday their full control of Sabratha after more than two weeks of heavy clashes against Brigade 48.

The clashes between a security force loyal to the UN-backed GNA and the militia of the head of a former people-smuggling network, Ahmad Dabbashi, have led to many causalities.

“Sabratha city has been liberated from the militias – the Dabbashi militias and their alliance,” said Operations Room spokesman Saleh Graisia.

“Now the city is fully controlled by the Operations Room… the militias have escaped to the west.”

Graisia also hailed the Presidential Council for its support to their war on “terror”.

Directly after announcing the victory, Official spokesman for the Libyan National Army Colonel Miloud al-Zawi, praised efforts exerted by the Libyan forces, who achieved “victory” against whom he called the “Kharijites,” referring to Brigade 48.

He called on the Libyan forces to preserve the city entirely and keep unity in preparation for liberating other cities in the western district.

The Libyan National Army (LNA), which has opposed the GNA and is headed by prominent Commander Khalifa Haftar, has also claimed ties to the Operations Room, leading to fears that the clashes in Sabratha could lead to a broader escalation of the conflict which developed in Libya after a 2011 uprising.

Zawi said this week that around 40 of its soldiers had been fighting in Sabratha.

“We hope that Sabratha is a good sign for the LNA,” he said on Friday.

The GNA, which had originally set up the security forces to fight ISIS during its brief occupation of central Sabratha in February 2016, welcomed the liberation announcement.

It expressed “great satisfaction with the positive developments at Sabratha,” in a statement posted on Facebook.

Sabratha, 70 kilometers west of Tripoli where the GNA is based, is Libya’s main departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe.

Sabratha Municipal Council hailed the victory and said in a statement that the fighting was an internal issue aimed at eradicating criminals and ISIS fugitives.

Fighting broke out in Sabratha on September 17 between Infantry Brigade 48 (Known as Martyr Anas Dibbashi Brigade) and the ISIS Fighting Operation Room, both claim loyalty to the Presidential Council in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, and in a statement issued Friday on his official Facebook page, Serraj expressed his full appreciation of the efforts made by the IFOR and his great satisfaction with the positive developments in the city.

For his part, Haftar described the clashes in Sabratha as “a legitimate war between officers from the national army (IFOR) on the one hand and terrorist groups and human traffickers on the other hand.”

Haftar added that the war in Sabratha will not stop before these groups hand over their weapons and the foreign elements who are fighting with them and release the detained people for the purpose of blackmailing.