Current Activities of Rebel Groups in Libya
Dr Marcin Styszynski
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (Poland).
Current military activities of the various rebel groups are based on the geographical and ideological differences between Tripoli, Benghazi and Fezzan, as well as on political Islam or separatist and nationalist ideas.
Tripoli region includes the following groups :
- Suwwar Libya (Revolutionaries of Libya) is a strong alliance of insurgents who participated in the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi regime. They are very influential in the Libyan capital and cooperate with Islamists. They have also participated in the kidnapping of the former Prime Minister Ali Zaidan.
- Kataib Zintan (Zintan Brigades) are active in the southwestern tribal mountainous region of the country. The Brigade participated in the liberation of Tripoli and arrested Gaddafi’s son Sayf al-Islam. The group is believed to support the former Minister Ali Zaidan and general Khalifa Haftar. The Kataib Zintan also controls the international airport of Tripoli.
- Kataib Misrata (Misrata Brigades) is the most powerful organization in Western Libya. It played an essential role during Gaddafi military offensive against revolutionaries and fights in Tripoli. Besides, it supports local politicians from Misrata.
Eastern regions of Benghazi region includes the following groups:
- Al-Saiqa Brigade is a special military formation of 3 000 persons separated from Gaddafi’s regime during the uprising. The group is fighting with jihadist insurgents and it is supposed to have created new formations in the Libyan army after Gaddafi. Al-Saiqa also supports the current offensive of the general Haftar.
- Liwa 319 (District 319) or Shuhada 17 Fabrayal (Martyrdoms of 17th February). This unit supports the Muslim Brotherhood structures in Libya. Officially, the group is a member of the Libyan military forces but the fighters reserve their independence and separatism. For example, they refused to follow orders of the central military commandment regarding abandonment of their sieges in Benghazi.
- Rif Allah Sahati Brigade is under the leadership of Ismail al-Salabi, the brother of the influential theologian Ali al-Salabi from the International Union of Muslim Ulama from Qatar. The Brigade is also affiliated with the worldwide structures of the Muslim Brotherhood. Besides, it is criticized by general Haftar.
- Ansar Al-Sharia, is a jihad group based in Darna area, Eastern Libya. The group denies any relation with Al-Qaida, despite declaration of US State Department. Ansar is continuing violent fights with Al-Saiqa Brigade.
- Tahkim al-Din Group (The rule of religion) is a new jihadist organization affiliated to Al-Qaida units operating in Benghazi. The group is responsible for different terrorist attacks, especially against Al-Saiqa Brigade.
- – Barqa Region Brigades include separatist insurgents from Barqa, Tubruk or Sirt fighting for federalization of the country. This group controls about 60% of oil reserves of Libya and major exporting ports oil supplying Western countries. These brigades are supporting general Haftar.
Southern region of Fezzan includes influential tribes such as:
- Tabu tribes from Chad origins declaring their independence and separatism. They also condemn central government in Tripoli for humiliation and discrimination.
- Tuaregs living in Ghat region, on the Algerian borders. They supported Gaddafi during the uprising.
- Arab tribes continuing violent fights with Tabu representatives because of tribal differences.
- Gaddafa tribes – Muammar Gaddafi family basis – supported some attacks against central government after the collapse of the regime.
The present rebel activities in Libya concern different political forces based on moderate political Islam such as Suwwar Libya, Liwa 319 (aka Shuhada 17 Fabrayal) or Rif Allah Sahati Brigade as well as groups declaring jihad such as Ansar al-Sharia and Tahkim al-Din Group. However, the jihadists are in minority comparing to other brigades and militias.
Besides, there are influential military militias supporting the present offensive conducted by general Haftar. It regards Kataib Zintan, Al-Saiqa Brigade or Barqa Region.
The Libyan rebellion also includes some separatist and autonomic tendencies declared by southern tribes as well as secularist and federal ideas underlined by military groups supporting general Haftar as well.