Libyan National Army headed by Khalifa Haftar goes on a full-scale offensive on al Qaeda-linked islamist group «Derna shoura council of mujahideen» (DSCM) in Northeastern Benghazi.
LNA commander Marshal Khalifa Haftar announced a launch of a long-attended operation to take Derna from the terrorist group during the military parade coincided with the 4th anniversary of “Dignity” operation on May 8.
— SMM Libya (@smmlibya) May 8, 2018
After the last two years Libya’s General Command needed to change its strategy to fight militants in Derna and with the beginning of active phase it started concentrating the forces on the approaches to the city.
In order to encircle the DSCM militants, the Libyan forces simultaneously advanced in three main directions: al Heela in the South, al Fataih in the East and Ain Mara and Zahr alHamra in the West and South-West.
#Libya-my updated map (with input from @Arn_Del) showing Omar Mukhtar Operations Room’s (#LNA‘s #Derna front) current OOB according to LNA publications.
Unit names are not reflective of actual size or TO&E. Assets in theater are dynamic based on need, availability and wear&tear pic.twitter.com/PCAYIGiceW
— Oded Berkowitz (@Oded121351) May 14, 2018
The LNA has managed to significantly come closer to Derna and to take under control a number of strategic sites in the city’s outskirts after the recent clashes with DSCM.
Under LNA’s increasing pressure the DSCM were forced to retreat leaving their positions with heavy weapons and equipment.
#Libya– #LNA claims to have fully captured al-Hila, located south of #Derna, destroying a T-55 and capturing 6 BTR-60s, as well as 21 militants, of which 6 are said to be foreigners (only one made public so far is allegedly an Afghan national) pic.twitter.com/xojH3ulkUq
— Oded Berkowitz (@Oded121351) May 15, 2018
DSCM leader Atiya al Shaari in his video message announced the dissolution of the Derna Shoura Council and formation of a new group of “Derna Protection Force”. The DPF was supposed to include militants of DSCM and volunteers from among the residents of the city.
However, al Shaari had to rebrand his group, promoting a new image of “protectors”, but no longer “Mujahideen”. In this case, it will be much more easier for the DPF to persuade the West to provide the group with some kind of help, which would be, in contrast, virtually impossible in its original form of DSCM.
For example, the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs described the DSCM as “armed groups” without further clarification of its radical ideology.
Libyan media say that inhabitants of Derna’s Eastern Shiha, one of the districts at the Southern entrance of the city, demand of retreating fighters to withdraw from residential areas. Locals fear that DSCM militants, who hide in residential buildings from the Libyan Air Force air raids, endanger their lives and use them as a “human shield”.
The humanitarian organizations confirmed that up to 500 families have been reportedly displaced from the al Fataih as a result of the renewed clashes.