Following the downfall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya plummeted into a state of turmoil. Southern Libya, specifically, has come to be known as a particularly violent region full of bandits, radical militants, and terrorist groups, many of which emerged in the power vacuum. These various groups have fought among themselves in an ongoing attempt to exert authority over whatever city or town they claimed to protect or rule.
This remained the case until the Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, stepped up with foreign endorsement, promising to protect Libya and bring law and order back to the country. In true Libyan fashion, the GNA soon had a domestic competitor vying for a position of power—the Libyan National Army (LNA), headed by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
Lately, the LNA has been moving expeditiously through the lawless south, seizing control. The civilians in the region have embraced the LNA’s presence, and new fighters have joined their ranks. Bolstering their influence and financial strength, the LNA recently seized Libya’s largest oil field, too.
In their latest display of power, LNA forces began clearing the city of Murzuk, situated close to the Algerian border and held by Tebu forces. The Tebu are nomadic tribesmen in Libya, Niger, Chad, and South Sudan. They’ve appealed to the GNA for help in the recent clashes. According to the Libya Observer, “The leader of the South Protection Force, Mohamed Tibawi, said that citizens in the city of Murzuk are in a state of apprehension and fear due to the ongoing air bombardments on the city…the city is besieged and surrounded by armed Sudanese opposition groups who are fighting alongside Haftar.”
The LNA has air superiority, greater numbers on the ground, and better equipment than the Tebu. This all spells out one more triumph in the bag for Haftar. Despite the Tebu appealing to the GNA to assist them, it’s unlikely the latter would risk more clashes with the LNA. One thing is for certain: The LNA is rapidly gaining control of the country’s south and is turning out to be a dominant force in the country. Will the LNA and GNA come together to establish a new, stable government? Or will there be renewed fighting between the two forces as the power struggle continues?