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|Libyan Civil War|
Map of the situation as of February 2015
| Libyan Government
|| New General National Congress
|| Islamic State of Iraq and Syria|
| Khalifa Haftar |
Commander of the Libyan National Army
| Nouri Abusahmain |
President of the GNC
| 210,000—236,000 soldiers, 60,000 policemen|| 87,000—103,000 militants|
|Casualties and losses|
| 37,000 killed and wounded, 11,000 missing|
120+ tanks destroyed, 40+ aircraft destroyed, 7 ships destroyed
|41,000 killed and wounded, 20,000 defected or deserted, unknown vehicle losses|
The Libyan Civil War, also called the Second Libyan Civil War or Libyan Conflict, is a conflict that broke out in Libya in early 2015 as a result of the Islamist radicals seizing power and attempting to impose Sharia law in the country. The main Islamist faction, the New General National Congress, was ousted in a coup d'état in early 2015 by the Libyan National Army loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, Which was backed and directed by the new parliament. As the Islamists refused to step down and recognize the new parliament as the legitimate leadership, they declared war on them and began preparing for military operations in late January 2015. The National Army began a counterattack against them at that time.
Islamists seize power, minor blowback (2014)
At the beginning of 2014, Libya was governed by the General National Congress (GNC). Although Islamist candidates had not won a majority, the Islamist members had dominated the assembly after they succeeded in having Nouri Abusahmain elected president of the GNC in June 2013. He subsequently used his presidency to manipulate the GNC agenda to the advantage of Islamists, suppressing undesirable debates and inquiries by removing them from the agenda. In December 2013, the GNC voted to follow sharia law, and decided that "a special committee would review all existing laws to guarantee they comply with Islamic law."
He is perceived by some as linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, which he denies. The GNC was the subject of considerable discontent for a variety of reasons.
The GNC failed to stand down at the end of its electoral mandate in January 2014, unilaterally voting on 23 December 2013 to extend its power for at least one year. This caused widespread unease and some protests. Residents of the eastern city of Shahat, along with protesters from Bayda and Sousse, staged a large demonstration, rejecting the GNC's extension plan and demanding the resignation of the congress followed by a peaceful power transition to a legitimate body. They also protested the lack of security, blaming the GNC for failing to build the army and police. Other Libyans rejecting the proposed mandate rallied in Tripoli's Martyrs Square and outside Benghazi's Tibesti Hotel, calling for the freeze of political parties and the re-activation of the country's security system.
On 14 February 2014, General Khalifa Haftar ordered the GNC to dissolve and called for the formation of a caretaker government committee to oversee new elections. However his actions had little effect on the GNC, which called his actions "an attempted coup" and called Haftar himself "ridiculous" and labelled him an aspiring dictator. The GNC continued to operate as before. No arrests were made. Haftar launched "Operation Dignity", which lasted from May to September 2014. It was largely a failure, and resulted in little confrontations. The two sides signed a ceasefire on 25 September 2014, and things largely went back to the way they were before.
Coup in Tripoli (January 2015)
In late January 2015, a the Council of Deputies (legislature of Libya) declared that the GNC is illegitimate, and demanded that all Islamist politicians surrender and be taken into custody. General Khalifa Haftar oversaw this, and sent both police and National Army troops to ensure their cooperation. However, expectedly, most refused to give in. Many Islamist militiamen were present in the city, and began fighting parliament forces. Some ground forces soldiers defected to the Islamists, but the majority remained loyal to Haftar and the parliament. The Libyan navy and air force remained completely loyal. Many firefights ensued across the city, with GNC holding out near the coast, in the north of the city, while their militias fought through the rest of the city. Within a day, the southern half of the capitol was under total Libyan army control. The next day, the rest of the city was taken, and many Islamist politicians were captured or killed. At the same time, many managed to escape outside the city.
Outside Tripoli, the National Army formed a defensive line so that other militias could not enter to protect the GNC. A group of Islamist militia forces attempted to break the government lines on the second day, spending the first gathering near the army positions. The attack was repelled, with the help of the Libyan Air Force, which was not used in the capitol since they did not want to cause unnecessary civilian casualties. The combined airstrikes and ground defenses kept the militias at bay, and caused them to retreat. Some straggling groups stayed behind to aid the Islamist forces fleeing Tripoli after the GNC was pushed out. The presence of the militias outside the capital became the objective of the first operation of the war carried out by the Libyan National Army. Meanwhile, the parliament proclaimed itself legitimate, and declared war on the GNC and it's Islamist backers.
Tripoli Strategic Operation (January—February 2015)
On 23 January, Haftar announced the Libyan National Army launched a full offensive in the areas surrounding Tripoli. After fanning out from the capital, the ground forces quickly destroyed the remaining militias that gathered outside the city or were retreating slowly. On 27 January, after intense gun battles with local Islamists, they took the town of Al Maya. From there they continued advancing largely unopposed into the west from the capitol. Islamists converged in the district directly south of the capital, Jabal al Gharbi. The Libyan Air Force carried out airstrikes on 26—28 January, reportedly killing 96 rebels in the northern parts of the district. The Libyan ground forces, securing the west, turned their attention south, and entered the district. They advanced unopposed to Gharyan, the district capitol. In the ensuing battle, the the Islamists held out for several days, until 2 February. The last of the Islamist forces in the city held out in the railway station, and were cleared out after the Libyan Special Forces commandos stormed the building. During the battle, it was reported that around 800—1,070 militants were killed, along with 480—790 government soldiers.
After the fall of Gharyan, the last of the militants in the northern part of the district attempted to take control of the city of Zintan, attacking on 4 February. The Libyan ground forces advanced to it, though the local government militias, the Zintani brigades, fought off most of the Islamists, who did not manage to get past the city outskirts, though took several nearby villages. The army's arrival caused them to retreat south, though they were cut off by the army's 17th and 19th Brigades, which finished fighting near Gharyan. An estimated 2,000 militants were killed in the battle and attempted retreat, along with some 900 army troops. The army proclaimed the district "clean" of militants, and advanced to the east. On 7 February, the advance began to the Murqub district, where Islamist rebel forces regrouped, and retreated south. The district capital, Khoms, was taken with some minor resistance by 8 February. The National Army advanced south into the Misrata district, to the southeast.
Battle of Misrata
The GNC grouped a significant force, some 10,000 militants, in the district capital, Misrata. The National Army sent 7,000 regular soldiers and some 2,500 pro-government militiamen. An advance into the city began on 10 February, and much of the outskirts were captured quickly as the Islamist defense so were more focused on the inner parts of the city and the coast line. The parliament wished the battle to be a good victory, as it was the site of a battle during the 2011 Libyan civil war, which was intense and had been dubbed "Libya's Stalingrad". The army captured the airport, and the El Sharaka and Al Ghiran neighborhoods with minor resistance. Many rebels simply retreated further inside the city than engage the army there. Some 50 militants were killed during the initial advance into the city with the army taking around 20 casualties. By 13 February, the Libyan ground forces advanced into Al Zawabi, where a significant number of Islamist militants was located. An intense firefight ensued, and the army broke through after armored columns of T-72 tanks arrived. On 15 February, the neighborhood fell under full government control. The southern neighborhood of Karzaz fell to the army with little resistance on 16 February.
In Tripoli, corvettes of the Libyan navy left port on 14 February and arrived at the coast of Misrata the next day, bombarding the Islamist positions near the coast line. Several hundred "marines" landed on the coast the next day, capturing Dzera and several other neighborhoods after intense fighting. The Islamist force in the western half of the city grouped in the city center, consisting of many non-Libyan jihadists from other parts of North Africa and the Middle East. The army and the marine troops began attacking the city center on 17 February, and at the same time, the army's 25th Brigade advanced from the south into the eastern half of the city, taking the factory districts near the seaport. The pro-GNC forces did not expect the move, and retreated into the seaport area, holding the line there. In the city center, the fighting went on building by building. Finally, after a gunfight lasting until 19 February, it was announced that the city center had fallen. Among the dead were some 3,000 militants and 1,200 soldiers. The army had full control of the western city, and began advancing on the rebel holdouts in the eastern half, converging on the city's seaport.
On 20 February, the ground forces took control of Al Sawati, a neighborhood above the seaport area. The Libyan Navy began bombarding the Islamist buildings from the sea after certain buildings held by the rebel forces were identified by aircraft and the information passed to the naval commander. After the bombardments, the army advanced, from north and south, capturing much of the seaport over the course of several hours. The commander of the Islamist forces in the city declared that they would fight to the death, on 22 February. The Libyan ground troops surrounded and destroyed his command center mere hours later. The battle was officially over after that, but several more hours were spent preforming mop-up operations in the city. After news of the victory came, the Libyan and international press highly publicized it, claiming that the battle was the first major battle of the war. Military analysts commented that the coordination of the Libyan ground, naval, and air forces was key to the victory.
On 24 February, the city of Bani Waled was taken by government forces after a short battle. It was defended by some 500 militants, and fell in less than a day.