|Libyan Civil War|
|Part of the Arab Winter, the Libyan Crisis, Qatar–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict|
|Date||16 May 2014 – present|
(4 years, 2 months and 5 days)
- Islamic parties dominating the General National Congress (GNC) are defeated in the June 2014 elections.
- GNC Islamist forces take control of Tripoli and establish a rival government.
- The government supported by the majority of the elected House of Representatives (HoR) bases itself in Tobruk
- American drone strikes and airstrikes in Libya
- The Benghazi Shura Council revolts and is defeated in Benghazi.
- ISIL takes over most of Derna, some Sabha countryside, Nofaliya, Sirte, and other cities in Libya; subsequently, ISIL launches an offensive to capture control of the strategic oil terminals of Sidra and Ra's Lanuf in January 2016
- Derna Mujahideen expel ISIL from Derna in July 2015. GNA and GNC launch counter-offensive to capture areas in and around Sirte from ISIL in May 2016. Abu Qurayn, Bin Jawad, Nofaliya, Harawa, Ghardabiya Air Base and Sirte seized by the GNA/GNC in the offensive.
- Libyan Political Agreement signed by both the Tobruk-based government and Tripoli-based government in December 2015 leading to dissolution of GNC and formation of Government of National Accord or GNA, but HoR votes against it.
- Forces loyal to Khalifa al-Ghawil attempt a coup d'état against Fayez al-Sarraj and the Presidential Council of the GNA.
- GNA defeats GNC in Tripoli completely taking control of the capital.
- GNA allies with Zintan brigades led by Osama Juwaili and defeat militias in Sabratah and Wershafana thus taking control of much of western Libya.
House of Representatives (Tobruk-based)
Egypt (limited involvement)
United Arab Emirates (limited involvement)
Government of National Accord
National Salvation Government
Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries
al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
Shura Council of Mujahideen in Derna (until 2018)
Benghazi Defense Brigades
Ajdabiya Shura Council
AQIM (2014–15; alleged since)
|Commanders and leaders|
Aguila Saleh Issa
(President of House of Representatives)
Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar
(Commander of Operation Dignity)
Col. Wanis Abu Khamada
(Commander of Libyan Special Forces)
Brig. Gen. Saqr Geroushi
(Chief of Staff of the Libyan Air Force)
Chief of Staff Abdel Razek Al-Nazuri (Libyan Ground Forces)
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi
Gen. Ali Kana (loyalist leader in Fezzan)
(Chairman of the Presidential Council and Prime minister)
Col. Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi
(GNA Minister of Defense)
(Libyan Navy commander)
Nouri Abusahmain (former)
(President of the GNC)
Khalifa al-Ghawi (WIA)
Abu Khalid al Madani
Salim Derby †
(Ansar al-Sharia Leader)
Mokhtar Belmokhtar †?
(Commander of Al-Mourabitoun, believed dead)
Musa Abu Dawud † (AQIM southern Zone commander)
Mohamed al-Zahawi †
(Former Ansar al-Sharia Leader)
Wissam Ben Hamid †
(Libya Shield 1 Commander)
(Commander of Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade)
Abu Nabil al-Anbari † (Top ISIL leader in Libya)
Abu Hudhayfah al-Muhajir
(ISIL governor of Wilayat Tripolitania)
|Casualties and losses|
10,071 killed (as of January 2018)|
20,000 injured (as of May 2015)
The Second Libyan Civil War is an ongoing conflict among rival factions seeking control of the territory and oil of Libya. The conflict at the beginning was mostly between the government of the House of Representatives (HoR) that was controversially elected in 2014, also known as the "Tobruk government"; and the rival General National Congress (GNC) endorsed government, also called the "National Salvation Government", based in the capital Tripoli established after Operation Odyssey Dawn and the failed military coup.
The HoR, also known as the Council of Deputies, strongest in eastern Libya, has the loyalty of the Libyan National Army under the command of General Khalifa Haftar and has been supported by air strikes by Egypt and the UAE. The GNC, based in western Libya and backed by various different militias mainly Libya Dawn coalition in west Libya and Libya Shield in the east with some support from Qatar, Sudan and Turkey, initially accepted the results of the 2014 election, but rejected them after the Supreme Constitutional Court nullified an amendment regarding the roadmap for Libya's transition and HoR elections. Due to controversy about constitutional amendments, the HoR refused to take office from GNC in Tripoli, which was controlled by powerful militias from the western coastal city of Misrata. Instead, the HoR established its parliament in Tobruk which is controlled by General Haftar forces.
In December 2015, after long talks in Skhirat, the Libyan Political Agreement was signed. The LPA was the result of protracted negotiations between rival political camps based in the capital, Tripoli, Tobruk and elsewhere which agreed to unite as the Government of National Accord. On 30 March 2016, Fayez Sarraj the head of the GNA was able to arrive to Tripoli and started working from there despite opposition from GNC. Although the Government of National Accord is currently the only internationally recognized government in the country, its authority is still not recognized by the HoR as specific details acceptable to both sides have not yet been agreed upon especially regarding the future of Haftar.
In addition to those three factions, there are also smaller rival groups: the Islamist Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, led by Ansar al-Sharia (Libya), which has had the support of the GNC; the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL's) Libyan provinces; as well as a many militias and armed groups whose allegiances often change.
The United Nations brokered a cease-fire in December 2015 between the main factions, and on 31 March 2016, the leaders of a new UN-supported "unity government" arrived in Tripoli. As of the start of 2018, despite the unity government controlling much of western Libya it has still had not received the approval of the House of Representatives with most members of the parliament voting against it in a motion of no confidence.
Background of discontent with General National Congress
At the beginning of 2014, Libya was governed by the General National Congress (GNC), which won the popular vote in 2012 elections. The GNC was made of two major political groupings, the National Forces Alliance (NFC) and the Justice and Construction Party (JCP). The two major groups in parliament had failed to reach political compromises on the larger more important issues that the GNC faced.
Division among these parties, the row over the political isolation law, and a continuous unstable security situation greatly impacted the GNC's ability to deliver real progress towards a new constitution for Libya which was a primary task for this body.
The GNC also included members associated with conservative Islamist Groups as well as revolutionary groups (thuwwar). Some members of the GNC had a conflict of interest due to associations with militias and were accused of channeling government funds towards some armed groups and allowing others to conduct assassinations and kidnappings. Parties holding majority of seats and some holding minority of seats began to use boycotts or threats of boycotts which increased division and suppressed relevant debates by removing them from the congressional agenda; voting to declare sharia law and establishing a special committee to "review all existing laws to guarantee they comply with Islamic law"; imposing gender segregation and compulsory hijab at Libyan universities; and refusing to hold new elections when its electoral mandate expired in January 2014 until General Khalifa Haftar launched a large-scale military offensive against the Islamists in May 2014, code-named Operation Dignity (Arabic: عملية الكرامة; 'Amaliya al-Karamah).
Political Fragmentation of the GNC
The 2012 elections, overseen by the Libyan electoral commission with the support of the UN Special Mission In Libya (UNSMIL) and nongovernmental organizations like the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), have been considered "fair and free" by most Libyans. However, the elections did not necessarily create a strong government because the Parliament was fragmented due to the lack of organized political parties in Libya post-revolution. The GNC was made up two major parties, the National Forces Alliance and the Justice and Construction Party, as well as independents in which some where moderates and others conservative Islamists. The GNC became a broad-based congress.
The GNA elected Nouri Abusahmain as president of the GNC in June 2013. He was considered an independent Islamist and a compromise candidate acceptable to liberal members of the congress, as he was elected with 96 out of a total of 184 votes by the GNC.
GNC establishes the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR)
The GNC was challenged due to increasing security concerns in Tripoli. The GNC itself was attacked many times from militias and armed protesters who stormed the GNC assembly hall. Following his appointment, Abusahmain was tasked with providing security. He set up the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR), which was initially intended to protect and secure Tripoli in August 2013. But this armed group was responsible for kidnapping Prime Minister Zeidan in October of that year resulting in the GNC dismissing it from its security function and Abusahmain himself as president. During his term, Abusahmain blocked inquiries into the distribution of state funds and it was alleged that Abusahmain was channeling government funding towards the LROR. The LROR was not an Islamist armed group but rather was made of rebels from the city of Gharyan. Its commander was Adel Gharyani.
In October 2013, following the kidnapping of the Prime Minister, Abusahmain used his presidency to change the agenda of the GNC in order to prevent a debate over disestablishing the LROR. At the same time, he cancelled a request to establish a committee to investigate the allocation, by Abusahmain himself, of 900 million Libyan Dinars (US $720 million) to the LROR and various other armed groups. Instead, the LROR had its responsibilities reduced by the GNC but was allowed to continue to operate, and no one was prosecuted for the incident.
Kidnapping of Prime Minister Zeidan
The kidnapping of Zeidan was believed to be a coup attempt supported by members of the GNC, who was viewed as too moderate (see: 2013 Libyan coup d'état attempt).
Most journalists reported that it was the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) (Ghurfat Amaliyat al-Thuwar) created by Abusahmain by decree 143 of 7 July. Yet there is evidence to suggest that this is not the case and that armed groups such as the Duru3 actually conducted the kidnapping.
Expansion of armed groups during the GNC's term
Many Libyans blamed the GNC and the interim government for a continued lack of security in the country. The interim government struggled to control well-armed militias and armed groups that established during the revolution. Libyans in Benghazi especially began to witness assassinations and kidnapping and perceived the GNC to be turning a blind eye to the deteriorating security situation in the east.
But security concerns increased across the country allowing armed groups to expand in both Tripoli and in the east.
- In 2012, the assassination of the US ambassador to Libya by Ansar al-Sharia took place.
- In October 2013, the kidnapping of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan by the LROR took place.
- The kidnapping of Egyptian diplomats in January 2014 also by the LROR took place.
- In March 2014, armed protesters allegedly linked to the LROR stormed the GNC parliament building, shooting and injuring two lawmakers and wounding several others.
In April 2014, an anti-terrorist training base called "Camp 27", located between Tripoli and the Tunisian border, was taken over by forces fighting under the control of Abd al-Muhsin Al-Libi, also known as Ibrahim Tantoush, a long-serving Al-Qaeda organizer and former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. The Islamist forces at Camp 27 have subsequently been described as part of the Libya Shield Force. The Libya Shield Force was already identified by some observers as linked to al-Qaeda as early as 2012.
GNC's political isolation law
Although Islamists were outnumbered by Liberals and Centrists in the GNC, in May 2014 they lobbied for a law "banning virtually everyone who had participated in Gaddafi's government from holding public office". While several Islamist political parties and independents supported the law, as they generally had no associations to the Qaddafi regime, the law enjoyed strong public support. Polls demonstrates that a large majority of the Libyan people supported the exclusion of high-ranking Qaddafi-regime officials.
The law particularly impacts elite expatriates and leaders of liberal parties. There existed reservations that such a law would eliminate technocratic expertise needed in Libya at the time.
Armed militiamen stormed government ministries, shut down the GNC itself and demanded the law's passage. This intimidated the GNC into passing the law in which 164 members approved the bill, with only four abstaining and no member opposing it.
Suppression of women's rights
GNC opponents argue that it was supporting Islamist actions against women. Sadiq Ghariani, the Grand Mufti of Libya, is perceived to be linked closely to Islamist parties. He has issued fatwas ordering Muslims to obey the GNC, and fatwas ordering Muslims to fight against Haftar's forces
In March 2013, Sadiq Ghariani, the Grand Mufti, issued a fatwa against the UN Report on Violence Against Women and Girls. He condemned the UN report for "advocating immorality and indecency in addition to rebelliousness against religion and clear objections to the laws contained in the Quran and Sunnah". Soon after the Grand Mufti issued a clarification op-ed that there should be no discrimination between men and women yet women have a greater role in the family, nevertheless, this does not mean Islam violates the rights of women.
Later in 2013, lawyer Hamida Al-Hadi Al-Asfar, advocate of women's rights, was abducted, tortured and killed. It is alleged she was targeted for criticising the Grand Mufti's declaration. No arrests were made.
In June 2013, two politicians, Ali Tekbali and Fathi Sager, appeared in court for "insulting Islam" for publishing a cartoon promoting women's rights. Under sharia law they were facing a possible death penalty. The case caused widespread concern although they were eventually acquitted in March 2014. After the GNC was forced to accept new elections, Ali Tekbali was elected to the new House of Representatives.
Protesters stage a large demonstration in Shahat against the GNC's mandate extension plan.
During Nouri Abusahmain's presidency of the GNC and subsequent to GNC's decision to enforce sharia law in December 2013, gender segregation and compulsory hijab were being imposed in Libyan universities from early 2014, provoking strong criticism from Women's Rights groups.
GNC extends its mandate without elections
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 two months later, on 16 May.
House of Representatives versus New GNC
On 25 May 2014, about one week after Khalifa Haftar started his Operation Dignity offensive against the General National Congress, that body set 25 June 2014 as the date for new elections. Islamists were defeated, but rejected the results of the election, which saw only an 18% turnout. They accused the new House of Representatives parliament of being dominated by supporters of the former dictator, and they continued to support the old GNC after the Council officially replaced it on 4 August 2014.
The conflict escalated on 13 July 2014, when Tripoli's Islamists and Misratan militias launched Operation Libya Dawn to seize Tripoli International Airport, capturing it from the Zintan militia on 23 August. Shortly thereafter, members of the GNC, whom had rejected the June election, reconvened as a new General National Congress and voted themselves as replacement of the newly elected House of Representatives, with Tripoli as their political capital, Nouri Abusahmain as president and Omar al-Hasi as prime minister. As a consequence, the majority of the House of Representatives was forced to relocate to Tobruk, aligning itself with Haftar's forces and eventually nominating him army chief. On 6 November, the supreme court in Tripoli, dominated by the new GNC, declared the House of Representatives dissolved. The House of Representatives rejected this ruling as made "under threat".
On 16 January 2015, the Operation Dignity and Operation Libya Dawn factions agreed on a ceasefire. The country was then led by two separate governments, with Tripoli and Misrata controlled by forces loyal to Libya Dawn and the new GNC in Tripoli, while the international community recognized Abdullah al-Thani's government and its parliament in Tobruk. Benghazi remained contested between pro-Haftar forces and radical Islamists.
The pro-GNC forces were a coalition of different militias with different ideologies although most of them are Islamist influenced especially in eastern Libya in Benghazi and Derna. Since LPA negotiations started in Skhirat there has been a rift within the militias over support for the UN-sponsored talks and the proposed Government of National Accord, which seeks to unite the rival governments.
Since GNA started working from Tripoli in March 2015, Libya Dawn coalition the largest of Pro-GNC militias has been disbanded and most of its forces changed allegiances to GNA.
The Islamist "Libya Dawn" has been described as "an uneasy coalition" identified as "terrorists" by the elected parliament in Tobruk including "former al-Qaeda jihadists" who fought against Qaddafi in the nineties, members of Libya's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a "network of conservative merchants" from Misrata, whose fighters make up "the largest block of Libya Dawn's forces". The coalition was formed in 2014 as a reaction against General Khalifa Haftar failed coup and to defeat Zintan brigades controlling Tripoli International Airport whose aligned with him.
The Zawia tribe has been allied to Libya Dawn since August 2014, although in June 2014 at least one Zawia army unit had appeared to side with General Haftar, and reports in December claimed Zawia forces were openly considering breaking away from Libya Dawn. Zawia militia have been heavily fighting the Warshefana tribe. In the current conflict, the Warshefana have been strongly identified with the forces fighting against both Libya Dawn and Al Qaeda. Zawia has been involved in a long-standing tribal conflict with the neighbouring Warshefana tribe since 2011. The motivations of the Zawia brigades participation in the war have been described as unrelated to religion and instead deriving foremost from tribal conflict with the Warshafana and secondarily as a result of opposition to the Zintani brigades and General Haftar.
When The head of GNA Fayez Sarraj arrived in Tripoli, Libya Dawn has been disbanded as the interests of the militias forming it conflicted when some of them choose to support GNA others chose to stay loyal to GNC.
The Libya Shield Force supports the Islamists. Its forces are divided geographically into the Western Shield, Central Shield and Eastern Shield. Elements of the Libya Shield Force were identified by some observers as linked to Al-Qaeda as early as 2012. The term "Libya Shield 1" is used to refer to the Islamist part of the Libya Shield Force in the east of Libya.
In western Libya, the prominent Islamist forces are the Central Shield (of the Libya Shield Force), which consists especially of Misrata units, and the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room. Two smaller organizations operating in western Libya are Ignewa Al-Kikly and the "Lions of Monotheism".
Al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Muhsin Al-Libi, also known as Ibrahim Ali Abu Bakr or Ibrahim Tantoush has been active in western Libya, capturing the special forces base called Camp 27 in April 2014 and losing it to anti-Islamist forces in August 2014. The Islamist forces around Camp 27 have been described as both Al-Qaida and as part of the Libya Shield Force. The relationship between Al-Qaeda and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is unclear, and their relationship with other Libyan Islamist groups is unclear. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are also active in Fezzan, especially in border areas.
Libya western and central Libya Shield force fought alongside Libya Dawn and were disbanded with it in 2015. While the eastern Libya Shield forces merged later with other Islamist militias and formed Revolutionary Shura Council to fight Hafter LNA.
Revolutionary Shura Councils
In Benghazi, the Islamist armed groups have organized themselves into the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries. These are:
The Shura Council of Benghazi has been strongly linked with ISIS as they fought together against Hafter in Battle of Benghazi. Yet, the Shura Council never pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Meanwhile, in Derna the main Islamist coalition Shura Council of Mujahideen which was formed in 2014 is an al-Qaeda-affiliated group. The coalition has been in fight with ISIS in 2015 and drove them out from the city.
Ajdabiya had its own Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, which is the most ISIS linked among the three Shura councils. Its leader Muhammad al-Zawi and a number of the council pledging allegiance to ISIS played a major role in strengthening the Islamist group grip on Sirte.
Benghazi Defense Brigades
Benghazi Defense Brigades was formed in June 2016 to defend Benghazi and the Shura Council from the Libyan National Army, the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) included various Libya Dawn militias and was organized under the banner of the former Grand mufti Saddiq Al-Ghariyani. Even thought it pledged to support the GNA  and apparently working under Mahdi Al-Barghathi, the Defence Minister of the GNA. The GNA never recognized the BDB with some members calling for it to be demarcated as a "terrorist organization".
Even though the Amazigh militias mainly situated in Zuwara and Nafusa Mountains fought alongside Libya Dawn, they consider themselves pushed towards that because Zintan brigades and the rest of their enemies has been sided with HoR. Still though, the Amazigh main motivations for fighting against Haftar is his Pan-Arabic ideas which is conflicting with their demands of recognition their language in the constitution as an official language.
While keeping their enmity towards Haftar, the Amazigh militias mostly became neutral later in the war especially since the formation of GNA.
The anti-Islamist Operation Dignity forces are built around Haftar's faction of the Libyan National Army, including land, sea and air forces along with supporting local militias.
The Libyan National Army formally known as "Libyan Arab Armed Forces". It was formed by General Khalifa Haftar gradually as he fought in what he named Operation Dignity. On 19 May 2014, a number of Libyan military officers announced their support for Gen. Haftar, including officers in an air force base in Tobruk, and others who have occupied a significant portion of the country's oil infrastructure, as well as members of an important militia group in Benghazi. Haftar then managed to gather allies from Bayda, 125 miles east of Benghazi. A minority portion of the Libya Shield Force is reported to have not joined the Islamist forces. It is not clear if this means they have joined the LNA forces.
Since then Haftar continued to strengthening his LNA by recruiting new soldiers along with the advancements he made in the ground. In 2017 Haftar said that his forces are now larger by "hundred times" and now they are about 60 thousand soldiers.
Salafists, called Madkhalis by their enemies fought alongside Haftar LNA since the beginning against the Islamist militias especially Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries and ISIS whom they considered Khawarij after a fatwa from Saudi Rabee al-Madkhali.
Since the Battle of Tripoli Airport, armed groups associated with Zintan and the surrounding Nafusa region have become prominent. The Airport Security Battalion is recruited in large part from Zintan. The "Zintan Brigades" fall under the leadership of the Zintan Revolutionaries' Military Council.
Wershefana tribal and mainly Gaddafi loyalists armed groups, from the area immediately south and west of Tripoli, has played a big role in Haftar forces west of Libya, On 5 August, they have captured Camp 27, a training base west of Tripoli. Wershefana armed groups have also been involved in a long-standing tribal conflict with the neighbouring Zawia city since 2011. Zawia has been allied to Libya Dawn since August 2014, although its commitment to Libya Dawn is reportedly wavering.
After being accused of kidnapping and ransoming and other criminal deeds, a GNA joint force made mostly from Zintan brigades who were former allies of Wershefana defeated them and seized Wershefana district. "Joint forces seize control of Wershiffana district". The Libya Observer. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
Effects of the war
Libyan oil fields, pipelines, refineries and storage
As of February 2015, damage and disorder from the war has been considerable. There are frequent electric outages, little business activity, and a loss in revenues from oil by 90%. Over 4,000 people have died from the fighting, and some sources claim nearly a third of the country's population has fled to Tunisia as refugees.
A recent announcement from the company said the company aims 900,000 barrels per day in the next year. Oil production has fallen from 1.6 million barrel per day to 900,000 in four years of war.
May 2014–January 2015: Operation Dignity v Operation Libya Dawn
Hostilities first broke out early in the morning of Friday 16 May 2014 when Gen. Haftar's forces assaulted the bases of certain Benghazi Islamist militia groups, including the one blamed for the 2012 assassination of US ambassador Christopher Stevens. Haftar has vowed to not stop until the extremists groups are purged. Shortly before the assault Haftar reportedly asked a close friend, "Am I committing suicide?" The operation, codenamed "Operation Dignity" by Haftar.
On 17 May, Haftar held a press conference in which he proclaimed that the current GNC was no longer representing the Libyan people and was illegitimate. He explained that his primary aim was to "purge" Islamist militants from Libya, specifically the "terrorist" Muslim Brotherhood.
On 18 May, Gen. Haftar's militia allies in Tripoli attacked parliament, sending lawmakers fleeing for their lives as gunmen ransacked the legislature, declaring the body suspended. A commander in the military police in Libya read a statement announcing the body's suspension on behalf of a group led by Haftar. In the next day evening a group of 5 officers, who identified themselves as the Leaders of the Libyan Army, announced the suspension of the General National Congress. The officers, under the lead of the Zintani former head of Military Intelligence, Col. Muktar Fernana, instead announced that the Constitutional Committee would carry out the work of the GNC. Under the plan al-Thinni's government was to remain in office, and would oversee the formation of military and security forces.
On 13 July, a coalition of military entities and militias, including the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) and some brigades from the Misrata Union of Revolutionaries, such as Hatten, Mercer, and Haraka, launched an offensive codenamed "Operation Dawn" on Tripoli International Airport, thus beginning the Battle of Tripoli Airport. They were later joined by other militias from Misrata, Tripoli, and Zawiya, as well as by Islamist militias, the Knights of Janzour, Amazigh units, and some militias associated with cities of the Jebel Nafusa.
On 23 August, after more than a month of fighting, Tripoli International Airport finally fell to fighters from Libyan Central Shield, a coalition of Islamist and Misrata forces. The following day, Operation Dawn forces announced that they have consolidated the whole city and adjacent towns after driving out rival Zintan militias 90 kilometers south of the capital.
Islamist armed groups extended their control over central Tripoli. While the newly elected House of Representatives parliament set up operations in Tobruk. A rival General National Congress parliament continued to operate in Tripoli.
Military confrontation between factions in western Libya, particularly since the beginning of October 2014, has increasingly been waged between groups supportive of the Zintani brigades and opponents of those forces. The spread of combat zones beyond Tripoli as well as the intensification of fighting in the Nafusa Mountains has accelerated this trend. Heavy fighting commenced in the city of Kikla and the surrounding vicinity on 11 October when Zintani brigades initiated an offensive to gain control over various towns and routes in the Nafusa Mountains. Clashes between Tuareg and Tebu tribal militias have also been repeatedly flared in Ubari at various times during October.
After amassing strength in Sirte, Misratan forces launched on 13 December an offensive called "Operation Sunrise" against the Petroleum Facilities Guard, led by Ibrahim Jathran, and other pro-Tobruk forces for control of Ras Lanuf and the Sidra oil terminal. Several days of clashes over the oil facilities have ensued, including the deployment of airstrikes in the struggle. Most of the air assaults have been conducted by forces allied with the Tobruk-based government, however, Libya Dawn forces allegedly carried out an airstrike on 16 December in the al-Hilal region. This attack reportedly caused no casualties or infrastructure damage.
On 16 January, the Operation Dignity and Libya Dawn factions declared a ceasefire and agreed to form a unity government and further political talks bringing the fights especially in western Libya to a halt.
January 2015– November 2015: ISIL rising
On 27 January 2015, gunmen attacked the Corinthia Hotel, a location frequently used by Libyan officials and foreign diplomats, in Tripoli. After detonating a car bomb in the parking lot, the assailants stormed the building and opened fire, killing at least ten individuals, including an American security contractor, before being killed by security forces. Libyan security forces have since reclaimed control over the hotel building. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attack.
On 4 February, gunmen believed to be linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant stormed and seized control of the Al-Mabrook oilfield south of the city of Sirte. A Libyan security source said twelve employees, including four foreigners, were believed to have been killed in the raid.
On 9 February, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took over the town of Nofaliya in Sirte District, after a convoy of 40 heavily armed vehicles arrived from Sirte and ordered Nofaliya's residents to "repent" and pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The fighters appointed Ali Al-Qarqaa as emir of the town.
On 13 February, gunmen affiliated with the IS seized government buildings and radio and television stations in Sirte. These force reportedly issued an ultimatum demanding other military entities evacuate the city by the dawn of Sunday (15 February). In response, the unrecognized rump GNC of the Tripoli-based government announced a decision to form a joint force to reclaim facilities in Sirte from IS militants. However this joint force never did attempt to recapture the city from IS, this comes as a result of Misrata militias withdrawing from Sirte when ISIL attacked their posts.
On 15 February, ISIL in Libya released a video depicting the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt. Within hours, the Egyptian Air Force responded with airstrikes against IS training locations and weapons stockpiles in Derna in retaliation for the killings, killing around 50 militants and 7 civilians. Warplanes acting under orders from the Tobruk-based government also struck targets in Derna, reportedly in coordination with Egypt, whereas the Tripoli-based government condemned the airstrikes, calling them "terrorism" and "a violation of sovereignty in Libya". On 19 February, Qatar recalled its ambassador from Cairo in protest against Egypt's unilateral military action, saying it could harm innocent civilians and advantage one side in Libya's conflict.
On 20 February, IS operatives detonated three bombs in Al Qubbah, targeting a petrol station, a police station, and the home of parliamentary speaker Agila Salah, allegedly in retaliation to recent Egyptian airstrikes. These attacks reportedly killed at least 40 people. The U.S. State Department, the Misrata Municipality, and Libya Dawn condemned the attacks.
On 14 March, pro-Dawn forces associated with Misrata and Operation Sunrise clashed with IS militants in Sirte, which marked the start of Battle of Sirte (2015). Fighting between Libya Dawn forces and ISIL militants was also reported in the Daheera area west of the city of Sirte, and at the Harawa vicinity east of Sirte.
On 29 May, Islamic State fighters captured the Qurdabiya air base south of Sirte after Tripoli aligned troops withdrew from the area.
On 13 August, 38 residents from the town of Sirte were killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, after residents revolted against them in reaction to the killing of a Salafist imam who refused to hand over his mosque to the militant extreme group. Among the dead were two children, four elderly people, and the rest were fighters from the local tribe of Furjan. ISIL threatened to use gas against the civilians unless attacks against it stopped.
December 2015–April 2016: signing of the Libyan Political Agreement
Efforts to establish peace between the rival governments were made on 16 and 17 December, when the leaders of both governments met in Malta and delegates signed an agreement in Morocco. On 17 December 2015 members of the House of Representatives and the new General National Congress signed the revised political agreement, generally known as the "Libyan Political Agreement" or the "Skhirat Agreement".
Under the terms of the agreement, a nine-member Presidency Council and a seventeen-member interim Government of National Accord were formed, with a view to holding new elections within two years. The House of Representatives was supposed to continue to exist as a legislature and an advisory body, to be known as the High Council of State, was supposed be formed with members nominated by the New General National Congress.
On 4 January 2016 ISIS took over Bin Jawad during its oil crescent region campaign. On Monday morning, the terrorist group imposed full control over the city of Bin Jawad in the Sirte District, after a series of intense firefights with rebel forces that were loyal to the Libyan provisional government in Tripoli. And on 7 January, a truck bomb attack targeted a police training center in the coastal city of Zliten, killing at least 47 and wounding scores of people. The incident was one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Libyan history. Difficulties in treating the huge number of wounded at facilities in Zliten resulted in many patients being transferred to hospitals in Tripoli, Misrata, and Khoms. Another car bomb attack occurred on the same day at the entrance to the oil port of Ras Lanuf, killing multiple people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the massacres at Zliten and Ras Lanuf.
On 23 February, ISIL militants clashed with forces associated with the Sabratha military council inside of Sabratha. These clashes were followed on the same day by an ISIL offensive that allegedly temporarily seized various buildings after penetrating the city. However, local forces conducted a counterattack against the ISIL militants, reportedly driving them out of the city. However, fighting continued in Zawagha district.
On 12 March, the Presidential Council of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord issued a statement urging all Libyan institutions to begin a transfer of authority to the unity government. It also called upon the international community to cease all dealings with alternative governments. In the statement, the Presidential Council asserted that a document signed by a majority of the HOR's members expressing support for the new government, in addition to the endorsement by other political figures, conferred legitimacy on the Government of National Accord. And thus on 16 March the European Union agreed to implement sanctions, travel bans, and asset freezes, on Nouri Abusahmain, the president of the Tripoli-based new GNC, Khalifa al-Ghwell, the new GNC's prime minister, and Aguila Saleh, the president of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives citing these three political leaders as being "spoilers" obstructing implementation of the U.N-backed plan of resolution to the Libya conflict and the associated Government of National Accord.
During an interview on 17 March, Fayez al-Sarraj, the Prime Minister of the U.N/internationally supported Government of National Accord, declared that his government would move into Tripoli "within in a few days." Seraj also stated, in the same interview, that his government's security plan included agreements with police, military forces, and some armed groups in Tripoli that would enable the Government of National Accord to ensconce itself in the capital.
On 24 March, the Tripoli-based new GNC declared a state of emergency in response to reports that four members of the Government of National Accord had entered Tripoli. Despite GNC government attempts to block GNA move, on 30 March, various members of the Presidential Council, including Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, arrived at a naval base in a Tripoli after travelling from Tunisia on a boat. On 31 March, it was reported that top officials from the GNC, under heavy pressure and warnings from former supporters, had dispersed back to their home cities. GNC Prime Minister Khalifa Ghwell, Sheik Sadeq al-Ghariani, GNC President Abu Sahmain, GNC Media Department head Jamal Zubia, and militia commander Salah Badi were reported as having left Tripoli.
At the end of March, the mayors of Sabratha, Zultan, Rigdaleen, Al-Jmail, Zuwarah, Ajilat, Sorman, Zawia, as well as those of West and South Zawia, issued a joint statement endorsing the Government of National Accord. And on 2 April, the National Oil Corporation stated that it would work with the Presidential Council.
On 5 April, the National Salvation Government associated with the General National Congress announced that it was resigning, "ceasing operations," and ceding power to the Presidential Council. Following the dissolution of the GNC, former members of that body declared the establishment of the State Council, as envisaged by the LPA.
On 28 April, Prime Minister Faiez Serraj issued a prerecorded television address during which he stated that he had tasked his government's Defense Minister, Mahdi Barghathi, with assembling a joint command and a joint operations room for the recapture of Sirte from ISIL. Serraj declared that the forces for the operation would be drawn up of military units from across the country.
On 5 May, ISIL militants staged a preemptive offensive against GNA-allied forces in Abu Grein and other areas in central Libya. The attacks involved use of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), as well as the capture of a number of towns and villages. The initial ISIL assault was followed in the subsequent days by the organization's use of additional VBIED attacks.
April 2016–December 2016: Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos
The offensive on Sirte launched on 12 May 2016, under the name "Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos," variously translated as "Impenetrable Wall" or "Solid Foundation." Fighting took place east of Assdada, around 80 km (50 miles) south of Misrata. On 16 May, GNA military forces recaptured Abu Grein from ISIL militants. The next day, the GNA took control over the al-Wishkah district, 25 km from Abu Grein. and eventually reached nearly 50 kilometers from Sirte.
On 16 May, military forces associated with the Government of National Accord's central region Joint Operations Room claimed to have recaptured Abu Grein from IS militants. This report followed days of intermittent clashes and air strikes. And on May 17, the military forces of the Government of National Accord declared their control over the al-Wishkah district, 25 km from Abu Grein. The GNA's Joint Operations Room stated that their casualties had been six soldiers killed and seventeen injured in ongoing clashes with ISIL forces, eventually reaching nearly 50 kilometres from Sirte.
In late May, the next stage of the Battle of Sirte (2016) began, pro-GNA military forces seized many locations near the city of Sirte from ISIL. Operation Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos forces reported the capture of the Sirte power station and also its advance on the town of Jarif to the south of Sirte. Also in late May, the eastern front of Sirte saw action. The Petroleum Facilities Guard reported the capture of Bin Jawad and Noufiliyah from ISIL.
On 1 August, the United States air forces started its air strikes (co-ordinated with the unity government in Tripoli) against ISIL positions in Sirte.
The House of Representatives on 22 August rejected the GNA's government with most members of the parliament voting against the government in a motion of no confidence.
On 6 December, Sirte was declared to be cleared of ISIL loyalists after over 6 months of fighting, depriving the group of their remaining urban stronghold in Libya.
On 2 May 2017, Marshal Haftar met with Prime Minister Sarraj in Abu Dhabi, where they had a two-hour meeting, which was described as having made progress. During a press conference in Algiers, foreign minister Mohamed Taha Siala stated that the GNA will recognize Marshal Haftar as the supreme commander of the Libyan army if he recognizes the GNA instead of the House of Representatives. This statement caused criticism in Tripoli.
On July 2017, the Libyan National Army defeated the remaining Islamist forces, ending the nearly three year long Battle of Benghazi.
On 17 December 2017, general Khalifa Haftar declared the "so-called" Skhirat agreement void.
On 11 April 2018, while Operation Dignity forces started preparing for the assault on besieged Derna it was reported in many newspapers worldwide that General Khalifa Haftar suffered a severe brain stroke and has reportedly been taken to a hospital in Paris. On 26 April after nearly three weeks of absence Khalifa Haftar finally returned to Benghazi after his medical trip to Paris.
On 2 May 2018, two ISIL fighters attacked the High National Election Commission headquarters in Tripoli before bombing themselves after being surrounded by police resulting in at least 12 deaths.
On 7 May 2018, The Battle of Derna (2018) began. After 7 weeks and 3 days of fighting, the city fell to the LNA on 28 June 2018.
During the first half of 2015, the United Nations facilitated a series of different negotiating tracks seeking to bring together the rival governments of Libya and warring militias tearing Libya apart. The U.N. representative to Libya reconvened delegations from Libya's rival governments on 8 June 2015 to present the latest draft proposal for a unity government for the war-torn country. After a warning one week earlier that the country had been running out of money and had risked ceasing to be a functional state, Bernardino Leon urged the Libyans to approve the fourth version of the draft proposal in a ceremony in Morocco. On 8 October 2015, Bernardino Leon held a press conference in which the names of several potential members of a unified government were announced.
A meeting between the rival governments was held at Auberge de Castille in Valletta, Malta on 16 December 2015. The meeting was delayed for a few days after the representatives from the Tobruk government initially failed to show up. The leader of the Tripoli government, Nouri Abusahmain, announced that they "will not accept foreign intervention against the will of the Libyan people," while the leader of the Tobruk government Aguila Saleh Issa called on the international community to "allow [them] time to form an effective unity government." Representatives from both governments also met officials from the United Nations, Italy, the United States and Russia in a conference in Rome.
On 17 December 2015, delegates from both rival governments signed a peace deal backed by the UN in Skhirat, Morocco, although there was opposition to this within both factions. The Government of National Accord was formed as a result of this agreement, and its first meeting took place in Tunis on 2 January 2016.
On 17 December 2017, general Khalifa Haftar declared the "so-called" Skhirat agreement void.
Haftar and his supporters describe Operation Dignity as a "correction to the path of the revolution" and a "war on terrorism". The elected parliament has declared that Haftar's enemies are "terrorists". Opponents of Haftar and the coup d'état government in Tripoli claim he is attempting a coup. Omar al-Hasi, the internationally unrecognized Prime Minister of the Libya Dawn-backed Tripoli government, speaking of his allies' actions, has stated that: "This is a correction of the revolution." He has also contended: "Our revolution had fallen into a trap." Dawn commanders claim to be fighting for a "revolutionary" cause rather than for religious or partisan objectives. Islamist militia group Ansar al-Sharia (linked to the 2012 Benghazi attack) has denounced Haftar's campaign as a Western-backed "war on Islam" and has declared the establishment of the "Islamic Emirate of Benghazi".
Foreign reactions, involvement, and evacuations
This section is missing information about reactions of the Arab League, European countries, USA, and Russia. (January 2015)
Early in May 2014, the Algerian military said it was engaged in an operation aimed at tracking down militants who infiltrated the country's territory in Tamanrasset near the Libyan border, during which it announced that it managed to kill 10 "terrorists" and seized a large cache of weapons near the town of Janet consisting of automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition boxes. The Times reported on 30 May that Algerian forces were strongly present in Libya and it was claimed shortly after by an Algerian journalist from El Watan that a full regiment of 3,500 paratroopers logistically supported by 1,500 other men crossed into Libya and occupied a zone in the west of the country. They were later shown to be operating alongside French special forces in the region. However, all of these claims were later denied by the Algerian government through Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal who told the senate that "Algeria has always shown its willingness to assist [our] sister countries, but things are clear: the Algerian army will not undertake any operation outside Algerian territory".
On 16 May 2014, the Algerian government responded to a threat on its embassy in Libya by sending a team of special forces to Tripoli to escort its diplomatic staff in a military plane out of the country. "Due to a real and imminent threat targeting our diplomats the decision was taken in coordination with Libyan authorities to urgently close our embassy and consulate general temporarily in Tripoli," the Algerian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Three days later, the Algerian government shut down all of its border crossings with Libya and the army command raised its security alert status by tightening its presence along the border, especially on the Tinalkoum and Debdab border crossings. This also came as the state-owned energy firm, Sonatrach, evacuated all of its workers from Libya and halted production in the country. In mid-August, Algeria opened its border for Egyptian refugees stranded in Libya and said it would grant them exceptional visas to facilitate their return to Egypt.
Egyptian authorities have long expressed concern over the instability in eastern Libya spilling over into Egypt due to the rise of jihadist movements in the region, which the government believes to have developed into a safe transit for wanted Islamists following the 2013 coup d'état in Egypt that ousted Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Morsi. There have been numerous attacks on Egypt's trade interests in Libya which were rampant prior to Haftar's offensive, especially with the kidnapping of truck drivers and sometimes workers were murdered. Due to this, the military-backed government in Egypt had many reasons to support Haftar's rebellion and the Islamist February 17th Martyrs Brigade operating in Libya has accused the Egyptian government of supplying Haftar with weapons and ammunition, a claim denied by both Cairo and the rebel leader. Furthermore, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has become increasingly popular among many Libyans wishing for stability, has called on the United States to intervene militarily in Libya during his presidential candidacy, warning that Libya was becoming a major security challenge and vowed not to allow the turmoil there to threaten Egypt's national security.
On 21 July, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry urged its nationals residing in Libya to adopt measures of extreme caution as it was preparing to send consular staff in order to facilitate their return their country following an attack in Egypt's western desert region near the border with Libya that left 22 Egyptian border guards killed. A week later, the ministry announced that it would double its diplomatic officials on the Libyan-Tunisian border and reiterated its call on Egyptian nationals to find shelter in safer places in Libya. On 3 August, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia agreed to cooperate by establishing an airbridge between Cairo and Tunis that would facilitate the transfer of 2,000 to 2,500 Egyptians from Libya daily.
On 31 July, two Egyptians were shot dead during a clash at the Libyan-Tunisian border where hundreds of Egyptians were staging a protest at the Ras Jdeir border crossing. As they tried to cross into Tunisia, Libyan authorities opened fire to disperse them. A similar incident occurred once again on 15 August, when Libyan security forces shot dead an Egyptian who attempted to force his way through the border along with hundreds of stranded Egyptians and almost 1,200 Egyptians made it into Tunisia that day. This came a few days after Egypt's Minister of Civil Aviation, Hossam Kamal, announced that the emergency airlift consisting of 46 flights aimed at evacuating the country's nationals from Libya came to a conclusion, adding that 11,500 Egyptians in total had returned from the war-torn country as of 9 August. A week later, all Egyptians on the Libyan-Tunisian border were evacuated and the consulate's staff, who were reassigned to work at the border area, withdrew from Libya following the operation's success. Meanwhile, an estimated 50,000 Egyptians (4,000 per day) arrived at the Salloum border crossing on the Libyan-Egyptian border as of early August.
Along with most of the international community, Malta continues to recognize the Government of National Accord as the legitimate government of Libya. Libyan chargé d'affaires Hussin Musrati insisted that by doing so, Malta was "interfering in Libyan affairs". Due to the conflict, there are currently two Libyan embassies in Malta. The unrecognized General National Congress now controls the official Libyan Embassy in Balzan, while the internationally recognized House of Representatives has opened a consulate in Ta' Xbiex. Each of the two embassies say that visas issued by the other entity are not valid.
Following the expansion of ISIL in Libya, particularly the fall of Nawfaliya, the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil called for the United Nations and European Union to intervene in Libya to prevent the country from becoming a failed state.
Post-revolutionary Tunisia also had its share of instability due to the violence in Libya as it witnessed an unprecedented rise in radical Islamism with increased militant activity and weapons' smuggling through the border.
In response to the initial clashes in May, the Tunisian National Council for Security held an emergency meeting and decided to deploy 5,000 soldiers to the Libyan–Tunisian border in anticipation of potential consequences from the fighting. On 30 July, Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi said that the country cannot cope with the high number of refugees coming from Libya due to the renewed fighting. "Our country's economic situation is precarious, and we cannot cope with hundreds of thousands of refugees," Hamdi said in a statement. He also added that Tunisia will close its borders if necessary.
- United Nations - On 27 August 2014, the UN Security Council unanimously approved resolution 2174 (2014), which called for an immediate ceasefire and an inclusive political dialogue. The resolution also threatened to impose sanctions, such as asset freezes and travel bans, against the leaders and supporters of the various militias involved in the fighting, if the individuals threaten either the security of Libya or the political process.
- France – On 30 July 2014, the French government temporarily closed its embassy in Tripoli, while 40 French, including the ambassador, and 7 British nationals were evacuated on a French warship bound to the port of Toulon in southern France. "We have taken all necessary measures to allow those French nationals who so wish to leave the country temporarily," the foreign ministry said in a statement. In 2016, a helicopter carrying three French special forces soldiers was shot down south of Benghazi during what President François Hollande called "dangerous intelligence operations."
- India – Ministry of External Affairs spokesman, Syed Akbaruddin, said that India's diplomatic mission in Libya has been in touch with the 4,500 Indian nationals, through several co-ordinators. "The mission is facilitating return of Indian nationals and working with the Libyan authorities to obtain necessary exit permissions for Indian nationals wanting to return," he said.
- Italy – The Italian embassy has remained open during the civil war and the government has always pushed for the success of UN-hosted talks among Libya's political parties in Geneva. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said "If there's no success, Italy is ready to play a leading role, above all a diplomatic role, and then, always under the aegis of the UN, one of peacekeeping inside Libya", adding that "Libya can't be left in the condition it is now." In 2015, four Italian workers were kidnapped by Islamic State militants near Sabratha. Two of them were killed in a raid by security forces the following year while the other two were rescued. Between February 2015 and December 2016, however, Italy was forced to close its embassy and every Italian citizen in Libya was advised to leave. The embassy reopened on 9 January 2017.
- Russia – In February 2015, discussions on supporting the Libyan parliament by supplying them with weapons reportedly took place in Cairo when President of Russia Vladimir Putin arrived for talks with the government of Egypt, during which the Russian delegates also spoke with a Libyan delegation. Colonel Ahmed al-Mismari, the spokesperson for the Libyan Army's chief of staff, also stated that "Arming the Libyan army was a point of discussion between the Egyptian and Russian presidents in Cairo." The deputy foreign minister of Russia, Mikhail Bogdanov, has stated that Russia will supply the government of Libya with weapons if UN sanctions against Libya are lifted. In April 2015, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani visited Moscow and announced that Russia and Libya will strengthen their relations, especially economic relations. He also met with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and said that he request Russia's assistance in fixing the country's government institutions and military strength. The prime minister also met with Nikolai Patrushev, the Russian president's security adviser, and talked about the need to restore stability in Libya as well as the influence of terrorist groups in the country. Patrushev stated that a "priority for regional politics is the protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya."
- Thailand – In late July 2014, the Thai government asked Libya's authorities to facilitate the evacuation of its nationals by exempting the need for exit visas. As of 14 August, over 800 Thai workers have been successfully evacuated from the country, while Thailand's Ministry of Labour announced that it would prepare jobs for more than 2,800 workers residing in Libya.
- United Kingdom – Following France's evacuation of some British nationals, the UK's embassy in Tripoli was the only diplomatic mission still open in the war-torn city. However, British diplomats residing there have sought refuge in a fortified compound south-west of the city to avoid the repetitive rocket attacks by warring militias. Three days earlier, a convoy carrying British diplomats from Tripoli to Tunisia came under fire when their vehicles refused to stop at an unofficial checkpoint in the outskirts of the city. On 2 August, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office finally announced that it would temporarily close its embassy in the capital and evacuate its staff. Ambassador Michael Aron said that the embassy would continue to operate from Tunisia. The following day, the Royal Navy ship HMS Enterprise managed to evacuate more than a hundred foreign nationals from the country to Malta, most of whom were British, in an operation off the coast of Tripoli. In March 2016, Ambassador Peter Millett called for "a much more coordinated approach between the different groups, regions and forces and the armed groups in Libya" in order to defeat ISIL in Libya.
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