By Tim Nanns
While negotiations to resolve the Libyan civil war drag on, Islamist groups, purportedly affiliated with Al-Qaeda, have scaled up their fight against “Islamic State” (IS) militants in the east Libyan city of Derna, according to a Reuters report on Saturday.
The local Islamists, named Majlis Al-Shura, declared a Holy War on IS-affiliated groups after a Majlis leader was killed earlier this week and a protest against Islamist dominance was violently dispersed on Friday.
Now the local groups claim to have driven IS fighters out of two thirds of the city, killing many fighters, among them one Egyptian, and reportedly capturing their Yemeni commander. This came after two suicide bombers detonated explosives earlier on Saturday, killing three people.
Meanwhile the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Sunday condemned the kidnapping of 10 Tunisian embassy staff earlier this week in Tripoli. The Tunisian Foreign Ministry stated it was in contact with the kidnappers, that the Tunisians are being properly treated and that the ministry was confident it could free them soon, according to Tunisian national news agency TAP.
The embassy members were reportedly kidnapped by Libya Dawn-affiliated militiamen on Friday after a Tunisian court refused on Thursday to free Walid Kalib, a Libya Dawn-leader who was arrested in May.
This is the second large-scale kidnapping of Tunisians by militias purportedly affiliated with Libya Dawn after the arrest of Kalib. More than 170 Tunisian nationals were kidnapped mid-May, but were all released later on.
Meanwhile, peace negotiations have been dragging on after the General National Congress (GNC), backed by Libya Dawn, announced it would accept the recent UN draft proposal for a unity government.
Moreover, in the Tobruk-based internationally-recognised parliament tensions emerged with some speaking out in favour of the proposal while others even boycotted the recent talks in Berlin after the proposal was issued. Faraj Bohashim, spokesman of the Tobruk-parliament, accused the international community of siding “with the party that rejected election results and preferred to resort to arms”.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry meanwhile met with his Libyan counterpart on the sidelines of the African Union Summit on Saturday in South Africa, reaffirming Egypt’s support for the Libyan government as “the legitimate representative of the Libyan people”. The two also coordinated their positions for the international forums for the Libya crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry statement.
Bernardino Leon, the UN envoy for Libya, originally envisioned brokering an agreement before Ramadan, but with the disunity on the parliament’s side, that goal is in jeopardy. Further, with IS expanding during the last few weeks and the rivalling governments being starved out of ammunition and weapons due to a UN arms embargo, time is a limited resource.