Monday, October 17, 2016

Libya Coup Attempt as Tripoli Militias Seek to Topple UN-backed Government
Government of National Accord orders arrest of coup leaders who pledged to ‘rescue Libya’ after taking key buildings and a TV station

Tripoli militias have staged an attempted coup against Libya’s United Nations-backed government, seizing key state buildings and a TV station and pledging they are ready to fight to take power.

After capturing the central Rixos hotel, home of the government’s state council assembly, on Friday night, the plotters issued a televised statement declaring the coup a “historic initiative to rescue Libya”.

In what is the most serious crisis faced by the Government of National Accord (GNA) since its creation, with strong international support, late last year, its presidency issued a counter-statement ordering the interior ministry to arrest the coup leaders.

The coup unfolded after militias from the plotters and the GNA confronted each other around the Rixos, a complex of administrative buildings, with GNA forces pulling back in the late afternoon without violence.

The plotters are led by Khalifa al-Ghwell, former prime minister of the national salvation government, which was displaced by the GNA when it arrived in the capital in March. In its statement, the plotters declared the GNA was now “void” and had been replaced by the salvation government.

The fate of the coup is likely to depend on the loyalty of dozens of militias which control Tripoli, and who have been skirmishing in the city for several weeks.

Pro-coup militiamen in pickup trucks with mounted machine guns remained in place around the Rixos complex early on Saturday, while the location of the GNA’s seven-strong presidency, led by prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj, is unclear, with some reports saying they are in neighbouring Tunisia.

Libya has been in turmoil since forces from the elected parliament in Tobruk, which opposes both Tripoli governments, captured four key central oil ports from pro-GNA forces in September.

The oil ports operation, led by Tobruk’s powerful General Khalifa Haftar, deprived the GNA of the bulk of the country’s oil production, in the Sirte Basin, weakening its credibility in the eyes of critics.

UN diplomats, with strong backing from Washington, London and the European Union, want the GNA to become a “unity government”, bringing Libya’s factions together to confront the twin problems of Islamic State and mass migration to Europe.

But the GNA has failed to win mass support or, crucially, the backing of the Tobruk parliament. Meanwhile pro-GNA forces have been engaged in a five-month battle, backed with US airstrikes, to capture the coastal town of Sirte from Isis.

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