Ansar al Sharia, allies seize Libyan special forces base in Benghazi



After days of intense fighting against Libyan government forces, Ansar al Sharia and its allies have seized an important special forces base in Benghazi.

Ansar al Sharia, which is notorious for its role in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the US Mission and Annex, is fighting under the umbrella of the "Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council." The council, an alliance of multiple groups, released a statement today saying that the base, known as Camp Thunderbolt, had fallen to its forces. The news was confirmed by a Libyan army official, according to Agence France Presse (AFP).

On its official Twitter feed, Ansar al Sharia has posted a video of its leader in Benghazi, Mohammad Ali al Zahawi, discussing his group's "victory." (The video can be viewed at the beginning of this article.) The group also posted photos of the weapons, or "booty," it has taken into possession, as well as scenes from the assault on the base.

Ansar al Sharia says the capture of the base is a defeat for General Khalifa Hiftar, who launched a campaign, named "Operation Dignity," against Islamist and jihadist militants in Benghazi in May. AFP notes that the Libyan special forces that operated the camp "are one of the units of Libya's regular armed forces that support" Hiftar, "but have not placed themselves under his command."

In the video posted by Ansar al Sharia, Zahawi portrays the clash as a struggle against Hiftar's forces, while also offering to welcome defectors from the Libyan army.

"Naturally, first and foremost, we are here specifically in the city of Benghazi and in Libya generally for this conquest and victory to eliminate the biggest den of what is called Operation Dignity," Zahawi says.

Zahawi portrays Hiftar's campaign as enabling the West to operate in Libya, but claims that the Libyan people are rejecting this effort. The "people of Benghazi and the youth of Benghazi, due to their keenness and protection of this city, all answered the call and the journey continues," Zahawi says.

Zahawi says that "whoever returns" to Ansar al Sharia's ideology will be forgiven for opposing the group and for previously adhering to a version of Islam the group disapproves of. "Even the members of the Special Forces and even Abu Khamada, whoever returns and renounces his misguidance, we have no problem with him," Zahawi claims. Abu Khamada is the special forces colonel who withdrew his forces from the base after coming under heavy fire and sustaining casualties.

The photos below were posted on Ansar al Sharia's official Twitter feed and show the weapons seized at the base, as well as scenes from the assault on the compound.

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READER COMMENTS: "Ansar al Sharia, allies seize Libyan special forces base in Benghazi"

Posted by Hasan Mahmud at July 31, 2014 6:39 AM ET:

I am a proud Muslim; these people are scar on Islam and Muslims. They are talking about Sharia? Watch here the Islamic references of ligalizing oppression in the name of Islam - in the format of a romantic movie THE SHARIA CONUNDRUM:-

http://www.hasanmahmud.com/2012/index.php/videos/the-sharia-conundrum

Contact:- hasan@hasanmahmud.com

Posted by Nikos Retsos at July 31, 2014 11:47 AM ET:

Ansar al-Sharia and other Islamist groups have the upper hand in Libya because ordinary Libyans would rather have a domestic group govern them than Khalifa Haftar, the CIA's former mercenary in Chad, and current U.S. mercenary and designee for new post-Gaddafi dictator in Libya. News reports reveal that Haftar has moved his family to Egypt for their safety , and that means that his CIA mission in Libya is in shambles. Bloomberg News reported that his Saiqa Special Forces Brigade were ousted by Islamists from the Benghazi Airport, and his ally in the battle in Tripoli, the Zintan militia, has been battered by the more powerful militia of the Misrata Council. Worse yet for him, he told reporters about a month ago that the pro-U.S. Egyptian dictator, General SIssi, has promised him Egyptian military units to help him take over Libya. But given the strength of the Islamist militias in Libya, and the constant anti-Sissi turmoil in Egypt, Sissi got cold feet about meddling militarily in Libya to help install Haftar install himself as a new U.S.-stooge dictator in Libya.

The current military clashes in Libya are about whether Haftar, the CIA's stooge, would take control of Libya and its oil on behalf of the U.S., or whether the nationalist Libyan militias would bust Haftar and his Zintan militia and keep Libya and its oil resources in Libyan hands, for the Libyan people. Nikos Retsos, retired professor, USA

Posted by Neonmeat at August 1, 2014 5:16 AM ET:

Sheesh, that is a lot of weapons.

Since this was a special forces base you would have thought those guys would have had the wherewithal to sabotage those supplies lest they fall into rebel hands.

Posted by irebukeu at August 1, 2014 1:48 PM ET:

Wow, the last I had heard Col Haftar was putting a hurting on Ansar al Sharia. It looks like he has suffered a reverse and quite a serious one at that.
Ty to the LWJ for making this available.
Interesting that the Amazing Col. Haftar has the support of the western trained and equipped "Libyan special forces"?, has a mysterious source of air support?, artillery? and tanks?.

This Col Haftar is quite the fellow for not having been in the country for the last 18 years prior to the Arab springs arrival in Libya.

Excuse me for pointing out that "one of these Libyans is not like the others. In fact, one of these Libyans is actually an American"

Is it ok the start speculating that Col Haftar is the latest American led effort to bring order to libya or one of several congruent efforts to do so?

The U.S. seem to have given up on the actual Libyan government doing anything constructive or in the U.S. interests We as Americans want justice for Benghazi and want to hunt down insurgents and otherwise keep a watchful eye on the situation and try to have some control over the situation. So in that regard this must be plan B, or the threat to plan A (The rump government) of plan B

Just as the Pakistani government/ISI dumped its support of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Afghanistan in the 90's when it was clear that he could not be controlled and would not act in Pakistans best interests and went with the Taliban, so too the U.S. must have found a new proxy to effect its will in Libya after becoming disillusioned with the increasingly islamist leaning government.

IMO this is where Col. Haftar steps in. The guy seemingly has some support in Libya. He has money for jet fuel, bombs and ammunition, food, salaries, tech gear and the entire apparatus of war (seriously where is this air support coming from and what does it consist of?). How does he command such a force?
Col Haftar is a US citizen!! Do people know this?
He has spent the last twenty years minus the last three years in Libya, in the USA.
He lived in Langley Virginia right near the CIA.
He was released from a Libyan prison by a deal worked out by guess who? Yes, the CIA!

What has he been doing these last twenty years? Getting ready?

This should be clear to anyone the forces at play here, though there seems to be an extreme lack of analysis on just what is going on in libya. in regards to Col. Haftar.
Running down what is happening in any real sense seems near impossible. As I write this comment there are reports 6 hours old that Col Haftar has fled to Egypt. things must be going very badly for the 'Haft'