The Libyan Army has deployed a new anti-terror unit made up of 2 000 special forces soldiers across the capital Tripoli to improve security in the city.
According to the Libyan Herald, the Joint Force (JF) is made up of fighters drawn from the ministries of defence and interior and is equipped with 300 armed ‘technical’ fighting vehicles and 21 armoured personnel carriers.
It is charged with conducting regular patrols to counter potential security threats after a spate of bomb attacks and shootings targeting embassies and diplomatic staff in the past two years.
JF public relations officer Esam Naas said the force, which is commanded by Colonel Fitouri Ghuraebi, will patrol the streets of Tripoli around the clock and has already completed deployments to some sections of the capital.
“We wasted no time in the preparations to go out and secure the city. This (operation) will be done in full coordination with the Police Directorate in Tripoli and other security forces arms. Our 2 000 men will be mainly guarding the entry and exit points of Greater Tripoli,” Naas said.
Set up March this year, the JF is made up of selected officers and former militias who have received specialised counter-terror training through military assistances programmes run by the Italian, Turkish, United States and French governments. The force failed to start work early in the year as it lacked military equipment and operated without funding.
As a result, the force limited its operations to manpower training and low-level security sweeps such as clearing illegal occupants from government buildings within the city centre. Prompted by rising insecurity following a spate of shootings and car bomb attacks on embassies and on the streets of Tripoli, the Libyan government has been forced to release funds to finance the JF operations.
Libya has been beset by insecurity due to infighting among fractious militia alliances which were formed to fight strongman Muammar Gaddafi during the 2011 revolution.
Since then, suspected trans-national terror outfits have established operations inside the country and are believed to be responsible for a spate of car bombs, embassy attacks, attacks on diplomatic staff and of late, jailbreaks in which hundreds of hard-core Al Qaeda militants escaped.
Fighting has also broken out regularly between the new national army and the militias. To compound an already dire security situation, fighting has also broken out regularly between rival militias which still control many parts of the capital Tripoli, Benghazi, Misurata, Sabha and other former hotbeds of the 2011 revolution.