Saturday, January 25, 2020

Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood

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The Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (i.e., the Brotherhood) is one of the largest Islamist parties in the country. Brotherhood members in Libya lead the country’srogueIslamist government in Tripoli—known as the Government of National Salvation (GNS)—while also having members in the country’s unity government State Council.* The Brotherhood has also maintained strong ties to Islamist militias that once backed the former Islamist General National Council (GNC).* Three of the Libya Dawn militias are directly allied with the Brotherhood: the 17 February Martyrs Brigade (17 Feb), the Misrata militias, and the Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR).*

The Libyan branch of the Brotherhood was established in Benghazi in 1949 by members of the Egyptian Brotherhood fleeing a government crackdown in Cairo. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi criminalized the Brotherhood after he came to power in Libya in 1969. Throughout the 1980s, the Gaddafi regime hunted down and executed Brotherhood leaders and operatives. Gaddafi warned that if Islamists wanted to practice dawa (proselytizing), they should do so outside of Libya. Many Brotherhood members fled the country as a result of the threat or else were arrested or forced underground.*

During Gaddafi’s reign, some Brotherhood members who had fled Libya congregated in the United States to create a temporary Brotherhood group known as the “Islamic Group – Libya”.* In 1982, several of the group’s leaders attempted to return to Libya in order to reestablish the Brotherhood’s presence. Gaddafi had many of them arrested or killed.*

Following the ousting of Gaddafi in 2011, the Brotherhood was quick to reestablish its presence in Libya. In March 2012, Brotherhood activist Mohamed Sowan formed the Justice and Construction Party (JCP), a political party that sought to establish a Libyan Islamist caliphate and which was reportedly modeled after the Egyptian Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). * Three months later, the JCP came in second in Libya’s first post-Gaddafi national parliamentary election, winning 34 out of 200 seats in July of 2012.*

Once in parliament, the JCP reportedly formed strategic alliances with independent seat holders to increase its political influence over the country’s secular and nationalist coalition, the National Forces Alliance (NFA).* The JCP soon grew to become the most influential bloc in parliament. By May 2013, the JCP was able to push through the Political Isolation Law (PIL), which prevented Gaddafi-era officials from participation in Libya’s political system for the next 10 years. According to BBC News, the JCP strategically constructed the PIL to target NFA parliamentary members, knowing that many of them were former Gaddafi officials.* Several NFA members were forced to resign from government as a result of the law. *

Despite their political successes within parliament, the JCP lost nine seats during the 2014 elections.* According to reports, the JCP accused the new parliament of being overrun by Gaddafi supporters, * and later splitoff from parliament with other Islamist groups to form the Islamist General National Congress (GNC) government in Tripoli.* After the start of the GCC-Qatar diplomatic crisis in June 2017, the Libyan House of Representatives issued a list of Qatar-linked Libyans deemed to be terrorists, including several prominent JCP members.*

The JCP was one of the leading blocs involved in the creation of the GNC in Tripoli in August 2014.The GNC declared its alliance with a coalition of Islamist Libyan militias called Libya Dawn. According to reports, the mission of Libya Dawn is to defend the presence of political groups linked to the Brotherhood such as the JCP, block the success of the nationalist Libyan government, and promote political Islam.*

In September 2014, the Libya Dawn alliance seized control of the Libyan capital of Tripoli.* The GNC established its own self-styled governmental body, the Government of National Salvation (GNS).* The former parliament in Tripoli, meanwhile, relocated to Tobruk and established the internationally recognized Libyan government. In May 2014, the Tobruk-based government’s House of Representatives (HoR) tasked General Khalifa Haftar with countering the Libya Dawn in Tripoli. Haftar launched Operation Dignity in an effort to quash the Libya Dawn coalition and other armed Islamist groups.*

In December 2015, the United Nations brokered the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), a power-sharing agreement between the internationally recognized government in Tobruk and the GNS government in Tripoli. The LPA dissolved the now-defunct Libya Dawn and authorized the creation of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which took formal control of the Libyan government in Tripoli on March 30, 2016.* Under the LPA, the GNS formerly resigned and a large number of GNS members were transitioned into the GNA’s State Council, which serves as the consultative body of the GNA.* Despite the LPA, other former GNS members and the HoR, backed by Haftar, have refused to recognize the GNA as Libya’s governing authority.*

In October 2016, former GNS Prime Minister Khalifa Ghwell attempted to reestablish the GNS by attempting a coup against the GNA. Former GNS members backed by the Presidential Guard and several Islamist militias, seized control of several government buildings, including the parliament. * The renewed GNS, which reasserted itself as an independent body, vowed to reclaim the government infrastructure in Tripoli. * On January 12, 2017, the GNS seized additional GNA buildings, including the ministries of defense, martyrs’ affairs, and labor.* Although the GNS and GNA continue to compete for control in Tripoli, GNS support for Ghwell has gradually diminished due to its members’ inclusion in the GNA State Council, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations.*

In May 2017, General Haftar, representing the Tobruk government, engaged in peace talks with GNA Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj in Abu Dhabi in the first face-to-face meeting between the two governments in 18 months. They agreed to potential 2018 elections and a power-sharing deal.* Nonetheless, in December 2017, Haftar claimed that the GNA was obsolete, given that the timeline originally given for the GNA in the 2015 U.N. agreement had been only two years. However, the United Nations rejected Haftar’s claim, stating that the GNA could continue its operations until a permanent solution is reached.*

Several Islamist militias from the now-defunct Libya Dawn, meanwhile, continue to back former GNC members, in either the GNA or the GNS. Three of these militias are allied with the Brotherhood: the 17 February Martyrs Brigade (17 Feb), the Misrata militias, and the Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR). *

17 February Martyrs Brigade (17 Feb): Brotherhood members formed the 17 February Martyrs Brigade (17 Feb) during the 2011 uprising against the Gaddafi regime. Headquartered in Benghazi, 17 Feb is one of the largest and best-armed militias in eastern Libya. The group primarily conducts law enforcement responsibilities in the southern and eastern regions of the country. Since 2014, 17 Feb has taken up arms against Haftar’sTobruk-based nationalist forces.* 17 Feb is one of several Islamist groups in the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council, a coalition fighting against Haftar’s forces in Benghazi.* The brigade had previously been contracted by the U.S. State Department and the CIA to defend the U.S. mission in Benghazi.* Despite the contract, the brigade failed to arrive on time to defend the U.S. embassy during the September 11, 2012, attack. Led by Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi and Derna, the attack resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. *

LROR: The Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR), which operates throughout northern Libya, was created by the GNC in 2013 and charged with providing security to their headquarters in Tripoli and Benghazi.* Previously known as the Revolutionary Brigades Coalition (RBC), the LROR is responsible for launching violent attacks—including rocket attacks, gun attacks, and kidnappings—targeting General Haftar’s forces. Though charged with providing security to the GNC, the LROR reportedly has strong affiliations to its Brotherhood members in particular.* When the GNA took office in Tripoli in March 2016, the LROR voiced its full support for the GNS and threatened the GNA with war.* Following the GNS attempted coup against the GNA in October 2016, the LROR called on all armed groups previously aligned with the former GNC to support the GNS rebellion.*

Misrata militias: The GNC was also protected by a collection of anti-nationalist militias known as the Misrata militias. Together, these militias are reported to comprise what Al Jazzier has called “the most powerful single force in Libya”.* Equipped with heavy weaponry including tanks and rockets, the militias defend the Brotherhood members of the GNC and have fought alongside the LROR in order to protect Tripoli from opposing nationalist forces. Following the LPA, the Misrata militias reorganized. The militias split their support between GNS and the GNA. The pro-GNA Midrate militias, known as the al-Bunyan al-Marcos Operation Forces (BAM), are its leading fighting force against ISIS in Sirte. The BAM liberated Sirte from ISIS in December 2016.* The remaining Misrata militias support the remnants of the GNC and backed the GNS coup attempt in October 2016. * The remaining Misrata militias support the remnants of the GNC and backed the GNS coup attempt in October 2016.*

Since August 2014, the power struggle between the GNA, GNS, and Haftar’s forces has left thousands dead. Anti-Islamist Haftar, backed by the HoR, has refused to work with the GNA, accusing it of aligning with Islamist militias in the fight against ISIS. Haftar’s Libyan National Army has since taken control of much of eastern Libya and continues to fight against Islamist militias in Benghazi. * The GNS, constructed from the remnants of the Brotherhood-backed GNC, aims to overthrow the internationally recognized government in Tripoli and establish a unified Islamist government throughout Libya.* Haftar has named the Muslim Brotherhood as the greatest threat to Libya.* The Tobruk government has also labeled Libyan Brotherhood members, including JCP leader Mohamed Souwan, as terrorists.* In January 2019, 20 members of Libya’s parliament called for the criminalization of the Muslim Brotherhood.*

Violent Activities
The Brotherhood and its affiliates have engaged in violence against the internationally recognized government of Libya and their nationalist militias.

November 16, 2013
The Brotherhood-backed Misrata militia opens fire on a group of protesters in Tripoli, killing 37 people and wounding over 400.*

The Brotherhood’s 17 Feb militia battles against General Haftar’s forces in Benghazi.*

May 2014 - May 2015
Around 20,000 civilians are injured in the ongoing battle between the GNC-backed Libya Dawn and the Tobruk-based government.*

June 2014
A Libya Dawn suicide bomber explodes a Jeep outside General Khalifa Haftar’s house in an assassination attempt against the general. Haftar survives, but the attack leaves four of his guards dead.*

July 2014
The Brotherhood-backed LROR reportedly vows to take up arms against Haftar’s forces in Benghazi.*

August 2014
The Brotherhood-affiliated Misrata militias and the LROR fight alongside the rest of the Libya Dawn to take control of Tripoli.*.

August 23, 2014
Misrata militias forcefully seize control of the Tripoli International Airport from the Haftar-backed Zintan militia, leaving 12 fighters dead.*

December 13, 2014
The Libya Dawn coalition attacks the Ras Lanuf and Sidra oil terminals held by the Libyan National Army.*

At least 600 civilians are killed in 2015 as a result of civil war between the Brotherhood-allied Libya Dawn and the internationally recognized government in Tobruk.*

October 16, 2016
Former GNS Prime Minister Khalifa Ghwell stages a coup against the GNA, backed by the Presidential Guard and several Islamist militias, seizing several government buildings.*

December, 2016
The GNS seizes the ministry of higher education in Tripoli from the GNA.*

January 12, 2017
The GNS seizes additional GNA buildings, including the ministries of defense, martyrs’ affairs, and labor.*

May 26, 2017
The GNS and GNA engage in violent clashes in Tripoli. At least 28 people are killed and over 120 are injured.*