- Title: Fighters in Libya's Sirte anticipate potential Haftar advance
- Date: 13th March 2019
- Summary: ABU HADI GATE, NEAR SIRTE, LIBYA (MARCH 12, 2019) (REUTERS) ARMED FIGHTERS ON DESERT ROAD FIGHTER STANDING NEXT TO MILITARY VEHICLE FIGHTER LOOKING THROUGH BINOCULARS VARIOUS OF FIGHTER LOADING BULLETS INTO VEHICLE RIFLE BULLETS IN RIFLE FIGHTER SITTING AT VEHICLE RIFLE VEHICLE RIFLE SIGN READING (Arabic): "Sirte security and defense forces - 2-323" SIRTE, LIBYA (MARCH 12, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SIRTE SECURITY AND DEFENSE FORCES OFFICIAL, COLONEL IBRAHIM BIN RABAA, SAYING: "The Sirte Security and Defense Force was formed by the supreme commander of the Libyan Army (Fayez el-Sarraj). Its duties include the protection and fighting of terrorism in the Sirte region. We have deployed patrols inside and outside of the city, in order to maintain security and follow members of the Islamic State terrorist group." ABU HADI GATE, NEAR SIRTE, LIBYA (MARCH 12, 2019) (REUTERS) FIGHTERS STANDING IN DESERT ROAD ARMED FIGHTER FIGHTER HOLDING GRENADE LAUNCHER VARIOUS OF ARMED FIGHTERS STANDING IN DESERT ROAD FIGHTER WEARING AMMUNITION BELT AND HOLDING RIFLE ARMED FIGHTERS STANDING BY VEHICLE SIGN ON FIGHTER'S UNIFORM READING (Arabic): "Libyan Army" VARIOUS OF ARMED FIGHTER STANDING IN DESERT ROAD SIRTE, LIBYA (MARCH 12, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SIRTE SECURITY AND DEFENSE FORCES OFFICIAL, COLONEL IBRAHIM BIN RABAA, SAYING: "We have recently noticed some suspicious armed movements, which led us to deploy some of our backup forces and announce a state of emergency. Our duty is to fight terrorism, all kinds of terrorism, and we are prepared to resist and combat any form of terrorism that affects the region or undermines the security of Sirte." GATE 17, NEAR SIRTE (MARCH 12, 2019) (REUTERS) CARS DRIVING THROUGH GATE FIGHTERS GUARDING GATE / CARS PASSING THROUGH VARIOUS OF FIGHTERS SITTING IN VEHICLES AND GUARDING DESERT ROAD SIRTE, LIBYA (MARCH 12, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF DAMAGED BUILDINGS
- Embargoed: 27th March 2019 16:02
- Keywords: Libya Khalifa Haftar Sirte security in Libya Libya war fighting in Libya UAE Egypt
- Location: SIRTE AND BENGHAZI, LIBYA
- City: SIRTE AND BENGHAZI, LIBYA
- Country: Libya
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA001A5UUDZP
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Fighters have been stationed in and around the central Libyan town of Sirte as the forces loyal to Eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar regroup across the country.
Donned in combat fatigues and armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), the fighters took positions to the gates leading up to Sirte through desert roads. Their positions are not too far from the Sirte itself, the hometown of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was toppled and killed in 2011.
The armed forces were sent to the two main entrances of the town, namely Gate 17 to the east and the Abu Hadi southern gate. Their mission is to guard the area from any potential security threat.
"We have recently noticed some suspicious armed movements, which led us to deploy some of our backup forces and announced a state of emergency," said Sirte Security and Defence Official, colonel Ibrahim Bin Rabaa.
"We have recently noticed some suspicious armed movements, which led us to deploy some of our backup forces and announce a state of emergency," Bin Rabaa added.
Libya, home to rival governments, has been caught in armed tensions that have flared in recent months.
The eastern government is backed by Haftar, the 75-year-old former general who is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which see him as a bulwark against Islamists and the man to restore order.
On the other hand is the western, internationally-recognised and UN-backed government in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
Since helping expel Islamic State fighters from Sirte in 2016, Rabaa's forces have been loyal to the Tripoli-based government.
Haftar has not said whether he wants to march on Tripoli, which would dramatically escalate tensions in the country.
But his Libyan National Army (LNA) has hinted heavily that it might do so - if Haftar is not recognised as the country's overall military commander, his aim since he began assembling the force in 2014.
In the meantime, Rabaa and his forces fear Sirte might be next.
For many, especially in the east, Haftar is the only one who can end fighting by myriad groups with ever-changing names. For his enemies in western cities and Islamists who were oppressed under the old regime, he is a new Gaddafi.
Gate 17 is 17 km from the centre of Sirte, while the Gate of Abu Hamdi is 20 km from the centre.
(Production: Ayman Sahely and Nadeen Hazem)
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