The Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigade, led by local commander Haitham al-Tajuri and currently affiliated with Libya’s unity government, seized a building belonging to Libya’s general intelligence service Sunday, evicting staff and detaining some individuals.
Clashes started in the early morning and ended around noon, when the force guarding the building in the capital’s Furnaj district withdrew to neighboring area Salaheddin and the intelligence service’s main headquarters in Tajura.
Roads were blocked as a result of the fighting but by the afternoon calm had returned to Furnaj.
Several high-ranking staff members – both civilian and military – were detained by Tajuri’s brigade, a source from within the intelligence service told Al-Marsad news outlet. The service has instructed all its staff to immediately evacuate their offices, including at the sea port and Mitiga airport.
Intelligence chief Mustafa Nuh is currently in Turkey, the source told Al-Marsad, adding that Nuh’s deputy called Sunday’s attack a “coup”.
The Intelligence Authority is said to be divided between supporters of Nuh and his deputy – who are seen as Islamists from the circle of the former LIFG (Libya Islamic Fighting Group) – and others, who are backing Tajuri and the Government of National Accord.
Last week, Tajuri’s brigade took hold of the Health Ministry, also located in Furnaj, fighting off a Misratan force that had been guarding the ministry. Two weeks ago, Tajuri’s men seized the Libyan Communications Ministry in Zawiya Street.
Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigade – which is also knows as the First Battalion – is one of the largest in the capital, and its chief Tajuri is seeking to expand his influence. It already controls a number of military bases in the neighborhoods of Furnaj, Ain Zara and Bir al-Usta Milad. The brigade is currently operating under the GNA, whose Minister of the Interior Aref al-Khuja, is supposedly close to Tajuri and other brigade commanders in eastern Tripoli.
Haitham Tajouri’s militia attack Tripoli intelligence buildings
Tripoli is tense this evening after Haitham Tajouri sent his Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigade militia to attack predominantly Misratan intelligence personnel in the capital today and is thought to want to arrest Sheikh Sadek Ghariani, head of the Dar Al-Islam.
The chief of intelligence, Mohamed Muftah Nuh, a Misratan, is believed to be on a visit to Turkey.
In early morning raids with technicals and armoured cars, members of Tajouri’s TRB took over the Intelligence HQ in Fornaj, a building in Salaheddin and a site in Ain Zara as well as the intelligence offices at Mitiga Airport and Tripoli port.
There are unconfirmed reports that one man died in the Fornaj attack. The three portable cabins used by intelligence officers in Ain Zara came under heavy fire early in the morning and were burnt down. Militiamen also stormed some nearby apartments apparently searching for particular individuals.
Though no precise figure is yet clear, one source has said that “many” intelligence personnel have been seized. It is also understood that Tajouri’s men were supported by some intelligence officers who oppose what they see as Misratan and Islamist domination of the intelligence apparatus.
Nuh was an economy minister in Ali Zeidan’s government. He is said to be close to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and to have caused resentment in the intelligence establishment by appointing Misratans to key positions.
It is also being reported that Tajouri is seeking to arrest Ghariani. Posters have been seen in Tripoli with a picture of the former Grand Mufti with a “No Entry” sign across his face. The posters read “No to the Muslim Brotherhood” and “Stop the bloodshed”.
There has been no response from the Presidency Council to today’s events, just as there was no public reaction when Tajouri’s men took over the health ministry building last week.
It is unclear what has prompted the controversial militia leader’s actions. Last November Tajouri briefly seized the prime ministry, then occupied by Khalifa Ghwell, prime minster of Libya Dawn’s National Salvation government, set up by the rump of the General National Congress.
He once declared himself in favour of a return of the monarchy. He is however also one of a number of militia leaders who have been named by the United Nations as suspected human rights criminals. He has been accused of murdering Qaddafi regime personnel who had been detained in an illegal prison at his Al-Naam camp in Tajoura.