The southern region of Libya has become a base for African rebel movements and illegal immigration, which called for the Libyan National Army to liberate and purify the south, control order and end the state of chaos, smuggling and extortion practiced by militias and mercenaries infiltrating the Libyan border.
In this context, the Libyan National Army issued instructions to launch a large-scale military operation in the south of the country, the first of them in 2022, aimed at expelling terrorist organizations, drug cartels, and smuggling and clandestine immigration gangs, which take the region as a haven from which they spread extremism and criminality to the rest of Libya.
The commander of southern operations and the military region of Sabha, Major General Al-Mabrouk Sahban, said in press statements that the National Army forces have launched a wide and comprehensive military campaign in the south to impose security, and that they “target gangs engaged in drug trafficking, smuggling and illegal immigration, as well as armed groups launching terrorist operations against army forces.”
According to Sahban, the second phase of the campaign will include illegal fuel stations that distribute smuggled fuel at high prices, especially since the distribution process in the Sabha oil depot for fuel is unfair due to the absence of oversight, as “there is a great manipulation involving distribution stations and other parties.”
The military operation received popular support from tribes and notables in southern Libya to get rid of the manifestations of chaos and lawlessness, especially the 116 Militia, which is the spearhead in most of the problems of the south.
That militia, which bears the name 116, began to appear in 2014 after its commander, Masoud Jedi, fought with the terrorist alliance Libya Dawn against the forces of the National Army and then destroyed and besieged the Libyan capital that year.
Jedi has a criminal record in the south, including kidnappings, extortion, ransom demands, and harboring extremist elements, and he has close ties to a number of militias in the capital, Tripoli, especially the ferocious RADA Special Deterrence Force militia led by Abdul Raouf Kara.
The number of the 116 Militia, which is in control of southern Libya, has approximately 1,200 militants and mercenaries, as smuggling operations are active in that region, in addition to the presence of a number of al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorist elements.
This militia depends on drug smuggling and illegal immigration for its funding, and African mercenaries represent a large part of the 116 Militia, which was later called the “counterterrorist force” in an attempt to formally control the capabilities of the south.
Libya’s south suffers from the presence of the militia, which has caused the deterioration of the situation and the lack of services, as well as the continuation of crises, especially the fuel and gas crisis and the collapse of infrastructure.
The residents of the southern region also live in a state of constant security anxiety. At the beginning of December 2021, the army thwarted the militia’s attempt to storm the military intelligence headquarters and other army sites and outposts in order to expel them and control them. The clashes that shook the city of Sabha lasted for several hours, and the army used heavy weapons.
Since 2011, the south has witnessed deteriorating security, social and economic conditions, and illegal immigration gangs, drug smugglers and ISIS sleeper cells have been active there, which have taken it as a safe haven due to its vast area and distance from the eyes of the authorities. The gangs also smuggle weapons from to militias throughout Libya.
A study prepared by the Carnegie Endowment for Research after the fall of the rule of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, entitled “Border Line Chaos”, indicated that southern Libya causes great problems for its neighbors, as “the smuggling of arms and people flows freely from all parts of the Maghreb due to ethnic groups and their close ties to organized crime networks that link the region together.”
The Libyan army led the battles to purify the south from these criminal gangs and terrorist organizations in a fierce war against many parties, most notably the Brotherhood, rebels and Chadian mercenaries.
Although al-Qaeda has been subjected to strong and successive strikes by the Libyan army, the terrorist organization insists on finding a foothold in the region, because Libya is the last hope for its presence in the North African region.
Libyan MP Jibril Ouhaida commented on the gathering of mercenary militias at the border triangle in southeastern Libya near the borders of Chad and Sudan, saying in a post on Facebook that “these militias pose an imminent danger if they are not absorbed within their countries,” referring to Chad and Sudan.