The head of the Libyan armed forces, General Khalifa Hafter, has relieved Colonel Faraj Barasi, the Libyan National Army’s head of its planned Derna offensive, of all his duties. In a statement of TV today, Hafter’s spokesman, Colonel Mohamed Hijazi, said that Barasi no longer had any role in the LNA and that anyone who continued to take orders from him would be punished.
No reasons were given although according to Libya Channel TV, Hijazi has accused Barasi of having meetings with a number of political figures without the knowledge or approval of the military leadership.
Just two days ago, after Islamic State (IS) forces were pushed out of Derna, Barasi announced that his men had taken positions from IS outside the town and were ready to attack the IS camp at nearby Ras Al-Hilal.
This is the second time that Hafter has sacked Barasi. He was dismissed last month as military commander in the fight against the Islamists Benghazi’s Sabri district amid allegations that he was being too soft on terrorists there. However, he was then appointed by the President of the House of Representatives, Ageela Salah Gwaider, to head the Derna operation.
The latest sacking is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Barasi’s appointment to the Derna post was seen as a bid to appease the influential Barasa tribe. It came after members of the tribe had met in Beida and warned the authorities not to take any action against the colonel.
Reports of deep divisions between him and Hafter have been circulating for some time. Even before he was dismissed from his Benghazi post, he complained repeatedly of munitions shortages. He and other military commanders were said at the time to believe that Hafter was deliberately prolonging operations in the city to justify taking more power.