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PC appoints military commanders

Following fast on the announcement by the Presidency Council (PC) three days ago that it was dividing Libya into seven military regions as part of efforts to pacify the country, it has now unveiled its first two appointments.

The commander of the western region, covering the Jebel Nafusa and the area west of Tripoli, is to be former defence minister Major-General Osama Juwaili. Up until recently he also served as head of Zintan military council and over the course of last year built up relations with Misrata military council which led last December to a joint call on the Presidency Council to appoint a chief of staff for the armed forces.

The move is clear attempt to entice Zintan, which generally backs the House of Representatives and Khalifa Hafter, into supporting the PC. However, Juwaili, who is seen as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, no longer has the military clout he once had in his home town.

The commander of the central region, based on Misrata but stretching 700 kilomtres east to Zueitina, is to be Major-General Mohamed Al-Haddad. As head of Misrata’s Halbous Brigade, he is seen as similarly seen as acceptable, at least in the west of the region.

The move to set up military regions has been denounced by the House of Representatives as illegal, on the basis that the PC is illegitimate and without any powers.

Its usefulness has also been questioned by Misrata’s Colonel Salem Juha, who is again being rumoured on social media to be Serraj’s choice as chief of staff. In a controversial move at the beginning of the year, he was appointed to the post by Fathi Majbri while the latter was acting PC head in the absence abroad of Serraj. It and other shock appointments by Majbri triggered the resignation of Musa Koni from the PC and were then annulled when Serraj returned from his trip to London.

Juha, who has denied the latest rumours, told Al-Marsad online that the creation of the military zones could complicate matters. However, he also thought that, as nationally acceptable military leaders, Juwaili and Haddad could create consensus within the military on both sides of the divide.

Serraj has meanwhile moved to try and end criticism of the size of the central military region, now headed by Haddad. With it including the oil terminals of Sidra, Ras Lanuf and Zueitina, there has been a flood of criticism that he was handing control of much of the country’s oil industry to Misrata.

Yesterday, he replied that oil facilities were not the remit of the military zone authorities but of the local Petroleum Facilities Guard.

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