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Row over Misrata military delegation in Qatar

A row has erupted over a military delegation from Misrata which arrived in Qatar two days ago. The 15-member delegation, which first flew to Istanbul and from there to Doha by private plane, consists of some of the military commanders who took part in the Bunyan Marsous (BM) operation in Sirte against the so-called Islamic State (IS) and is lead by the BM head, Brigadier Bashir Al-Gadi. It also includes BM’s former spokesman, Brigadier Mohamed Al-Ghasri, and says it went to Qatar to thank it for supporting BM against IS.

However, there is growing condemnation within Misrata of the trip. One of the city’s members of the State Council, Belgassem Gzeit, has accused Gadi and others of trying to use the Sirte victory for their own political purposes. On social media two other Misratan commanders who took part in the BM operation, Hamid Aisa Khadr and Hamza Treiki, have called for Gadi and Ghasri to be prosecuted for acting unlawfully.

The visit to Doha is being widely seen in the wider regional context of the dispute between Qatar and the Saudis, Egyptians and Emiratis, with the hardliners in Misrata taking Qatar’s side. It is also being seen as a move by the hardliners to distance themselves from the visit made by the city’s political leaders at the beginning of month to Egypt to discuss reconciliation with representatives from tribes from the east of Libya. Gzeit was part of that trip.

The critics of the Doha visit claim that unlike the political leaders who went to Cairo at the invitation of the Egyptian government and with the blessing of the Presidency Council, the Misratans who have gone to Qatar initiated the visit and went without the permission of the authorities they claim to serve.

Since arriving in Doha, Ghasri is reported to have said that the Qataris intend to provide Misrata with a water desalination plant and a field hospital and well as medicines and medical equipment.

Ghasri officially resigned as BM spokesman in January when he was appointed spokesman for the Tripoli defence ministry. However, he has continued at times to function as if he were still in the BM job.

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