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Fewer clashes in Sabratha but tension remains high

Clashes continued today in Sabratha, 80 kilometres west of Tripoli, between the Anti-IS Operations Room and the 48th Battalion although the intensity of fighting was much reduced according to an official in the town who asked not to be identified. Occasional firing of both small and heavy weapons could be heard, he said, but no deaths or serious injuries had been reported among either the combatants or the civilian population. The town remained tense, however, he explained.

He claimed that the Operations Room had gained the upper hand so far in the fighting – a claim denied by Ahmed Dabashi, the head of the local Amu brigade which overlaps with the 48th; many members of the former are also members of the latter and thereby receive an official salary. However, this evening there were unconfirmed reports that the operations room had taken Sabratha hospital.

During the day there were also reports of a supposedly Wirshefani pro-LNA force, dispatched to Sabratha to reinforce the operations room, being attacked by Gharyan brigades northeast of Gharyan and forced to retreat. However, the Sabratha source disputed this, saying that no outside forces had been heading to the town.

The conflict is increasingly presented as a clash between an operations room that is pro-LNA and the 48th that is Islamist and backed by the Presidency Council. During the day, radical and controversial cleric Sadek Al-Ghariani reinforced this, accusing the operations room of planning to annihilate the revolutionaries in Sabratha, and the LNA of planningto destroy the town itself as they had done to Benghazi.

Ahmed Dabashi, however, has indicated that money rather than ideology is the real reason for the divide. He is reported saying that while he, a former smuggler, was now opposed to smuggling, members of the operations room wanted to keep it going.

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