Armed faction seizes control of Libya’s biggest smuggling hub

Photo credit: Reuters

TMP – 09/10/2017

An armed faction has declared victory after a three-week battle over the major Libyan smuggling hub of Sabratha, Reuters news agency has reported.

An organization called the Operations Room and its allies have been fighting the Anas al-Dabbashi brigade – a militia heavily involved in migrant smuggling. The brigade recently said it had changed its approach and struck a deal with the U.N.-backed Libyan government to stop boats of migrants setting off across the Mediterranean.

The declared victory over the brigade has sparked new uncertainty over the control of migrant flows through Libya – a highly unstable and virtually lawless country which has over the last two years become the gateway for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. The town of Sabratha has become the most common departure point.

Since July, there has been a sharp decrease in the number of migrants reaching Europe from Libya. This change is largely attributed to European countries’ increased collaboration with and training of Libya’s coastguard, and to the Dabbashi brigade intercepting migrants in return for jobs in the security forces.

Asked whether the Operations Room would also stop illegal migration, commander Omar Abduljaleel said: “God willing we will work on illegal migration after the biggest smuggler has been eliminated.”