UNSMIL Convoy Abducted Then Released Near Zawiyya
On 28 June, a 6 vehicle UNSMIL convoy was ambushed near the city of Zawiyya as it was travelling between Surman and Tripoli. 7 UNSMIL staff including one female, in addition to 12 members of the Libyan diplomatic security, were abducted and taken as hostages by the attacking group. Reports indicate that the UNSMIL staff were released late last night. There were no reports of any injuries.
The attackers belong to a militia led by a local family (Kardamin) which a member of the (Saqr) Tribe. The Kardamin militia and Saqr tribe in general are rivals of the militia status quo controlling Zawiyya port and refinery, and are involved in the profitable fuel smuggling network at the heart of Zawiyya. The UNSMIL hostages were reportedly being held to ransom for the release of three Kardamin militiamen from the jails of RADA (Special Deterrence Force) in Tripoli.
Although this may seem like an isolated incident, other events indicate that Zawiyya may be a locus on instability in the foreseeable future. The arrest of key Islamist commanders from Zawiyya in Saudia Arabia fuelled tensions between local power brokers in Zawiyya and the Government of national Accord (GNA), forcing the GNA to secure the secure their diplomatic release. Another senior wanted figure from Zawiyya has sought refuge in Libya’s consulate in Jeddah.
Although the UNSMIL abduction was carried out by a faction that is more closely affiliated with Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), rather than the Islamist-connected militias that currently hold a lot of power in the city, there may also be reason to believe that LNA loyalists will attempt to fill the new power vacuum emerging in Zawiyya. On 28 June, a group of Zawiyya military and social figures declared their loyalty to Haftar and announced readiness to follow command.