Libya Dawn gets image upgrade for war with IS

Libya Dawn gets image upgrade for war with IS
Analysis: Libya Dawn fighters kicked out a legitimate government and stood accused of extremism. But the rise of the IS has cast it in a new light, says Farah Shandoul.
3 min read
27 March, 2015
From extremists to heroes - Libya Dawn fighters [Anadolou]

The emergence of the Islamic State group in Libya has changed the shape of the conflict. The Islamist Libya Dawn militia forces was once accused of harbouring IS fighters. Now the two groups are fighting each other.

The IS group has footholds in Derna, where earlier this year it murdered a group of kidnapped Christian Egyptians. Members of al-Qaeda-aligned Ansar al-Sharia based in Sirte are also believed to have pledged alligience to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Since then, Libya Dawn and IS-aligned fighters have fought fierce battles in Sirte, with car bomb attacks and gun attacks claiming dozens of lives.

Libya Dawn was the militia that kicked out the internationally recognised government in Tripoli, forced its exile in Tobruk, and set up its own administration in the capital.

It has long been the foe of forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, who has maintained Libya Dawn is led by "extremists and terrorists". The spectrum has now shifted.

Mohammad al-Qadi, a Libyan political and social activist, told al-Araby al-Jadeed how the Libya Dawn-IS confrontations started. "Ansar al-Sharia initiated aggression and declared war on Libya Dawn forces. Ansar has been opposing the Libyan political process, antagonising anyone who took part. Libya Dawn became an enemy for participating in Algerian-Moroccan negotiations.

"Libya Dawn now finds itself being reclassified as an opponent of terrorism and extremism, thus complying with the terms and conditions of the international community and countries in the region.

     Libya Dawn now finds itself being reclassified as an opponent of terrorism and extremism.
Mohammad al-Qadi, activist

"This will allow it to participate in political dialogue in order to prove itself as a political and civil power; one that may partially disagree with other parties in Libya but still insists on presenting itself as an anti-extremism political and civil power that is willing to face the consequences of opposing Ansar."

Layla bin Khalifa, a Libyan political activist, agrees.

"Libya Dawn has earned trust and support on both the international and regional levels, establishing itself as a main party to dialogues and as a political power in Libya following its war against the IS," she said.

"Libya Dawn's war against the IS will serve the interests of its strongest rival - Haftar and his forces, who enjoy international political support through Abdullah al-Thani's government and the Tobruk parliament."

A Libyan military official, speaking on conditions of anonymity, told al-Araby: "Fajr Libya initially took up arms to defend the Libyan revolution and prevent a counter-revolution led by Haftar and his forces.

"By fighting the IS, it is again protecting the February revolution from extremism and terrorism, because it wants a modern, democratic and civil Libya."

Mustafa Abdul Kabir, the director of the southern branch of the Arab Institute for Human Rights, said Libya Dawn had proved it was a "militarily power that rejects and fights terrorism and aims to become a political actor".

He said that international and regional powers had also been successful in bringing the movement into the negotiation process.

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.