Answers To The Strange Malta Hijack Could Lie In A Fresh Libyan War Triggered Just One Day Later
If the hijack was a conspiracy, it was probably much bigger than Malta
The hijack that ended peacefully in Malta last month seems to have triggered a fresh war in Libya, as rival military groups continue vying for power.
Just two days before Christmas, a pair of Libyan hijackers forced a plane to land in Malta but then surrendered after waving a green flag and making no further demands. Their lack of a clear motive raised suspicions and far-flung conspiracy theories, from the humorous to the downright worrying.
But a closer look at what is happening in Libya could provide a more realistic answer as to why the hijack took place. Just a day after the plane in question left the Tamenhint airbase in the southern Libyan city of Sebha, a fresh and underreported war broke out in the area, killing five people, including two children.
"Just a day after the plane in question left the Tamenhint airbase in the southern Libyan city of Sebha, a fresh and underreported war broke out in the area, killing five people, including two children."
The advance on Sebha was led by Colonel Mohamed Ben Nayel, who commands a section of the Libyan National Army (LNA) called the 12th Brigade. The war has continued to escalate over the past few days.
“Nayel’s actions fall in line with the LNA’s broader military strategy to tighten the circle on their rivals in Tripoli, which is commanded by the Government of National Accord (GNA),” experts on Libyan politics have told Lovin Malta.
Nayel’s actions include trying to take over key areas in the south of the country, which is where Sebha's Tamenhint airbase comes in.
“The hijack gave the LNA an excuse to make a move in Tamenhint,” the sources said.
“The hijack gave the LNA an excuse to make a move in Tamenhint (airbase)."
The airbase is controlled by The Third Force, a military brigade from Misurata, aligned to the internationally recognised and Tripoli-based GNA. Soon after the hijack took place, Nayel told The Third Force to evacuate the south of Libya, including Sebha - a request that was adamantly turned down. But things have turned ugly with intense fighting around the Gwirat Al-Maal checkpoint, which is a few kilometres from the Tamenhint airbase.
According to a source quoted by the Libyan Herald, Nayel’s army includes members of Qaddadfa, the tribe of the former Libyan dictator Mummer Gaddafi. The Libyan Herald’s source also says that Nayel cannot handle taking Tamenhint alone.
“But if there were an attack at Jufra at same time, the Misratans would not be able to defend both places,” the source was quoted as saying.
"Whoever takes Jufra will be able to control the country."
The elaborate LNA strategy seems to be to overstretch Misratan forces by launching simultaneous attacks on the (Jufra) base, in the south around Tamenhint and Sebha, and in ensuring problems in Tripoli as well. Just today, airstrikes were conducted in Jufra.
"Whoever takes Jufra will be able to control the country," the Libyan Herald's source concluded.
Although this doesn’t fully explain why two hijackers would risk long prison terms (and potentially also their lives) to organise a hijack, it poses a new theory, which is that the hijack could have been coordinated to weaken The Third Force in Sebha and give the LNA an excuse to attack.
This could be the start of a wider war that upsets the status quo in Libya yet again. Watch this space.