The current Libyan Civil War began in 2014 and was born from the ousting of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, as part of the Arab Spring revolutions. Opposing viewpoints and opinions about how the country should be run created three government factions within five years, that are currently all vying for legitimacy and power in Libya. This power struggle has brought violence to Libya and caused a humanitarian crisis, affecting civilian access to infrastructure, health, education, electricity, water, food, and job security, and has also decimated the economy, oil production, law enforcement, and the justice system. The European Migrant Crisis and ISIS’s exploitation of Libya’s power vacuum have also exacerbated the issue. Until the government factions concede power to one internationally and nationally recognized government, the war will not end.
Population: 6.4 million
Refugees/Displaced peoples: Near 1 million
represents the Tobruk Government or Council of Deputies; Libya’s internationally recognised government that was elected in 2014 and is supported by the Libyan National Army (LNA), under the leadership of General Khalifa Haftar. The HoR is also supported by the UAE and Egypt (primarily through air strikes).
formed in 2014, and comprised of politicians that were not elected in the 2014 elections. Despite being disbanded in April 2016, it reformed in October of the same year. This faction was supported by Qatar, Turkey, andSudan until its dissolution in 2016, and is also supported by Libya Dawn – a militia alliance that primarily acts as the armed forces of the GNC – and two branches of theLibya Shield Force.
formed as an interim “unity government” in Tripoli, after peace talks brokered by the UNled to the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement in 2015, unifying the rival factions in Libya. They are also supported by – and provide funding to – the Zintan Brigades militia, who themselves are also allied with the LNA.
took advantage of the power vacuum formed in the wake of the civil war, and took control of various Libyan cities, including Sirte. US airstrikes and various Libyan ground forces drove out ISIS from the majority of the city in December 2016. Special forces from French and UK militaries have also been fighting extremist groups in Libya.
all loose coalitions of various militias from their respective parts of the country, and are typically not aligned with any government faction, although the Benghazi Council has pledged support to the GNA, which many GNA members have rejected. Many of these militias have been declared terrorist groups by one or more of the government factions.
Timeline of the crisis
The General National Congress (GNC) is formed after nationwide elections elected the National Forces Alliance and the Justice and Construction Party to parliament.
The GNC votes to extend its power for one more year, instead of stepping down and holding new elections immediately.
General Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA) orders the GNC to dissolve and hold elections for a “caretaker government”.
Haftar launches “Operation Dignity” in which his forces attack Islamist militia bases in and around Benghazi. Initial counts claim 17 people were killed and 250 injured.
Haftar announces the illegitimacy of the GNC, due in part to their inaction towards terrorists in Libya, and vows to “purge” Islamist militias in the country. The GNC retaliates by condemning Haftar’s operation and imposing a no-fly zone over Benghazi.
Haftar’s forces launch an attack on parliament in a bid to force the GNC to cease power and dissolve.
Colonel Wanis Abu Khamada, commander of Libya’s Special Forces, aligns himself with Haftar.
Forty parliament members, the heads of the navy and air force, the majority of the army, the National Forces Alliance, and the Interior Ministry all announce their support for Haftar.
Thousands rally in cities across the country to show their support for Haftar, in what becomes known as the “Friday of Dignity” protests.
“Operation Dignity” forces launch an attack on the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, one of Libya’s strongest militias.
22 people are killed and another 70 injured in clashes between Haftar’s forces and Ansar al-Sharia militants in Benghazi.
After an internal power struggle within the GNC, Libya’s new Prime Minister, Ahmed Maiteeq, takes office as per a contested parliamentary vote.
Haftar survives an assassination attempt on his life.
The Libyan Supreme Constitutional Court declares Maiteeq’s election illegal and unconstitutional.
American Special Forces capture a suspect of the 2012 U.S. Embassy attack in Benghazi, that killed the U.S. ambassador.
Haftar denounces Qatari and Turkish involvement in Libya, and accuses them of aiding terrorists in the country.
Nationwide parliamentary elections are held for the House of Representatives, to a poor turnout of 18% due to increasing violence, causing many polling stations to remain closed. The GNC agrees to dissolve after these elections to make way for a newly-elected government.
Since the second civil war began in May, Islamist extremists have reportedly killed 270 civil society workers and activists.
A loose coalition of several militias launch “Operation Libya Dawn” to seize control of Tripoli International Airport, forcing the airport to close, as clashes between militias and government forces kill 47 people over the course of a week.
30 people are killed after militias attack a military base in Benghazi, that acts as a headquarters for some of Haftar’s forces.
The newly formed Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries now controls most of Benghazi, although Haftar denies this claim.
The Libyan Health Ministry announces that fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi over recent weeks has resulted in 214 deaths and 981 injuries, according to hospital records. NGO Libya Body Count, estimates the total number of dead to be closer to 400.
The newly elected and internationally recognised House of Representatives (HoR) takes power and replaces the GNC, who dissolves.
The HoR urges all sides of the civil war to commit to a cease fire, which is ignored. The HoR begins to flee Tripoli for the eastern city of Tobruk, after Tripoli steadily begins to fall into militias’ hands.
The HoR votes to pass a law that formally disbands, defunds, and delegitimizes any and all militias formed in the 2011 revolution. The government also calls on the United Nations to intervene in Libya to protect civilians.
Operation Libya Dawn is successful, and Tripoli International Airport falls to the Islamist militia group, Libyan Central Shield.
The New General National Congress is established, made up of losing members of the June elections.
The New GNC announces the creation of the National Salvation Government (NSG) as an alternative Tripoli-based government to the HoR.
The city of Derna falls to ISIS.
The Libyan Supreme Constitutional Court calls the June 2014 elections unconstitutional and formally dissolves the HoR, while held at gunpoint by militia members. The HoR rejects the ruling.
“Operation Dignity” and “Operation Libya Dawn” fighters agree to a ceasefire.
ISIS captures the town of Nofaliya in the Sirte District.
ISIS moves into the town of Sirte, taking control of TV and radio stations and government buildings
Egypt and the HoR coordinate airstrikes against ISIS bases in Libya, which are condemned by the GNC and Qatar, as terrorism and a danger to civilians, respectively.
The HoR names Haftar its army chief.
The HoR announces plans to launch attacks in Tripoli to drive out the GNC-supported Islamist militants, causing the GNC to threaten to walk away from scheduled peace talks in Morocco.
HoR and GNC-aligned forces in the Sirte Basin area agree to a temporary ceasefire in order to fight ISIS.
HoR members sign a draft peace deal in Morocco alone, after the GNC boycotts the signing, citing disagreement with the peace deal’s terms and stipulations.
The HoR votes to extend their term past October 20, due to the country’s inability to hold elections at this time.
the head of the Islamic State in Libya, Abu Nabil, is killed in a US airstrike—the first US airstrike against the Islamic State outside of Iraq and Syria.
The Chairman of the HoR, Aguila Saleh Issa, announces his support for the agreement.
The LNA, with French Special Forces, launch an assault in Benghazi and successfully capture a key port in the city.
The Prime Minister of the GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, arrives in Tripoli with his new government. Several city mayors announce their support for the GNA.
The National Salvation Government of the GNC formally disbands.
Pro-GNA forces and ISIS continue to battle for ground in Sirte.
The U.S. air force leads airstrikes against ISIS bases in Sirte.
The HoR rejects the GNA and passes a motion of no confidence
The National Salvation Government of the GNC reforms.
GNC-loyal forces take control of the High Council of the State building.
The GNC claims control of Tripoli.
After over six months of fighting the town of Sirte is declared free of ISIS control.
Haftar meets with Russian military officials, to secure Russian military support in the war.
GNA’s vice premier and foreign minister meet with the Russian Foreign Minister.
An Islamist-dominated militia coalition seizes territory from the LNA and hands it to the GNA.
The HoR backs out of peace talks with the GNA, and calls for new elections to be held.
The GNA agrees to officially name Haftar the commander of the Libyan Army, if he recognizes the GNA as Libya’s only legitimate government.
A meeting held in France and hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron results in the GNA’s Prime Minister al-Saraj and the HoR’s Haftar, agreement to a ceasefire.
U.S. airstrikes kill 17 ISIS militants at a base, 150 km southeast of Sirte.
CNN releases footage of a modern day slave auction in Libya, to global shock and outrage, made possible by the exploitation of Libya’s Civil War.
Haftar declares the Libyan Political Agreement as void.
The LNA announces the defeat of all Islamist militias in Benghazi, ending a three year battle for control of Benghazi.
Two car bombings at a Benghazi mosque kill 35 people, including senior LNA security officers
Fighting between the GNA-led Sixth Brigade and Toubou militias breaks out in Sabha. Eventually, the GNA commander of the Sixth Brigade is replaced by LNA leadership which allows them to gain the upper hand over the Toubou.
The LNA launches an attack on Derna, a city held by the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council. The DMSC quickly dissolves to form the Derna Protection Force, which proclaimed to hold an anti-LNA moderate stance.
Islamic State suicide bombers attack the High National Elections Committee in Tripoli. The attack left 16 people dead.
The new LNA governor arrives in Sabha and declares a ceasefire between the Sixth Brigade and the Toubou. Instead, the Toubou declare war on the LNA and capture Sabha castle.
The LNA capture the city of Derna fully after a final assault on the DPF in the Al-Maghar district. This represents LNA control of every major Islamic city in the east.
The UN-backed Libyan government declares a state of emergency in Tripoli.
How can you help?
- Global NGOs such as UNICEF, UNHCR, the World Food Programme, International Medical Corps, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies all operate in and for Libya, and are considered trustworthy charities to donate to, although the option to donate does not always include specific countries.
- Kafaa Development Foundation is an NGO that works with other international and national NGOs to foster community development in Libya (including youth, health, and education development), in the wake of the humanitarian crisis created by the civil war.