Libya’s GNA Ministry of Defence Appoints Former ISIS Militant

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The Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli continues to use extremists and armed militias to strengthen its ranks against the Libyan National Army (LNA).

Recently, the GNA’s Defence Ministry enlisted the help of Muhammad Ibrahim Suleiman Balam, who had previously pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS). Balam fought within IS’ ranks in Benghazi against the LNA, in cooperation with the GNA’s Permanent Committee for Humanitarian Affairs of the Ministry of Defence to manage and follow up the file of the exchange of detainees and bodies.

Balam was born in 1991 and is a resident of the western al-Salmani district of Benghazi. He previously participated in the “Odkholo Alihum al-Bab” battle led by the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries and Ansar al-Sharia organisations. He also participated in the battles of Benina against the LNA.

After the LNA entered the city of Benghazi, Balam participated in the battle of Al-Sabri against it, alongside Mahmoud Al-Barasi’s group.

Libya Review cannot confirm the date this image was taken but new GNA official Balam can be seen posing in front of an ISIS flag

Balam fled out of Benghazi and then completely disappeared. He is thought to have worked as a smuggler for people fleeing Benghazi and was accused of being a crook by the escapees.

On 3 August 2014, Balam’s phone was found lying in one of the locations of the Shura Council. Pictures and conversations found on the phone helped authorities to find Shura Council members in Benghazi, who were monitoring the LNA as well as the police in the city to plan assassinations.

GNA-affiliated militias have often sought the help of members of the IS, which led the LNA to announce the Operation Flood of Dignity on April 4, 2019, to cleanse Tripoli of terrorist militias.

In August 2019, the GNA released 70 IS militants from the Mitiga prison to fight in the ranks of militias fighting the Libyan army in Tripoli. This came as part of a deal with the Al-Sarraj militia, in which they are finally freed in exchange for benefiting from their experiences to fight against the army.