National Liberation Army (Libya)

The National Liberation Army (Arabic: جيش التحرير الوطني الليبيjaysh al-taḥrīr al-waṭanī al-lībī), formerly known as the Free Libyan Army,[1] was a Libyan military organisation affiliated with the National Transitional Council, which was constituted during the First Libyan Civil War by defected military members and civilian volunteers, in order to engage in battle against both remaining members of the Libyan Armed Forces and paramilitia loyal to the rule of Muammar Gaddafi. It had prepared for some time in portions of Eastern Libya controlled by the anti-Gaddafi forces for eventual full-on combat in Western Libya against pro-Gaddafi militants, training many men before beginning to go on the offensive.[2][3] They have battled for control of Benghazi, Misrata, Brega, Ajdabiya, Zawiya and Ra's Lanuf as well as several towns in the Nafusa Mountains. They finally began the Battle for Tripoli in August 2011 when they attacked from the west of the city, as well as fomenting an internal uprising on 20 August.

Natıonal Liberation Army
جيش التحرير الوطني الليبي
ActiveMarch 2011–October 2011
Country Libya
AllegianceNational Transitional Council
Nickname(s)Free Libyan Army
Motto(s)Free Army, Free Libya!
ColorsRed, black and green
EngagementsLibyan Civil War
Commander-in-ChiefMustafa Abdul Jalil
Defence MinisterOmar al-Hariri (March–May 2011)
Jalal al-Digheily (May–October 2011)
Abdul Fatah Younis  
Khalifa Haftar
Identification markFlag of Libya.svg
Aircraft flown
FighterMiG-21, MiG-23
Attack helicopterMi-25
Utility helicopterMi-14

There were claims that there were 8,000 soldiers in Benghazi equipped with a substantial number of weapons captured from abandoned Libyan army depots, including AK-47 and FN FAL rifles, RPGs, SPGs, anti-aircraft guns and several tanks.[4]

The force was formerly named the Free Libyan Army, but it was changed at the end of May 2011 to "help better define the increasingly professional and disciplined military efforts to overcome the Gaddafi regime", according to a statement released by the National Transitional Council.[5] It uses the tricolour flag first adopted by Libya in 1951, which has become emblematic of the Libyan Republic and the revolt against Gaddafi; considering that the flag is the same sign of Libya's independence and freedom from the Italian occupation.

The NLA finally succeeded in defeating the last pro-Gaddafi remnants on 20 October 2011, during heavy fighting in Sirte,[citation needed] and captured Muammar Gaddafi himself, who later died of bullet wounds after his capture, effectively ending the Libyan civil war.The current status of the organisation following the Libyan provisional government's "declaration of liberation" is unclear.

2011 transitional period and restructuringEdit

As of November 2011, the National Transitional Council is in the process of restructuring the army, with military personnel who defected from the Gaddafi regime and former rebel fighters of the National Liberation Army forming the basis is the new Libyan National Army. Major General Khalifa Haftar was chosen as the overall commander of the new Libyan Army due to his military experience and loyalty to the revolution that overthrew Gaddafi.[6]

The Libyan Army only numbered "a few thousand" trained soldiers in November 2011, and was rapidly trying to train up new fighters who could keep the peace nationwide and deter rogue militias from acting without NTC orders, and was responsible for brokering a ceasefire on at least one occasion in November between warring militas from Zawiya and Al Maya.[7] On 1 December 2011, it was reported that the National Liberation Army was to integrate up to 50,000 former rebel fighters into the new Libyan national army and police forces, with the aid of French training, with long term aims to integrate as many as 200,000 fighters from the brigades that had fought against Gaddafi during the civil war.[8]

In December 2011, Turkey agreed to provide training to the Libyan Army as it attempted to reorganize in the aftermath of the civil war.[9][10]

Also in December, large numbers of former rebels were being given jobs in the new army, whilst the government also announced that they would be free to join the special forces and the navy too. According to Osama al-Juwali, the defense minister: "The idea is to inject new blood in the army which was marginalized by the tyrant (Gaddafi)"[11]

General Yousef Mangoush said on 5 January 2012 that Libya's new army faces major obstacles such as rebuilding bases destroyed during the conflict, as well as disarming militas that were not part of the new army. National Army commander General Khalifa Hifter said later that it could take between three and five years for Libya to field a capable enough army to protect its borders.[12]


No reliable estimate on the total strength of the Army exists. Training camps are being organized in Benghazi, Bayda and Ajdabiya[13] attended by "thousands of men" according to a report of 3 to 6 March.[14] The opposition force taking Brega and Ra's Lanuf during an advance of 2–4 March was estimated as numbering between 500 and 1,000 men.[15] In the Nafusa Mountains alone there are up to 2,000 rebel fighters.[16]

After being driven back to the outskirts of Benghazi, the Free Libyan Army took the offensive once more on 25 March. In a string of victories the rebels retook the cities of Ajdabiya, Brega, Ra's Lanuf and Bin Jawad and were advancing to Sirte. However, after being in position for 48 hours, they were forced to withdraw from Bin Jawad and Ra's Lanuf again.[17] The front line was than in the region of Brega and Ajdabiya for several months, with additional front lines in Misrata and the Nafusa Mountains. In late August Rebels in the east were finally able to retake Brega and several other cities closing in on Sirte. At the same time rebels in Misrata were able to push out of the city and secured all surrounding towns, and rebels in the Nafusa Mountains were able to take most of the western coastline including Tripoli itself. Each soldier has also been given an ID card with photo, name, brigade-name, and their blood type. These ID cards are either in the form of paper in plastic slips or plastic cards.[18][19]

Some of the Brigades reported on by International journalists are as follows:

  • Obaida Ibn Jarrah BrigadeIslamic extremist militia allegedly implicated in the assassination of National Liberation Army commander-in-chief Abdul Fatah Younis on 28 July 2011.[20]
  • Okbah Ibn Nafih Brigade – Islamic extremist militia implicated in the detention of National Liberation Army commander-in-chief Abdul Fatah Younis in Brega's front on late July.[21]
  • Omar Mukhtar Brigade – Based in Ajdabiya and numbering 200 men and 10 trucks.[18]
  • Ali Hassan al-Jaber Brigade – Originally in Bayda, saw action during the Battle of Sirte (2011).[22]
  • Jabal Martyrs Brigade – Based in Bayda and numbering 125 men.
  • Tripoli Martyrs Brigade – Based in Bayda.[23]
  • Battalion Libya Free – Based in Bayda.[23]
  • Bayda Martyrs Brigade – Based in Bayda.[24]
  • Martyrs of Abu Salim – Based in Bayda.[25]
  • Zawiya Martyrs Brigade – Based in the Nafusa Mountains, trained to take Zawiya[26]
  • Shaheed Brigade – Based in and around Misrata, considered an elite unit in the rebel army[27][28]
  • Misrata Brigade – Based originally in Misrata, reported as based in Tripoli as of August 2011.[29]
  • Black Brigade – Based in and around Misrata[30]
  • Swehdi Brigade – Based in and around Misrata[30]
  • Al Horia Brigade – Based in and around Misrata, garrisoning Tawergha[31]
  • Faisal Brigade – Based on the outskirts of Zliten[32]
  • Arise Brigade – Based on the Libyan Coastal Highway between Misrata and Tripoli.[33]
  • Tripoli Brigade – originally based in Nalut in the Nafusa Mountains and numbering 1,300 men. It is the elite of the rebel forces and was trained to take Tripoli, where it is currently based.[34]
  • Abu Salim Brigade – Eastern Libya[35]
  • Sabratha Brigade – Nafusa Mountains, trained to take Sabratha[36]
  • Zuwara Brigade – Nafusa Mountains, trained to take Zuwara[37]
  • Martyr Wasam Qaliyah brigade – Western Libya composing up to 300 fighters[38]
  • Coastal Brigade – Based on the Libyan Coastal Highway between Zawiya and Tripoli
  • Nalut Brigade – Based in Nalut, Nafusa Mountains[39]
  • Kabaw Brigade – Based in the Nafusa Mountains, and took Tiji and Badr[39]
  • Jadu Brigade – Based in Jadu and numbering 300 men[40]
  • 28 May Brigade – Based around Tripoli, composing of Warfalla Tribe Members and trained to take Bani Walid
  • Victory Unit – Based on the road between Misrata and Bani Walid[41]
  • Desert Shield Brigade – Liberated Sabha[42]
  • Zintan Brigade – Fought for Sirte and during 2011 Nafusa Mountains Campaign.[43][44]
  • Fursan Brigade – Based in Tripoli[45]
  • Gharyan Brigade – Based in Gharyan[46]
  • Kekka Brigade – Based in Tripoli and numbering 800 fighters.[47]
  • Lions of the Valley Brigade – Based in Misrata, fought in Sirte.[48]
  • 11th Brigade – Based in and fought in Sirte.[49]
  • Al-Ghiran Brigade – Based in Sirte and Misrata and was responsible for the capture of Muammar Gaddafi.[50]
  • Khaled bin al-Waleed Brigade - Based in Zintan and was responsible for the capture of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi[51]
  • Sabha Martyrs of Libya Brigade - Based near Sabha and claimed to be responsible for the capture of Abdullah Senussi.[52]


  •   – Egypt has been reported to be supplying the rebels with mostly small arms such as assault rifles and ammunition.[53]
  •   – France has acknowledged having sent arms to rebels in the Nafusa Mountains. These are rocket launcher, MILAN anti-tank missiles and guns and ammunition that have been sent.[54][55][56]
  •   – The insurgents spokesman said on 6 May that NTC have reached an agreement with Italy to supply their troops with "equipment for self defense".[57]
  •   – The Polish Press Agency reported that unofficially the Polish government supplied the rebels with anti-tank rocket launchers and military vehicles and officers of Polish Special Forces in direct operations.[58][59]
  •   – Qatar has been reported to be supplying the rebels with various kinds of weapons including MILAN anti-tank systems and AK-47 rifles (as many as 400 such rifles have been estimated to have reached the rebels). Qatar has also supplied the rebels with camouflage and armored vests.[18][60]
  •   – Sudan supplied fighters in the Nafusa Mountains, Misrata, Kufra, and Benghazi with supplies, ammunition, and weapons Such as FN-FAL and AK-47 assault rifles.[61][62]
  •   – The United Arab Emirates had been reported to be supplying the rebels with Belgian FN-FAL rifles[56] and telecommunication network.[63]
  •   – The United Kingdom supplied the rebel force with communication equipment and body armor in order to get the force more organised and define a central command structure.
  •   – The United States is moving to provide Libyan rebels with $25 million in medical supplies, radios and other aid that would not include weapons as stated by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.[64]


Tank captured from Gadaffi loyalists in Benghazi

The equipment of the National Liberation Army came primarily from abandoned Army depots, Libyan military defectors (notably in eastern Libya, Benghazi, Bayda, and Ajdabiya),[65] Egyptian Armed Forces, France, Qatar and the United States.[66][67] It is not exactly known what equipment was in use at the end of the war but reports from journalists reveal the following were in use (limited in some cases as in tank and armor because of unavailability of spare parts[68]).


Camouflage clothing was provided by Qatar. Rebels were also seen in Ajdabiya wearing the military fatigues.[18]



Submachine gunsEdit

Carbines and riflesEdit

Misrata militiaman with Heckler & Koch G36 rifle

Machine guns and autocannonsEdit

Sniper riflesEdit

Rocket propelled, missiles and grenade systemsEdit



Note: Both the Soko G-2, and Mil Mi-2 were captured at Misrata Airport on 24 February 2011.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)Edit


See alsoEdit


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