ISIS attacked the ‘28 May’ militia near Sadada on 13 April, beheading militia leaders, looting large amounts of munitions, and destroying the remaining armaments that could not be transported from the camp. Some sources report that the ISIS militants who conducted the operation did so without direction from ISIS senior command in Sirte, and that they were, in fact, natives of Bani Walid. If true, these reports may explain why ISIS ‘official’ media outlets had not yet claimed the attack, in addition to the bombing of Al Sadada Checkpoint on 12 April. According to these reports, the ISIS militants were dressed in nondescript clothing and approached the ’28 May’ militia camp on foot.
Following increased sightings of ISIS convoys in area, locals in Bani Walid speak of a growing sense that urgent measures are needed to defend the city, however divisions are hindering action. Some residents want to ignore the issue, believing that Bani Walid is not ready for an open conflict with ISIS, while others would prefer to conduct a deterrent attack on ISIS as soon as possible. The large ‘Wadi Souf Al Jein’ desert valley between Bani Walid and Sirte is considered an open access area between the two cities, allowing ISIS almost complete freedom of movement. The area’s mountainous topography provides relatively safe passage, and according to local sources, is likely home to ISIS training camps.
On 15 April, ISIS executed three Sirte residents from the Qadhafi tribe. The following day, another ISIS commander, Abu Shujaa Al Masri, was hospitalised with serious injuries at Sirte’s Ibn Sina hospital, after being involved in a vehicle accident south of the city, in which an Egyptian and Tunisian were also injured.
ISIS also published a photo gallery of its citywide assessment of basic Sharia knowledge in Sirte. The assessment was held on 15 April after ISIS concluded obligatory Sharia courses, in which 4000 people are claimed to have participated. On 17 April, ISIS held a largely attended graduation ceremony in the main Ouagadougou conference hall in the city centre. ISIS had apparently used cash rewards to incentivise local participation in its Sharia courses. The reward for first place was 10,000 Libyan dinars, 5000 dinars for second place, and 3000 for third place. Twenty runners-up were awarded 500 dinars each.
ISIS managed to make new gains against the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) after intense fighting throughout the week. The gains were made at Al Heela battlefront in Al Fatieh, south of Derna on 17 April. DMSC units withdrew from the line after losing five of their fighters to ISIS suicide VBIED attacks, with several others wounded. However, many DMSC fighters remain in Al Fatieh, as the fighting is expected to continue at any time. Meanwhile, on the eastern coast of Derna, ISIS heavy artillery have managed to push back DMSC forces, allowing ISIS forces to advance and take control of a number of DMSC positions in the city.
ISIS and other jihadist militias were pushed back further south from Benghazi last week, as the Libyan National Army (LNA) continued its advance. ISIS lost control of the cement factory in Hawari on 18 April, when LNA forces stormed the complex. This loss comes after a month of heavy fighting, including frequent LNA airstrikes on the factory. Before losing control of Hawari, ISIS had conducted a suicide bombing on an LNA checkpoint near the cement factory on 14 April and published drone footage of the attack. ISIS also released a short video on 19 April of two LNA soldiers taken captive during their retreat from Guwarsha in southern Benghazi.
To read the Eye On ISIS in Libya Team’s treatment of Western countries’ responses to ISIS in Libya this week, click here. To read their blog post about the actions of other jihadi actors, click here. And to read their explanation of the developments within the anti-ISIS Coalition of Libyan militias, click here.
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