Weekly Eye on ISIS in Libya Update – May 9, 2017

ISIS in Action and Other Jihadi Actors

On 7 May, ISIS’s official media arm claimed responsibility for an ambush of fighters belonging to the Government of National Accord (GNA) affiliated Misratan Third Force 100km south-west of Sirte. The Misratans were attacked in the al-Loud agricultural district as they were being transported by bus from Jufra to Misrata. Two Misratans were killed and one was injured in the assault. This is the first official operation claimed by ISIS since its defeat at the hands of the Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus coalition in Sirte in December.

Many Misratans are angry at what they see as an ‘ill-fated alliance’ between moderate Misratans and the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB). The BDB have withdrawn from Jufra to camp elsewhere in the desert south of Sirte. One of the BDB’s commanders, al-Saadi al-Nawfali, is known to have been a former leader of Ansar al-Sharia in Ajdabiya and is believed to be closely connected with Libyans who joined ISIS.

Last week, a new video was published showing the execution of an Algerian ISIS fighter by Captain Mahmood al-Werfalli, a notorious field commander of the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) Saiqa Special Forces. The ISIS fighter is believed to be Milood Abu Azzaz who was captured on 6 May by LNA fighters in the Sabri area of Benghazi, as he was preparing an IED. Azzaz was handed over to Werfalli, who executed him on film ‘under Sharia proceedings’ the same day.

On 4 May, the Libyan National Army (LNA) tentatively began a ground assault against the remaining jihadist enclaves in Sabri and Souq al-Hout in central Benghazi. They met with fierce resistance from jihadist fighters who are deploying IEDs and explosives in these areas to slow down the LNA’s advance. Days earlier, the Libya Free Martyrs Brigade, one of the militias fighting under the umbrella of the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC), issued a statement declaring its intent to fight to the death and calling for support from allies.

On 8 May, the LNA launched its full assault against the jihadist enclaves and LNA fighters have reportedly taken Benghazi port and a number of areas in Souq al-Hout. A medical source said hospitals had received 12 LNA dead and 20 wounded since the new offensive began. On 5 May, an LNA commando force managed to sneak into Derna Mujahadeen Shura Council (DMSC) held territory south of Derna and destroyed a DMSC tank with explosives.

A weekly update of ISIS’s actions, the Western response, and developments pertaining to Libya’s other militias is available by subscribing here. To read about Western countries’ responses to ISIS in Libya this week, click here. To read their explanation of the developments within the anti-ISIS Coalition of Libyan militias, click here.

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