Weekly Eye on Jihadis in Libya Update – May 30, 2017

ISIS in Action and Other Jihadi Actors

According to local sources, on 24 May militias clashed with ISIS fighters near Bani Walid. Four ISIS fighters were killed. ISIS fighters are still active in the area after dispersing into the desert south-west of Sirte following their defeat at the hands of the Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus forces last year. Locals report that these ISIS cells are surviving by raiding trucks and ambushing travellers in this area. They reportedly have encampments in locations near Abu Grien, Jufra and al-Shuwerif. Three weeks ago, ISIS fighters killed two members of the large Misratan 13th Battalion (formerly Third Force) and injured three in an ambush between Jufra and Sirte.

In Tripoli, the Government of National Accord (GNA) – aligned RADA Special Forces arrested the brother and father of Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi. RADA said that Hashem Abedi, the 20-year-old brother of the alleged bomber, had been under observation for over a month and issued a statement saying that Hashem had confessed that both he and his brother Salman were members of ISIS.  Hasham allegedly also admitted that he had known the details of the Manchester bombing and had been planning to assassinate the UN Special Envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler. Ramadan Abedi, the father, who is alleged to have been a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was also seized.

On 26 May, Egypt conducted six airstrikes against targets in Derna, supposedly in retaliation for the massacre of 28 Coptic Christians in Egypt’s Minya province the same day. The attack was claimed by ISIS. Further airstrikes were launched on 29 May. Targets included the city’s power station and the electricity distribution network. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said the air strikes in Derna had targeted fighters responsible for plotting the Minya attack, and that Egypt would not hesitate to carry out additional strikes inside and outside the country. However, Derna is controlled by the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) which fought against ISIS. ISIS was driven out of Derna two years ago.

On 28 May, the spokesperson for Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) Colonel Ahmed Mesmari said that the LNA was coordinating with Egypt’s military over the air strikes. The Libyan House of Representatives (HoR) praised the Egyptian airstrikes on Derna, while the Government of National Accord (GNA) condemned them as a gross violation of Libya’ sovereignty. During a press conference in Cairo on 29 May, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said jihadist training camps in Libya were a huge threat to Egypt and that Egypt had targeted the bases of these organizations in full coordination with the LNA. The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was also at the press conference.

On 27 May, Ansar al-Sharia (AS) officially announced that it had disbanded itself. AS’s leadership and fighting force has been weakened over the last three years through its fight against the Libyan National Army (LNA). The disbanding statement is significant because it may undermine the ideological conviction of fighters still allied with AS under the umbrella of the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC). The final remnants of AS, along with the BRSC and ISIS, are besieged in their last two Benghazi enclaves of Sabri and Souq al-Hout. Interestingly, pro-ISIS media accounts celebrated AS’s disbanding as ‘inevitable’ and criticized the group for failing to unify its loyalties under the ISIS banner.

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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