IS in Action

IS cells in Libya are reported to have established temporary checkpoints 70 km south of Sirte on the road to Waddan and also near Bohadi village in the same district, on the 8 and 13 November respectively. The group is said to have stopped and searched civilian vehicles and seized goods.

In the 105th edition of IS’s weekly al-Naba online magazine the group claims its fighters in Libya repelled an attack by the Libyan National Army in Cyrenaica on the 2nd of November, causing casualties and damaging equipment.

Other Jihadi Actors

On 9 November, the Libyan National Army (LNA) claimed complete control of Sidi Khribesh district of Benghazi, in the downtown area close to the port. The LNA reportedly defeated the last remaining fighters from the jihadi coalition who had been hiding out there since Khalifa Haftar announced Benghazi had been officially ‘liberated’ in July. Several jihadis and three LNA fighters were reportedly killed in the clashes, and several more injured.

On 7 November, the death of the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council (BRSC) member Mohammed Bakr al-Yedri, known as ‘al-Nahla’ led to protests in Misrata. Photograph’s of Yedri’s body in Misrata hospital mortuary showed signs of bruising and foaming at the mouth. Supporters claimed he had been subjected to electric shocks. This led to frictions between security forces in the city and protestors, however no clashes were recorded.

The tensions forced the High Council of State (HCS) President Abdurrahman Swehli to go to Misrata on 11 November to meet his former foe Khalifa al-Ghwell, prime minister of the defunct General National Congress (GNC). Both apparently ‘reconciled’ in a published video on social media, after intense arguments between both over the failure of the GNA to unify Libya.


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.

To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on ISIS in Libya report, click here. To subscribe to receive this report weekly into your inbox, sign up on the subscribe page.

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IS in Action

Local sources report that IS fighters continue to traverse the coastal highway 20km east of Sirte, an area deemed to be under the control of the Government of National Accord’s al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) forces.

Other Jihadi Actors

On the same day, intense clashes broke out in Benghazi’s city centre between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and ‘remnants’ of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC). Three LNA fighters were killed in the clashes and another 10 were injured. This fighting comes after a long lull and the presumed completion of these battles.


 

 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.

To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on ISIS in Libya report, click here. To subscribe to receive this report weekly into your inbox, sign up on the subscribe page.

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IS in Action

An attack on the ‘Tisan’ checkpoint 60km south of Ajdabiya on 25 October killed at least 3 Libyan National Army (LNA) fighters and left another two injured. The IS Amaq news agency released a statement taking responsibility for the attack. Survivors report that the assailants arrived in 7 vehicles and set the entire checkpoint on fire after seizing the LNA’s firearms.

Local sources report that on 29 October, IS fighters established a temporary checkpoint on the coastal highway 20km east of Sirte. The area in question is considered to be under the control of al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) forces aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA). Meanwhile, tensions in Sirte continue to escalate as the city has suffered from major damage to public utilities, infrastructure, and a lack of basic foodstuffs. Heavy rainfall last week led to sewage overflow and flooding throughout the city adding to local frustration and anger.

Other Jihadis

 

Mainstream forces in the west of Libya continue the crackdown on Islamists linked with IS and Ansar al-Sharia. On 26 October, Misratan security detained three alleged jihadists in Souq al-Khamis, east of Khoms. The suspected jihadists have been identified as Ramadan Shaurbaji, Feisal Zaltum, and Mahmoud Ibshesh. Ibshesh is a member of the Farouk unit which fought against the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Benghazi in 2014 and 2015. Ibshesh was wounded in the battle in 2015 and transferred to Turkey for medical treatment before eventually returning to Khoms.

Clashes were reported earlier this week, in Zliten, a town halfway between Misrata and Khoms, between forces said to be from Misrata and local Islamist fighters. On 25 October, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari gave a press conference stating that personnel and location of arms caches had been discovered as a result of jihadis being interrogated in Misrata.


 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 the Eye on ISIS in Libya Team’s 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.

To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on ISIS in Libya report, click here. To subscribe to receive this report weekly into your inbox, sign up on the subscribe page.

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Other Jihadi Actors

Clashes between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) resulted in the death of two young DMSC fighters. Salem Abdul Wahhab al-Gerbadi and Abdullah Idris al-Gabaili were killed in the Dahr al-Hamar area south of Derna, on 20 October.

The Tripoli-based Rada Special Deterrent Force (Rada) arrested two senior members of the DMSC on 23 October, at a hotel in downtown Tripoli. Khalid al-Hassadi and Adel al-Karghali were both supposedly working as health coordinators for the DMSC, and were responsible for the care of fighters who were injured during the conflict against IS and the LNA.

The campaign against Islamist hardliners and suspected IS collaborators in Misrata intensified last week. 13 people were taken into custody, including several notable commanders and members of the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) and Ajdabiya Shura Council. The arrests were conducted in accordance with the Libyan General Prosecutor’s issuance of over 800 warrants for arrest in connection with terrorism.

On 19 October, the LNA allegedly arrested a former IS member who was hiding in Derna. Anis Bujeela al-Awami (aka al-Asla) purportedly joined IS in 2014, before defecting to the DMSC with other fighters in 2015, prior to the IS withdrawal from the city that year.


 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 the Eye on ISIS in Libya Team’s 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.

To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on ISIS in Libya report, click here. To subscribe to receive this report weekly into your inbox, sign up on the subscribe page.

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IS in Action

On 14 October, Ahmed Ben Salem, the spokesman for RADA Special Deterrence Force based in Tripoli, stated that the group has come to an agreement with Tunisian authorities regarding the extradition of woman and children Tunisian prisoners held in Mitiga Prison. The Tunisian newspaper, Al-Sabah, reported that Ben Salem said the agreement entailed the extradition of twenty-one children.

The decision comes just days after Tamim Jendoubi was handed over to his grandfather successfully on Tuesday, by order of the Public Prosecutors Office. He is just one of many family members of IS fighters who were killed or captured by the Bunyan Marsoos Operation and the Libyan security forces.

Other Jihadi Actors 

The IS attack in Misrata earlier this month has provoked city officials to clamp down against Islamist hardliners and suspected IS collaborators. Clashes broke out between hard-line fighters affiliated with Islamist factions and Misratan security forces on 11 October, during a security operation in al-Sakt area south of Misrata city. Thirteen people were arrested as suspected IS members or collaborators, including two senior leaders of the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB): al-Saadi al-Nawfali and Brayyek al-Masreya. Rabee Mohammed Mousa Faraj al-Shaaeri, reportedly a member of the Ajdabiya Shura Council, died on 15 October from wounds sustained during the clashes. A key commander of Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, Mohammed al-Nous, was also reportedly arrested in Misrata on 14 October after he was found hiding under a fake name.

Ahmed Abu Khattala is currently on trial in Washington D.C., for his alleged involvement in the September 2012 attack on the US Special Mission in Benghazi that killed 4 Americans. On 12 October, a Libyan military commander’s recorded video testimony was played in court, though his identity was not revealed because of security concerns for him and his family. In the recording, the witness claimed he heard Abu Khattala “incite” dozens of revolutionaries at a meeting in Benghazi by speaking out against an alleged US intelligence post in the city. He added that just a few days before the attacks, Abu Khattala told him of his plan to attack the US Special Mission and requested armed vehicles, which the commander said he interpreted as a message not to interfere. Nevertheless, the witness’s credibility, motivation, and actions have been questioned due to social media posts that allegedly show his bias and extreme stance against Islamist militants.


 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 the Eye on ISIS in Libya Team’s 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.

To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on ISIS in Libya report, click here. To subscribe to receive this report weekly into your inbox, sign up on the subscribe page.

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IS in Action

An IS suicide bomb attack which targeted a Misratan court complex in the centre of the city on 4 October, killed four people and wounded several more. IS fighters opened fire on the complex and the explosion was triggered after one of the attackers detonated a suicide belt. Later a car bomb was discovered nearby that was rigged for a massive detonation and could have taken out the complex completely if detonated. The recent attack follows the public disclosures last week, by the Attorney General’s office in Tripoli, of persons with suspected ties to ISIS and other extremist organizations, and the issuance of arrest warrants for 820 individuals.

It is reported that local social and political backlash against militia members allegedly connected with IS in the city has intensified in the wake of the attack. Misratan youths, who are increasingly supportive of a Libyan National Army (LNA) intervention, are already supporting local security forces in clamping down against militia members connected with IS, Ansar al-Sharia (ASL) and the Benghazi Shura Revolutionary Council (BRSC) specifically. To this end, local sources report that an IS cell was found in the Ruwaisat area and its members, some alleged to be former Benghazi Defence Brigade (BDB) and BMSC members, were arrested. An armory connected to the group was also found with large quantities of ammunition and explosives.

The bodies of 21 Christians killed by IS in Sirte in 2015, were recently taken to a Misratan mortuary for identification and further evaluation before a discussion of the repatriation of their bodies. The investigation bureau of Misrata’s Crime Prevention Department reported that all of the victims were beheaded and dressed in the orange “execution” jumpsuits frequently depicted in IS media.


Other Jihadi Actors

Supreme Committee for Issuing Fatwas (Al-Lajna al-‘Ulya li-l-Ifta’), which is based in the eastern city al-Bayda and is associated with Khalifa Haftar, commander of the LNA, has called for jihad in Sabratha against “Kharijites,” a term used by Dignity Operation members to label their opponents as extremists. The announcement follows the Committee’s controversial Fatwa denouncing Ibadis earlier this summer, which provoked massive criticism from both local and international actors as inciting violence among Libyans.

Following this announcement the eastern government, headed by Abdullah Al-Thanni, ordered mosques in the region to perform Qunut prayers to ask God to defeat the “Kharijites” in Sabratha. On 6 October, the Anti-ISIS Operations Room (AIOR), a force technically under the authority of the Government of National Accord (GNA) but more closely aligned with the LNA, announced its control of Sabratha after defeating the Anas Dabbashi Brigade– ending the prolonged conflict in the city and surrounding areas.


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, and to read about the developments within the anti-ISIS Coalition of Libyan militias, click here. To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on ISIS in Libya report, click here.

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IS in Action

On 28 September, the head of Investigations at the Attorney General’s (AG) Office, Sadeq al-Sour, held a press conference in Tripoli in which he gave the names and affiliations of several IS and Ansar al-Sharia connected individuals in Libya. He also provided details and photographs of accused, organizational charts, links and routes of travel into Libya based on 14 months of investigation. While many of the revelations and individuals named were already in public domain, this was the first time they were officially revealed or confirmed by official judicial Libyan authorities.

Al-Sour revealed that about 800 arrest warrants had been issued for nearly 200 terrorist attacks in Libya. He said there are currently 250 cases before the courts and that more than 1,000 elements belonging to terrorist organizations are wanted for justice. He also said that a database has been created containing all the information on 1,500 ISIS members.

Foreign links

Al-Sour said that more than 1,000 people belonging to terrorist organizations are wanted for justice, a large number of whom are wanted in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Fifty warrants will be delivered to Interpol for ISIS suspects abroad. He added that more than 700 bodies of ISIS fighters from Sirte are being held in mortuary fridges.

Regarding leadership of IS in Libya, he claimed several Arab leaders rotated the command of IS in Libya, in coordination with the Libyan IS leadership. He said there are Libyan individuals who participated in the Syrian war and returned to Libya with an IS philosophy, however he also said that most IS members had not been Libyan, but that they had come from Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Mali, and Chad. There are still a lot of individuals in the Sudan and Tunisia who are recruiting members.

Suspects – believed dead

Many of the perpetrators of terror attacks in Libya that al-Sour mentioned are believed dead, with many killed in the battle or Sirte. These include:

  • Abu Amer al-Jazrawi, a Saudi commander of IS in Sirte
  • Abdulhadi Zaroon, one of the important IS leaders in Sirte
  • Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi, an Iraqi commander also known as Abu Nabil al-Anbari, who was appointed commander of IS in Libya.
  • Hasan Araj, who according to al-Sour was the first person to be recruited by IS in Libya

Suspects – wanted

  • Mahmoud al-Barasi, the commander of IS in Benghazi. He is wanted for arrest and according to al-Sour, is currently located in the south of Bani Walid.
  • Mahdi Salem Rajab Dingo, who was responsible for IS’s staff and military office

Attacks

Al-Sour said that more than 200 suicide bombers and assassinations had been identified across Libya. Al-Sour listed several attacks and assassinations for which he said IS was responsible. These included:

  • The Egyptian Copts who were killed in Sirte. He said that the burial sites had been identified behind Sirte’s Mahari hotel and that the AG’s Office had all the information about those responsible for the slaughter.
  • The kidnapping of the Italians in Sabratha
  • The murders of former Attorney General Abdulaziz al-Hassadi, HoR member Freha al-Barkawi, Hasan Dakam, Sheikh Mohammed bin Othman and the director of the security of Sabratha, Hasan Kamuka.
  • Attacks on oil fields and the kidnapping of foreigners
  • Many murders, kidnappings, and assassinations in Sabratha

IS funding

Al-Sour said that IS kidnapped businessmen and used the ransoms for funding. He added that most of IS’s funding came via high ranking commanders in Syria and Iraq as well as through gaining control of various Libyan banks including Central Bank of Libya branches in Sirte, Benghazi, and Derna. He revealed that the AG’s Office had issued summons for some Libyan officials who had supported some terrorist figures financially.

IS cells

Al-Sour claimed that Derna, which is currently under the control of the Derna Mujahadeen Shura Council (DMSC) was preparing itself to become an emirate like Syria and Iraq. He also said there were numerous IS cells operating across Libya, including in Misrata. He said that the AG’s Office had information about cells trying to activate themselves in Libya, one of which is connected to the Hamas movement.

Other Jihadi Actors

On 28 September, the head of Investigations at the Attorney General’s (AG) Office, Sadeq al-Sour, held a press conference in Tripoli in which he gave the names and affiliations of several IS and Ansar al-Sharia connected individuals in Libya. He gave official confirmation that Ansar al-Sharia were the nucleus of the formation of IS in Libya and that the majority of Libyan IS leaders were former al-Qaida members. He also said the financing of Ansar al-Sharia emanated from the Libyan state.

Al-Sour claimed that the storming of the US Special Mission in Benghazi on 11 September 2012, and the subsequent death of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, was carried out by Ansar al-Sharia. He said Mohamed al-Zahawi, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, was responsible for the operation. He added that Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaida were taking instructions from al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri directly. It is interesting that this revelation was made as the trial of a key suspect in the case gets underway in the US.

On 2 October, the U.S. District court for the District of Columbia began the trial of Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the Libyan man accused of orchestrating the Benghazi attack. Khatallah has been awaiting trial in the US since 2014, when he was captured by a team of US military and FBI officials in Benghazi and transported on a 13-day journey to the US aboard a Navy vessel. The case is expected to last several weeks.

On 1 October, Ahmed al-Mismari, the spokesperson for the Libyan Nationa Army (LNA), said that IS and branches of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated to al-Qaida have joined forces to spread extremism in Libya. He claimed that Qatar is transporting armed IS fighters from Syria to Libya and that Qatar continues to provide financial support for terrorist organizations in Libya.

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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, and to read about the developments within the anti-ISIS Coalition of Libyan militias, click here. To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on ISIS in Libya report, click here.

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IS in Action

On 22 September, the US conducted an airstrike on an IS camp in the desert valleys about 150 miles south-east of Sirte, reportedly killing 17 ISIS fighters and destroying 3 vehicles. US Africa Command (Africom) said the strikes were carried out by armed Reaper drones flying from a base in Sicily. Reda Eissa, a spokesman for the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Misrata-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) coalition said he had no information about the airstrikes. Interestingly, the Libyan National Army (LNA) also said that it conducted airstrikes against IS targets near Sadada, west of Sirte, on the same day.

Africom officials said that IS used the camp to move fighters in and out of the country, stockpile weapons and equipment, and plot and conduct attacks, adding that, “IS and al-Qaida have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring and directing terror attacks.” Africom also praised the GNA and their aligned forces for being valued partners against terrorism. This is the first US airstrike against IS under Donald Trump’s presidency.

Last week, the IS branch in eastern Libya, known as Wilayat Barqa, published its first video since the beginning of the year entitled ‘But They Never Lost Assurance Due To What Afflicted Them’. The long video covers the IS suicide car bomb attack in Nawfaliyah on 31 August and the Fugha checkpoint massacres in southern Libya on 23 August, as well as patrols east of Sirte and camps in the desert.

The video revealed that Ramadan Muhammed al-Rabeeie, whose nom du guerre is Abu Faraj al-Ansari, was the suicide bomber responsible for the Nawfaliyah attack in which 4 people died. He was reportedly born in 1984 and was a resident of Ras Abeida in Benghazi with five other brothers. He was imprisoned during the Qadhafi regime for connections to al-Qaida. He was a senior leader in Ansar al-Sharia Benghazi and allegedly commanded a specialist assassination and bomb squad. He joined IS in 2014. Al-Ansari had managed to escape from Sabri area of Benghazi in January 2017, but it appears that he has now perished in the suicide car bomb.

Other Jihadis

On 17 September, the Libyan National Army (LNA) broadcast televised ‘confessions’ of Ibrahim Muftah Abu Nuwwara, an imprisoned Ansar al-Sharia fighter from Ajdabiya who is in LNA custody. Nuwwara ‘confessed’ that a spate of assassination and kidnapping operations conducted in Ajdabiya were on his orders as well as the orders of al-Saadi al-Nawfali, a senior commander of the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), al-Kilani Abu Nuwwara, Usama Jadhran, and Khalid Ibsis al-Fakhiri.

In the confession, Nuwwara added that logistical and material support came from Benghazi via Yousef al-Faidi. He said al-Faidi is a key military commander in Ansar al-Sharia and was one of the main operatives conducting assassination and abduction operations in the east since the end of 2011 and it was he who used to deem any rivals as “infidels”. Al-Faidi was reported to have died in July 2015, but it appears he may still be alive with the BDB.

Nuwwara was captured in a sting operation in Khoms in March 2017 and thereafter transferred back to Ajdabiya. He allegedly also participated in the BDB attacks against the LNA in 2016. Prior to that, he and his three brothers had reportedly set up the Ajdabiya Ansar al-Sharia branch in March 2015 to support the establishment of the BDB and their mission to Benghazi via the Oil Crescent. His brother al-Kilani Abu Nuwwara, aka Abu Layth al-Ansari, was a unit commander in the BDB and was killed in a LNA airstrike in Jufra on 9 November 2016. His second brother Ahmed Abu Nuwwara was killed in another LNA airstrike in Ajdabiya on 24 November 2016. The last brother, Shahaat Abu Nuwwara, who reportedly led an Ansar al-Sharia cell in the town of Sultan, was killed in clashes with the LNA on 10 July 2017.

This ‘confession’ sparked intense anger and social rifts in Ajdabiya last week, leading to gunmen burning houses belonging to the Jadhran and Abu Nawwara families in retaliation for their alleged involvement in the assassinations. These developments have triggered deep rifts in the local area and forced members of the Maghraba tribe, to which these families belong, to condemn the acts.

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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, and to read about the developments within the anti-ISIS Coalition of Libyan militias, click here. To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on ISIS in Libya report, click here.

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IS in Action

The re-emergence of Islamic State (IS) cells in central and southern Libya last month has led both the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) al-Bunyan al-Marsus to deploy large forces to the region. The LNA, which currently controls most Oil Crescent territory, mobilised units from its two strongest divisions – the Special Forces (Saiqa) and the Armoured Zawiyya Martyrs Brigade, led by general Jamal Zahawi, to locations in Ajdabiya, Ras Lanuf, and near Nawfaliyah as well as in the desert areas south and south-east of Sirte.

On 10 September, the commander of the LNA’s Sirte Operation Room declared that the entire coastal strip from Sidra to about 50km east of Sirte, which includes the towns of Nawfaliyah and Harawa, is all under the control of the LNA. On 8 September, the LNA reportedly defused a bomb attached to the main gas pipeline south of Ajdabiya, although it is not clear who planted the bomb or how it was discovered. BM forces are positioned at the 30km checkpoint east of Sirte, and it is reported that BM arrested two people in a raid last week, fueling tensions with the local population.

Other Jihadi Actors

The Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) – a jihadist coalition which controls Derna – is experiencing significant local backlash after the alleged abduction, torture and killing of Munsef Krikish, a pro-LNA Salafist resident of Derna on 4 September. According to a statement published by the DMSC, on 1 September Krikish was seized for questioning and died after the interrogation. However, his body showed possible signs of torture which has fueled anger within anti- DMSC circles in Derna.

Prolonged power outages, poor economic conditions, as well as from growing rifts between (nominally) pro Government of National Accord (GNA) factions and anti-Libyan National Army (LNA) factions affiliated with Islamists have fueled tension in Tripoli and Misrata. On 11 September, a key figurehead of the hardliner Islamist faction, Sheikh Abdul Razzag Emshirib, was reportedly detained by Tripoli’s GNA-aligned Special Deterrence Force (Rada).


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, and to read about the developments within the anti-ISIS Coalition of Libyan militias, click here. To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on ISIS in Libya report, click here.

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