ISIS in Action and Other Jihadi Actors

On 24 March, Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command, told a press conference at the Pentagon that the United States would “maintain a force” in Libya in order to develop intelligence and work with the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli if more action was needed against Islamic State. He estimated that there were between 100 and 200 Islamic State fighters left in Libya. “We’re going to maintain a force that has the ability to develop intelligence, work with various groups as required, or be able to assist if required … to take out ISIS targets,” he said. He went on to explain that Libya no longer appears to be a “backup plan” for foreign fighters unable to join ISIS’ forces in the Levant.

While discussing the US airstrikes which killed around 80 ISIS fighters south of Sirte in January, Waldhauser said U.S. personnel had spent several weeks coordinating face-to-face with Libyan allies to ensure there would be no collateral damage. “When you conduct precision airstrikes, close-air support operations in an urban environment with the requirements to not have civilian casualties, with the requirements to be careful about infrastructure, destruction and the like, you can’t do an operation like that without somebody on the ground to interface,” the general added.

During a US senate hearing earlier in the month, Waldhauser said “We must carefully choose where and with whom we work with to counter ISIS-Libya in order not to shift the balance between factions and risk sparking greater conflict in Libya.” Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc, who oversees American Special Operations forces in Africa told the New York Times in an interview that “We will be able to keep pressure on that ISIS network enough to keep it decentralized so that it cannot mass and to buy time for the GNA to develop governance,” however acknowledged that none of this would happen quickly.

On 27 March, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Benghazi Operations Room announced the start of the ‘final’ operation to retake central Benghazi. The areas of Sabri and Souq al-Hout, adjacent to the port in central Benghazi, are the final enclaves in the city controlled by a loose jihadist alliance of the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC), ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia. The LNA is currently conducting daily airstrikes in the area and hitting targets with rounds of heavy artillery. The jihadist alliance published photographs of its fighters prepared to fend off the attack. LNA sources said that on 25 March, a jihadist supply boat was targeted with gunfire and sunk a mile off the coast of Benghazi.  Other reports say that on 24 March, three boats carrying fleeing jihadists were stopped off the coast of Benghazi and a number of the occupants arrested.

Clashes broke out last week between the LNA and Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) fighters in Abu Dahak area south of Derna, with the LNA losing one fighter. On 23 and 26 March, LNA aircraft conducted airstrikes against DMSC positions while naval forces are still enforcing the maritime blockade around Derna.

To read about the international community’s responses to jihadis in Libya this week, click here.  To read the Eye on ISIS team’s 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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ISIS in Action and Other Jihadi Actors

On 18 March, the Libyan National Army (LNA) announced they had ‘liberated’ the ‘12 Flats’ area in Ganfuda, in south-west Benghazi.  Reports indicate that 7 LNA fighters and 43 jihadist fighters were killed in the final assault, including Ansar al-Sharia commanders Fawzi al-Faydi and Salem Shatwan. According to the LNA, the only remaining jihadist forces in Benghazi are now in Sabri and Souq al-Hout areas, in the city’s central district. On 17 March, there were reports that the LNA had started heavy airstrikes and shelling against jihadist positions in these areas.

On 18 March, LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said the LNA had found a mass grave of jihadist fighters in Ganfuda. The grave contained the corpse of former Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC) leader Jamal Makhzoum as well as the corpses of Ansar al-Sharia commanders. The BRSC has confirmed Makhzoum was killed in Ganfuda.

A video was widely shared on Libyan social media appearing to show the decomposing body of Makhzoum strapped to the front of a vehicle then being paraded around by LNA fighters. Other photographs show the corpses of jihadist fighters, which also appear to have been exhumed, with LNA fighters posing and taking selfies with the bodies. Another video which has been circulated shows footage of a man, allegedly identified as Colonel Mahmoud Warfali, executing three kneeling prisoners

The exhumation was condemned by the Libyan Nation Commission for Human Rights (LNCHR) as a ‘heinous’ war crime. On 20 March, UN envoy to Libya Martin Kobler and the UK ambassador to Libya Peter Millet both condemned the mutilation of corpses and urged all parties to respect international law. On 20 March, Mismari said that cases of abuse and murder of prisoners were being referred to the military police under the LNA.

To read about the international community’s responses to jihadis in Libya this week, click here.  To read the Eye on ISIS team’s 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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ISIS in Action and Other Jihadi Actors

On 9 March, Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), warned the US Senate’s foreign affairs committee that Islamic State (ISIS) is regrouping in Libya. He said “The status of ISIS in Libya is they are right now regrouping. They’re in small numbers, small groups.” Waldhauser oversaw the US airstrikes in late January which killed around 80 ISIS fighters south of Sirte. The process of resettling displaced Sirte residents is ongoing, with more than 8600 families back in their homes.

On 13 March, the Libyan National Army (LNA) launched a major offensive to take control of the 12 Flats area of Ganfuda in Benghazi, the last enclave in Ganfuda still held by a coalition of jihadist fighters including the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC), Ansar al-Sharia and ISIS. An LNA spokesperson said that three LNA fighters were killed and four injured in the latest offensive, but that several BRSC fighters had also been killed. LNA fighter jets supported the offensive, according to the spokesperson, but the LNA advance is being held up by the presence of civilians in the area. BRSC commander Mohammed Nased Emhareb, BRSC fighters Ibrahim Dayhom and Anis al-Khomsi, and Naseeb Fannoush, an Ansar al-Sharia fighter from Derna, were reportedly among those killed during the recent fighting in the 12 Flats area.

On 14 March, LNA forces launched a counter attack against the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) forces in the Oil Crescent. By the afternoon of 14 March, LNA spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari claimed that the routed BDB forces had retreated to Misrata and Jufra, and that some had been captured. At least 21 LNA fighters were reportedly killed in the offensive. This figure is in addition to the 38 LNA fighters the LNA says have been killed since the BDB offensive started in the Oil Crescent on 3 March. The BDB has not released its casualty figures for this latest battle. The LNA claims to be back in control of Ras Lanuf and Sidra oil ports following intense fighting with the BDB. Photos have emerged of LNA fighters at these ports that seem to confirm this.

The LNA attack followed a large deployment of LNA forces, reportedly comprising over 3,000 armed vehicles, being mobilised in and around Brega, Agilah and Bishr. The LNA also conducted airstrikes daily throughout last week against BDB targets near these ports and in neighbouring towns of Bin Jawwad and Nawfaliyah. On 12 March, five BDB fighters (3 from Benghazi and 2 from Gharyan) were killed in LNA airstrikes against BDB positions in Sidra and Ras Lanuf.

On 12 March, the BDB said its political goal is to protect the right of return for families and former revolutionaries displaced from Benghazi by Khalifa Haftar, while also vowing to fight terrorism and protect Libya’s neighbours. From the LNA’s perspective, the BDB is seen as an extension of the extremist jihadists fighting against the LNA in Benghazi and Derna, in alliance with Islamic State (ISIS) and Ansar al-Sharia. The LNA has accused many tribal and social forces who switched allegiance from the LNA to the BDB of being as traitors.

On 11 March, local sources reported that two LNA fighters were beheaded by the BDB in Ras Lanuf.  The LNA Sirte operations room has eulogized the two fighters. UK ambassador to Libya Peter Millet condemned the killings. Local sources report that Younes al-Faidi, who was formerly aligned with Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, is now a commander in the Benghazi Defense Brigades.

A weekly update of the actions of ISIS and other jihadi groups, the Western response, and developments pertaining to Libya’s other militias is available by subscribing here.  To read about Western countries’ responses to jihadis in Libya this week, 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. To view EOIL’s new promotional video, click here.

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ISIS in Action

On 3 March, a loose alliance of Islamist-affiliated militias, including the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), former Ibrahim Jadhran loyalists and units from other allied factions (some reportedly affiliated with al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia) launched a multi-pronged attack on the Oil Crescent. They advanced from their bases in Jufra towards Nawfaliya then pushed east towards the oil ports of Sidra and Ras Lanuf.

The Libyan National Army (LNA), which has controlled the Oil Crescent ports since September last year, attempted to push back the BDB with airstrikes. However, the airstrikes failed to halt the BDB advance, leading the LNA to withdraw its forces from Sidra and Ras Lanuf.  The BDB pushed further east towards Brega. At the time of writing the frontline between the two forces is at al-Uqaylah, around 50km west of Marsa Brega oil port.

BDB commander Mustafa Sharksi said “our goal is to rescue Benghazi from Haftar and return displaced families to their homes.”  The LNA siege against jihadist fighters from the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council, Ansar al-Sharia and Islamic State in the 12 Flats area of Ganfuda in Benghazi is ongoing, despite the LNA declaring Ganfuda liberated from jihadist control over a month ago. Sharksi said that the BDB would only push on to Benghazi once another force had been sent by the National Oil Corporation (NOC) to take over the oil ports it has seized.

Some members of the Tobruq-based House of Representatives (HoR) issued a statement accusing Qatar and Turkey of sponsoring and supplying advanced military equipment to the BDB. Both countries deny this.

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 in Libya, click here. And to read their explanation of the developments within the anti-ISIS Coalition of Libyan militias, hereclick 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. To view EOIL’s new promotional video, click here.

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ISIS in ACTION

On 22 February, two young jihadi fighters who reportedly fought for Islamic State (ISIS) were arrested in Ajdabiya by a group calling itself the Tariq Ibn Ziyad Brigade. They had escaped the Libyan National Army (LNA) siege in Benghazi. One of the men was Mohamed Mustafa al-Mugharbi (aka Randa al-Abed), a high-profile fighter for ISIS in Benghazi’s central Sabri district. On 24 February, Tariq Ibn Ziyad Brigade released a video showing the execution of al-Mugharbi in Ajdabiya. The group is said to be a Madakhli Salafist unit operating under the command of the LNA.

Al-Mugharbi was reportedly connected with the gruesome execution of an LNA soldier, the video of which was recently published on Libyan social media. The other fighter was a young man from Tripoli called Jasem al-Kikli. A third man from Ajdabiya was also arrested on the grounds of providing safe passage to terrorists.

The battle between Libyan National Army (LNA) forces and jihadists in the 12 Flats area of Ganfuda, in south-west Benghazi, is ongoing despite the LNA declaring Ganfuda ‘liberated’ earlier this month. On 23 February, 3 LNA soldiers and 3 jihadists died during an intensive door-to-door battle in the 12 flats area. A video of the fighting was published by LNA, in which the Syrian accent of one of the jihadist fighters can be heard.

According to the LNA, 8 bodies were found buried in a makeshift grave in one of the buildings in 12 Flats.  A further 36 corpses were uncovered in a multiple burial sites in Ganfuda. Red Crescent workers are helping LNA fighters to exhume and remove the remains.

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 in Libya, 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. To view EOIL’s new promotional video, click here.

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ISIS in ACTION

In an interview with the Associated Press on 17 February, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US Africa Command, said that the US obtained significant intelligence from the Islamic State (ISIS) camps, located 45km south of Sirte, which were hit by US airstrikes on 19 January. A senior US military official said that several ISIS fighters who survived the airstrikes (around 90 fighters are believed to have been killed) had been taken for interrogation by Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus forces, who are nominally allied with the Government of National Accord (GNA). The official said the intelligence collected at the ISIS camps confirmed that the fighters had direct communication with the core ISIS group in Syria. It also provided information on how they move through tunnels in the country.

Gen. Waldhauser told The Associated Press, “We did get some actionable intelligence and we continue to work with that and develop what we can from it.” He said the US military had been watching the camps since late last autumn but that the fighters move around southern Libya and do not stay anywhere for long. He said of the strike, “It was successful from the standpoint that we really did, I think, send a very strong signal to the ISIL that remains in Libya that we will watch you and we will come after you.” Gen. Waldhauser estimated that there are still “a couple of hundred” ISIS members left in Libya.

Following the eviction of ISIS from Sirte in December, the process of resettling displaced Sirte residents is ongoing. On 18 February, one hundred more families began returning to residential areas 1 and 2 in the centre of the city. Control of Sirte remains highly contested between the GNA’s Misratan-led forces and LNA supporters, including the Salafist 604 brigade which is currently securing the city. The whereabouts of Sirte’s mayor and two assistants two weeks after their abduction en route to Tripoli remains unknown.

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 in Libya, 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. To view EOIL’s new promotional video, click here.

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ISIS in ACTION

A suspected Islamic State (ISIS) arms cache containing unguided air-to-ground bombs and fuel was reportedly found by Libyan National Army (LNA) units approximately 90km south of Nawfaliya, a town east of Sirte. On 11 February, Misrata’s Air Academy chief said that ISIS cells are regrouping in the regions south-west of Misrata, near Bani Walid. In Sebha, there were reports of 14 ISIS fighters with five ‘technicals’ –usually pick-up trucks with guns mounted on the back —  changing tyres in a local shop.

The process of resettling displaced families from Sirte is ongoing. On 10 February, the al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) operations room announced the beginning of the second stage of return for Sirte residents in the Third District. On 13 February, BM said that 585 families had returned to the Hay al-Gharbiya area (in the 700 residential area) south of Sirte, while 1025 families returned to the Third Residential area on the coast. However, Sirte remains highly contested in terms of politics and security. On 11 February, Sirte’s mayor and two of his assistants were kidnapped in Tripoli.

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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ISIS IN ACTION

On 6 February, a video was published on Libyan social media showing the execution of Libyan National Army (LNA) fighter Suliman al-Hoty. His executioner is reportedly a well-known Islamic State (ISIS) fighter from Benghazi. In the video, al-Hoty is filmed inside a small hole. He tells his captor to ‘end it with honour’ then he is shot dead. The video went viral on Libyan social media sparking a wave of anger against Islamist factions and their supporters. The video is being seen as further proof of cooperation between the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC) and ISIS. This follows the release of a series of videos reportedly found on the phones of dead jihadi fighters after the LNA advance in Ganfuda, which also purport to demonstrate this relationship.

On 4 February, displaced residents of Sirte began returning to the city after the Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) forces gave the all clear. On 31 January, BM published a plan for the return of residents to the city. They divided Sirte into 6 zones. The 700 district, south of the city, is the first return zone. BM forces continued to sweep the area south of Sirte last week for more IEDs and other security threats left behind by ISIS fighters, reclaiming a cache of rockets apparently used by ISIS. BM forces have also been accused of looting and seizing property in the city.here

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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ISIS in Action

Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) forces reportedly discovered the remains of 90 bodies 45 km south west of Sirte, apparently killed by the US airstrikes launched against ISIS cells on 19 January as a parting move by the Obama administration. The BM fighters reportedly captured two ‘terrorist’ suspects and killed four during the operation. Underground stores and camouflaged hideouts were also discovered.

Sirte is increasingly witnessing a breakdown of security due to widespread looting, burglary and theft of power cables in the city. On 26 January, tribal elders in Sirte accused BM forces (who led the operation against ISIS in the city) of looting the town and seizing local properties. They claim some BM units prevented Sirte residents from returning home by blocking the town’s entrance with sand barriers. The tribal elders also accused BM militias of plundering power cables from the 700 Residence areas to be shipped abroad via Misrata port.

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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