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.

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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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IS in Action

IS media claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack on a Libyan National Army (LNA) checkpoint at the entrance of al-Nawfaliya town, on 31 August. The attack 100 km east of Sirte, left four dead and eight others injured. It was reported that ISIS units moved in to al-Teysseen, a town 90 kms east of Sirte, on 1 September. They allegedly held an Eid prayer in the local mosque and took positions in the town. According to local sources, three ‘Madkhali’ Salafists (loyal to Haftar’s LNA) were abducted by IS around this time.

The LNA air force launched a series of airstrikes from Ras Lanuf airstrip on 2 September, which targeted IS positions in the area of Ain Taqrift, between Sirte and Zillah. As a result, the IS units reportedly withdrew southwest towards the desert valleys. LNA ground forces are purportedly moving westwards towards Sirte to Um al-Qandil– IS elements and locals were reported in that area on 3 September.

Meanwhile the predominantly Misratan, GNA-aligned al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) forces that oppose the LNA, are positioned in the areas around Gate 17, east of Sirte. They continue to scour the areas south and south-west of Sirte for IS elements. The LNA sent a substantial amount of troops to fortify various positions in the Oil Crescent throughout the last week, including the Shuhada al-Zawiya armoured brigade, led by General Jamal Zahawi from Benghazi.

Other Jihadi Actors

A senior member of the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), Ahmed Bakir (aka al-Nahla), who is allegedly involved in supporting extremist groups by supplying them with foreign mercenaries and cooperating with IS, was detained by the Misrata Counter Terrorism Unit (CT).

The CT unit also released a ‘confessions’ video of senior Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC) member from Benghazi, Mohammed al-Khafifi, admitting membership in IS and claiming that his group had cooperated with the BDB in a number of suicide attacks since their evacuation from Benghazi earlier this summer.

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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ISIS in Action 

On 23 August, Islamic State (IS) fighters attacked the Libyan National Army (LNA)-controlled al-Fugaha checkpoint in Jufra around 400km south of Sirte. LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari said that eleven people were beheaded – two civilians and nine LNA fighters, including the commander of the battalion. On 24 August, the IS’s Amaq news agency released a statement claiming responsibility for the incident and announcing that 21 members of “Haftar’s militias” had been killed or injured. The same day two more LNA fighters were abducted north of Jufra.

This marks the second officially claimed ISIS attack since the GNA-aligned al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) forces defeated ISIS in Sirte in December 2016. The first attack was on 7 May when ISIS cells attacked and killed members of a Misratan Third Force convoy.

On 27 August, Amaq released its first video in Libya in almost half a year which showed several IS fighters guarding a checkpoint on the road between Jufra and Abu Grein, south of Sirte. The video also showed two men who were abducted on 24 August. They were identified as al-Sghaier Mohammed al-Majry, the deputy head of the High Commission for Elections, and LNA-affiliated fighter Mohammed Abu Bakr Mohammed, a member of the Asad al-Sahraa battalion which is part of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) unit in the Awbari region.

After this latest attack, the LNA said it was deploying additional reinforcements from the 210 infantry brigade to the region south of Sirte to secure oil ports and installations while the al-Bunyan al-Marsus operations room announced it was sending Misratan reinforcements

Other Jihadi Actors

Last week, Usama Jadhran was arrested in Misrata as he attempted to depart the city en route to Istanbul. Usama is the brother of notorious Oil Crescent warlord Ibrahim Jadhran. He was arrested by local Misratan security authorities for his alleged membership in Ansar al-Sharia and the Ajdabiya Mujahedeen Shura Council, as well as his suspected links to IS.

On 27 August, Fayez al-Serraj held a joint press conference in Sudan with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir. The two leaders agreed to cooperate on security issues with a particular emphasis on fighting terrorism as it is a major hindrance to stability in Libya. The two discussed the latest developments in Libya in terms of politics, governance, the economy, and security. Bashir lamented the spill over effect of Libyan security issues in his country, “which have made it expensive for us to fight human trafficking, illegal immigration, and cross-border crimes,” adding that criminal and terrorist networks thrive in Libya’s un-governed spaces. This discussion touched upon ways to coordinate and secure common borders to prevent malevolent non-state actors from crossing freely between the countries.

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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Other Jihadi Actors

The conflict between Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) heated up last month after the DMSC shot down an LNA jet over Derna and allegedly killed and mutilated its pilot Adel Jehani, triggering a tightening of the LNA siege on the city. The LNA’s Omar al-Mukhtar operations room has enforced a limited blockade on the city since the DMSC evicted ISIS fighters from the Fatayeh district more than a year ago, but basic goods and medical supplies were previously allowed in.

Local sources report that the LNA’s Saiqa Special Forces have reportedly moved forward to join the LNA in preparation for a major assault on Derna in conjunction with an internal uprising, targeting key DMSC leaders, and military targets. It is reported the Saiqa commander, Wanis Bukhamda stated that his attention is now focused on taking Derna. The LNA imposed siege on the city has provoked wide spread condemnation as it prevents much needed supplies of fuel, water, and other amenities from entering the city. Derna’s local council and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Maria Ribeiro, expressed concerns of a looming humanitarian crisis in the city. On August 7, the GNA’s Presidential Council issued a statement calling for “all relevant parties” to push for an end to the siege, and to put a stop to the “severe suffering” of the residents.

The siege was rebuked by Mohammed al-Ammari, an Islamist-affiliated member of the GNA as well as members from Derna in the High Council of State because it punishes all residents of Derna, regardless of whether they are civilians or members of DMSC.

ISIS in Action

Last week media sources reported that Italian authorities suspect that IS and other jihadi networks in Libya are working with the Italian Mafia and illegal fuel smuggling operations. According to La Republica, the police had found substantial amounts of Libyan and Syrian crude that “shouldn’t have been there” and were greater than some local refineries’ inventories. Despite a lack of concrete evidence of connection between the mafia and extremist groups, rumors circulate about cooperation in the illicit economy via fuel and drug smuggling in the Sahara Desert.

GNA-aligned al-Bunyan al-Marsus forces continue to conduct anti-ISIS reconnaissance missions in Abu Hadi area, south of Sirte. The looting of power cables and other infrastructure continues too as criminal networks take advantage of the conflict in the city.

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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On 29 July, the Sabratha municipal council mobilized a new security force called the ‘anti-Islamic State (IS) Operation Room’ after agreement for the move was reached with local tribes last week. The force is intended to police the areas around Sabratha and Mellitah, and the council appointed Col. Omar Abdul Jalil from Sabratha as head of the new force. Tensions between the new force and the notorious local ‘Ammo’ militia led to a brief closure of the coastal road around Mellitah. In consequence, the ‘Ammo’ militia, which is led by Ahmed Dabbashi and reportedly runs the migrant smuggling networks across this region, withdrew from some of its current positions to around 20 km west of Sabratha.

The anti-IS force announcement comes in a broader context of Sabratha municipal council’s recent efforts to empower local governance and strengthen rule of law from the bottom up. On the same day, Sabratha municipal council successfully launched the debut meeting of its ‘association of municipalities’. The association includes 45 local councils and aims to give local governments more weight in policy, security, and service delivery.

Local tensions in Sirte between residents and Government of National Accord (GNA)-affiliated, Misratan-led al-Bunyan al- Marsus (BM) forces continue for fear of a Libyan National Army (LNA) incursion into the city. BM forces raised the anti-IS alert level last week and on 26 July, they claimed to have detected more IS movements on al-Load agricultural project on the road between Sirte and Jufra. On 27 July, unidentified aircraft launched two airstrikes targeting IS positions on the road, according to local sources.

Other Jihadi Actors

On 26 July, Libyan National Army (LNA) Special Operations forces posted pictures of a captured Ansar al-Sharia senior leader, Ibrahim Abu Nawwara. Although Nawwara was reportedly captured in western Libya near Khoms, local sources say that Khoms and Misratan forces affiliated with anti-IS salafis facilitated his handover to Benghazi as part of the ongoing political rapprochement between Misrata and the LNA.

Meanwhile in Benghazi, LNA forces continue to fight with jihadis in the final block of flats in al-Khribish district in the city centre–despite the city being declared ‘liberated’ by the LNA in early July. LNA fighters reported that the remaining jihadist fighters were observed to be wearing explosive vests. The conflict areas remain littered with sewage, landmines, IEDs, and booby traps. On 28 July, a mother and her 2 daughters were injured when a landmine exploded in the Busnaib area of Benghazi.

On 22 and 23 July, the Libyan National Army (LNA) conducted airstrikes against Derna Muhajadeen Shura Council (DMSC) positions near Derna. In retaliation on 29 July, the DMSC shot down an LNA MiG-23 fighter jet seizing both the pilot and the co-pilot prisoner when they parachuted into al- Dahr al-Hamar area. The DMSC announced that one of the pilots, Adel Jehani, had died from his injuries, while the LNA and many other local sources claim that the pilot was actually executed by the DMSC (allegedly by Muath al-Tashani).

In response, Brigadier Salem al-Rifadi, Commander of the LNA’s Omar al-Mukhtar operation room, announced a return to full blown siege, and shut down all routes into Derna—preventing food, medicine or fuel from entering the city. On 30 July, the DMSC attempted to break the blockade but failed, allowing the LNA to reclaim the Kassarat area east of Derna. The DMSC offensive started at dawn with the DMSC militants attacking three LNA positions – al-Kassarat, Madrassat al- Ardam, and Hajjaj al-Hila – around the town. Five LNA fighters were killed and 4 were injured in the battle, while the DMSC said it lost one fighter, Feras al-Zinni, who is alleged to have been a member of Ansar al-Sharia.

The latest escalation is estimated to be the result of a tightening military and social noose around the DMSC. Local sources allege that the DMSC has already ‘forgiven’ many IS captives it had in its custody and have gone as far as to recruit them into the DMSC ranks.

On 26 July, the LNA counter terrorism forces positioned in Karsah beach, west of Derna, arrested former IS member, Anis Abdul Qader al-Sharkasi, as he was attempting to leave the city with his parents. Sharkasi, who lives in Wadi al-Naga area in Derna, was a former aide to Sofian Ben Qumu, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in Derna who supposedly fled the city some time ago.

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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