ISIS in Action and Other Jihadi Actors

In Benghazi, the areas of Sabri and Souq al-Hout, adjacent to the port in the centre of the city, are the final enclaves controlled by the loose jihadist coalition of Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC) and Islamic State (ISIS) fighters.  Last week, conflict intensified there as the Libyan National Army (LNA) ramped up airstrikes and artillery fire against the area. On 2 April, a bridge at al-Lathama on the coastal road leading into eastern Sabri was destroyed. The LNA claim that jihadists blew up the bridge to halt the LNA’s westward advance, while the BRSC claimed the bridge was destroyed by LNA airstrikes. The same day, an LNA fighter and a civilian were killed by a sniper as they crossed the Jilyana bridge, east of Benghazi port. On 1 April, two civilians were killed when a landmine exploded in Benghazi’s Gwarsha district.

In Sirte, a semblance of normality is starting to return to the city post-ISIS. Approximately 10,000 families have reportedly returned to their homes, full power, and telecommunications access has now been restored, and the flow of water from the Man Made River into the city’s water tanks has resumed. However, although ISIS has been driven out of Sirte, the city effectively remains a no-man’s land between Misrata and the LNA forces in the Oil crescent, and could easily become the site of fresh conflict between the rival factions.

In Derna, intermittent clashes continue to take place between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) in Dahra al-Hamra south of the city. The DMSC issued a new statement on 1 April reiterating its hostility to Haftar and recognising Libya’s Dar al-Ifta, under the leadership of Grand Mufti Sadeq al-Ghariani, as Libya’s only legitimate authority. On 29 March, Saleh Joudah, the LNA commander of Tobruk’s Gamel Abdul-Nasser airbase, and at least two civilians were killed when Joudah’s jet crashed into a house near Tobruk. Joudah was apparently returning to the Tobruk airbase from a bombing raid on Derna when according to the LNA, his plane suffered technical difficulties.

Reports on 30 March and 1 April indicate that supplies of arms and ammunitions reached the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) at their Jufra airbase in south-west Libya. This is reportedly in preparation for a new counterattack against the LNA forces in the Oil Crescent. The LNA’s denouncement of locals who allied with the BDB as traitors has created some resentment locally. This may motivate local tribes to support the BDB in order to sabotage the LNA’s control of the area.

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 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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Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: Majlis Shūrā Thūwār Binghāzī — The Epic Battles of Glory and the Martyrdom of the Commander Jalāl Makhzūm

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Source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C7OMteHXkAE-wFN.jpg

To inquire about a translation for this statement for a fee email: azelin@jihadology.net

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Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: Majlis Shūrā Thūwār Binghāzī — Martyrdom of the Media Activists ‘Isām al-Maghribī (al-Nibrās) and Sufyān Who Worked Within al-Sarāyā Media Center

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Source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C7J1-FvW4AASBfe.jpg

To inquire about a translation for this statement for a fee email: azelin@jihadology.net

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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