ISIS in Action and Other Jihadi Actors

British daily newspaper The Guardian reported on 28 April that since late 2015, several Islamic State (ISIS) fighters may have infiltrated into Italy disguised as wounded Libyan fighters. The paper quotes an Italian intelligence document which claims ISIS fighters took advantage of a scheme called the Comitato Assistenza Feriti Libici (Centre for the Support of Injured Libyans) to apply for special visas, which allow wounded fighters to receive medical treatment in Europe. Wounded fighters are most commonly sent to hospitals in Turkey. Italian intelligence believes ISIS fighters presented false passports to medical personnel in Misrata, claiming to be members of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC). The article goes on to claim that Misrata is the headquarters for smuggling fighters from Libya to other countries, and where the fraudulent issue of passports for fighters takes place.

Intermittent clashes between Libyan National Army (LNA) forces and jihadists are ongoing in Sabri and Souq al-Hout in central Benghazi, with two LNA fighters killed last week. On 26 April, the LNA conducted 10 airstrikes against jihadist positions. Jihadists in Benghazi counter LNA airstrikes with demolitions targeting infrastructure. On 26 April, jihadists demolished the third bridge between Sidi Youness area and Sabri, and on 28 April they brought down an iconic high rise flat in the city centre near the port.  On 27 April, Ansar al-Sharia’s Talot Foundation, operating under the banner of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC), claimed responsibility for the demolition of several bridges in the Sabri area over the last few weeks. On 1 May, one civilian was killed and two others injured when several rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) hit Benghazi’s Leithi district.

On 29 April, a new video was published showing Wissam Bin Hamid, the BRSC leader rumored to have been killed in 2016, appealing to his followers. In the video, Bin Hamid laments the lack of support received by jihadists from many Libyan cities, but promises a comeback.  A high profile al-Qaeda leader from Derna has reportedly been handed over to the LNA following his transfer from Turkey to Jordan, then from Jordan to Libya. The man in question is most likely Abdul Basset Azouz, who was apprehended on 13 November 2014 by Turkish authorities.

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 and Other Jihadi Actors

Ahmidah Al-Safrani, Abd Al-Hadi Zarqun, and Hammam Hamani were identified by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Public Affairs (OFAC) on 13 April, as Libyan-based financial facilitators of the Islamic State (IS). OFAC has implemented sanctions on these individuals freezing their assets and prohibiting business with US nationals.

Sabri and Souq al-Hout, both adjacent to the port in the centre of Benghazi are the only remaining areas controlled by the loose jihadist coalition of Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC) and IS fighters. The Libyan National Army (LNA) maintains an aerial and naval blockade in the area and the current dip in clashes will likely be short lived as these areas have been an epicenter of fighting for over two years.

On 15 April, reinforcements from the southern Libya Shield forces, led by Islamist commander Ahmed Abdul Jalil Al-Hasnawi, arrived at Temenhint airbase to back up the Government of National Accord (GNA)-affiliated forces, including the Misratan Third Force and the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), in their battle against the Libyan National Army (LNA).

On 16 April, militias affiliated with Khalifa Al-Ghwell, announced that they are joining the BDB and the Misratan Third Force, to join in the fight against the LNA in the South. Despite the announcement, there is no evidence of their deployment yet.

On 17 April, the LNA led an airstrike on the BDB base south of Sirte. Former Bunyan al-Marsus forces have mobilized to Sirte, where they are functionally aligned with the BDB, causing concern about the possibility of a BDB counter attack against the LNA. Ongoing conflict between the LNA and the GNA’s Misratan-led Third Force in Southern Libya could spill back over onto the initial battle ground of the Oil Crescent.

In Derna on 14 April, the LNA targeted Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) positions south of the city with a new volley of airstrikes; the LNA aerial and naval blockade in Derna continues.

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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Arabic:

Sarāyā al-Dafā’ ‘an Binghāzī — Reply To The Report Of The United Nation’s Mission To Libya Addressed To The General Secretary of the United Nations

English:

Sarāyā al-Dafā’ ‘an Binghāzī — Reply To The Report Of The United Nation’s Mission To Libya Addressed To The General Secretary of the United Nations (En)

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Source: Telegram

ISIS in Action and Other Jihadi Actors

On 6 April, 28 Eritrean and 5 Nigerian women and children who were captured and enslaved by ISIS in Sirte were released from prison in Misrata, where they had been held since the Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus forces ousted ISIS from the city in December. The women and children were captured by ISIS fighters when they seized Sirte in early 2015. After escaping for Sirte, they detained by Misratan forces while they were investigated to see if they had been working with ISIS.

The Libyan attorney-general’s office announced that it had cleared the women of any wrongdoing in mid-February, but their release was delayed for several more weeks. Following their release on 6 April, the women have been handed over to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) who is expected to facilitate their resettlement or repatriation depending on their asylum statuses.

On 10 April, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya printed images of what it claims is a secret prison in the Ganfuda district of Benghazi. It claims people were imprisoned and tortured by jihadi fighters in the prison.  Mohammed al-Zwai, a spokesperson for the Libyan National Army (LNA) forces that recently ousted the jihadi fighters from Ganfuda, is quoted as saying, “After combing the mines in the Ganfouda area, which was liberated from terrorist groups, the picture became clearer, as prisons were found in Ganfouda.”

The areas of Sabri and Souq al-Hout in central Benghazi are the final enclaves controlled by local jihadist fighters in the city and conflict is likely to intensify there as the LNA ramps up airstrikes and artillery against the areas.

In Derna, although sporadic clashes continue between the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) and the Libyan National Army (LNA), local observers indicate that there has been a significant easing of tensions between the DMSC and the LNA recently. There are hopes that a peaceful settlement between the two forces can be found.

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

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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