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 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

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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Battles continue in the final area (Khribish) in Sabri district of Benghazi, where a number of fighters and families are now still believed to be holding out, despite General Haftar’s announcement of official victory in Benghazi on 5 July. 10 LNA fighters were killed last week according to pro-LNA media. This raises the number of reported fatalities on the LNA’s side up to almost 50 soldiers, with a larger number of injuries since the liberation proclamation. The surrounding area remains a sea of landmines, IEDs and booby traps, and 19 civilians were reported killed throughout last week by ordinance.

Although many in Benghazi are grateful for the defeat of ISIS, rampant corruption, neglect of urgent post-war needs, and the lack of financial resources fuel instability in Benghazi. Signs of local tensions and discontent are increasing and threaten, or at least challenge, Haftar’s control on stability and ability to keep ISIS and other extremists out of the city.

Other Jihadi Actors

Skirmishes between Pro-GNA and hardliner militias in Tripoli continued this week, ending as the GNA-aligned militias successfully ousted hardliner militias from their positions in eastern Tripoli. Libyan press and international media mistakenly reported that the hardline forces originated from Misrata, but in reality the militias were affiliated with extreme Islamist factions — including the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) and militias defeated in Tripoli last May. The Misratan municipal council and other political leaders denounced the operation and media coverage mistaking Misratan involvement.

Pro-GNA militias led by Haithem Tajouri reported the loss of 10 fighters in battles that lasted for three days. The Pro-GNA Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade Militia, in the guise of the Ministry of Interior’s (MOI) Central Security Department, now controls territory up to 40 km east of the capital, as well as a large part of Tripoli itself.

The low-intensity conflict between the LNA and the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) coalition that controls the city continued this week absent of any major changes. With the support of local communities, LNA units advanced their positions towards Derna from the West. LNA sources have disputed prolific media coverage of airstrikes and high-level military preparations by the LNA for a full scale assault of 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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ISIS in Action

On 24 June, forces belonging to the GNA-aligned, Misrata-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) forces reportedly captured an ISIS fighter, while another fighter escaped, during a BM operation to retrieve hijacked fuel trucks in Wadi Bay, south of Sirte.

On 20 June, a lone-wolf attacker, allegedly either a Sudanese or Chadian national potentially tied to ISIS (though the group hasn’t taken any official credit for the attempt), detonated a suicide vest at the Sidra gate checkpoint held by Libyan National Army (LNA) fighters. He killed himself and injured another. Heavy artillery including 17 tank shells and an anti-air rocket were later discovered rigged to his vehicle, leading some to believe that the attacker’s initial target may have been the oil facilities rather than LNA fighters.

Last week, the Anas Dabbashi brigade – the formidable local militia guarding Mellitah complex historically aligned with Islamist-affiliated hardliner faction – as well as other local security and municipal sources in Sabratha, warned of the rising terrorist threat posed by Islamic State (IS) affiliates and other extremists in the region, thought to be located in areas south of Sabratha.

Other Jihadi Actors

On 23 June, the Benghazi Defense Brigade (BDB), an Islamist and Misratan aligned force which attacked the Oil Crescent ports in March, announced it will dissolve itself and that some members will enlist in the formation of a legitimate Libyan army. The group cited a desire to save Libya from further bloodshed and foreign involvement in Libya as justification for their disbanding. In actuality, the BDB disbanded itself so as to best cope with its wholesale defeat by Haftar’s forces in Jufra over the past weeks. The BDB was the only Libyan entity (as opposed to individuals) implicated by Gulf countries for terror links to Qatar as part of the regional diplomatic embargo against the country. According to high ranking members, the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood is also set to be dissolved.

Throughout last week the Libyan National Army (LNA) continued its pressurized advances in Benghazi, fully claiming control over the Souq al-Hout area and the main central square, leaving only Sabri under the control of the jihadists. The final battle between the LNA and the remaining jihadist fighters is being fought on a house-to-house basis within a 9km square zone of the Sabri area. The LNA announced that more than 3,800 mines and IEDs were defused in Sabri and Souq al-Hout areas throughout last week.

Local sources report ongoing preparations by both hardliners and pro-GNA militias in Tripoli for a new military offensive to retake control of the capital, taking advantage of the regional Qatar embargo and the national reshuffling of alliances on the other. The Grand Mufti, the spiritual figurehead for many of the hard-liner Islamist factions, has again called on revolutionaries to reassemble and save the ‘dying’ revolution. On 21 June, the control tower of Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport’s control tower was attacked by unspecified group overnight, causing a flight to be diverted to Misrata. Sources disagree on whether the attack was spurred by local militias or if its intent was to detain people arriving on these flights in Misrata.  The same day, Munir Mohammed Abu Zeid, a hardliner loyalist affiliated with the General National Congress’ (GNC) former National Salvation Government and leader of the ‘Shield Rahba Camp’ in Tajoura, was assassinated in Tripoli’s Zawiyya Dahmani area.

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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Arabic:

Sarāyā al-Dafā’ ‘an Binghāzī — Message to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Regarding Egyptian-Emirati Interference in Libyan Affairs

English:

Sarāyā al-Dafā’ ‘an Binghāzī- Message to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Regarding Egyptian-Emirati Interference in Libyan Affairs (En)

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Source: Telegram

On 6 June, the Libyan National Army (LNA) affiliated 116 Brigade said it had apprehended a jihadist cell, composed of fighters who fled from Benghazi, during an anti-terrorism raid in Sebha. The 166 Brigade, which is led by Masud al-Jeddi, claimed that one of those arrested, Masoud al-Tarhouni aka Abu Uwais al-Libi, was an IS member and resident of the Salmani area in Benghazi. On 10 June, one of the four IS members said to have been killed on 26 May by local security forces from Bani Walid was identified as Derna resident Abdul Moeed Jaber al-Kawwash, aka Nimir al-Dernawi. Al-Kawwash, who is reportedly only 17 years old, travelled to fight in Syria in 2013 before returning to Derna in 2014 after injury.

On 7 June, the Misrata Municipal Council issued a statement banning the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) from re-entering Misrata city with their weapons and demanding that the BDB hand over individuals implicated in terrorism to state authorities. On 6 June, leaders of the GNA-aligned, Misratan-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus Operations Room, the Misrata Military Council, and the Municipal Council joined forces to order BDB units positioned at the Baghla junction, located on the road south of Abu Grein, to disband, surrender their weapons and handover their leader, Mustafa al-Sharksi.  On 9 June, another video was released depicting Captain Mahmoud al-Werfalli, a hardliner Salafist commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Special Forces (Saiqa), ordering the execution of four prisoners.

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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