Eye On Jihadis in Libya Weekly Update: October 9

IS in Action Throughout last week the Sirte Protection Force (SPF) was on a state of alert following reports of the presence of IS fighters near Sirte. Several days before, the SPF posted photos of their manned checkpoints on the outskirts of the city. Other Jihadi Actors On 8 October, the spokesperson for the Libyan National Army (LNA), Ahmed Mesmari, stated that the Libyan National Army (LNA) had captured former Egyptian Special Forces officer turned Egyptian jihadist, Hisham al-Ashmawy, in the al-Maghar neighborhood of Derna. Al-Ashmawy was captured with a suicide vest on, which he had failed to detonate. Photos published by the LNA show al-Ashmawy bloodied and receiving treatment following his arrest. Following his capture, Egyptian security officials have called for his extradition. Described by some security officials as Egypt’s most wanted man, Al-Ashmawy (also known as Abu Omar Al-Muhajir) joined the Egyptian Armed forces in the 1990s and became a member of the Egyptian Special Forces in 1996, before eventually being expelled from the military for his radicalization. He then joined a north Sinai militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. However, when this group pledged its allegiance to IS in July 2014, Ashmawy split from the group and established his own group that became linked with al-Qaeda. Al-Ashmawy led the al-Qaeda front groups al-Mourabitoun and later Jama’at Ansar al-Islam. Al-Ashmawy is thought to have been using Derna as a safe haven from which to springboard into Egypt to launch attacks. Al-Ashmawy is accused of several attacks in Egypt including an assassination attempt on then Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in 2013 and killing a leading Egyptian public prosecutor by car bombing in 2015. Al-Ashmawy was captured along with the wife and sons of Omar Rifai Sorour, the alleged Mufti of the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council who was killed in June of this year. He was also arrested with Bahaa Ali and Merai Abdefattah Khalil Zoghbi. Zoghbi is listed by the UN Security Council and Interpol as a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), al-Qaeda, and Ansar al-Islam. The jihadist is said to have escaped from Italy to Turkey in 2009 where he was provided political asylum. He is thought to have returned to Libya in 2011, fighting with LIFG members amongst the Rafa’a al-Sahti Brigade that would eventually become part of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. A weekly update of IS’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 IS in Libya this week, click here, and to read about the developments within the anti-IS Coalition of Libyan militias, click here. To read all four sections of this week’s Eye on IS in Libya report, click here. Eye-on-Isis-Logo-001

Eye On Jihadis in Libya Weekly Update: April 10

IS in Action

On 7 April, local Libyan National Army (LNA) affiliated security forces apprehended a suspected IS member who was allegedly preparing to conduct an attack against LNA forces in the coastal town of Zueitina. This follows an increase in security patrol by the LNA and security forces in the Oil Crescent after multiple suicide vehicle-borne improved explosive device (SVBIED) attacks on LNA checkpoints near Ajdabiya on 9 and 29 of March.

Other Jihadi Actors On 3 April, following a written question by British MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle the UK government responded that it was “likely” that it had been in communication with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and the 17 February Martys Brigade during the war in Libya in 2011. The response stated that it was in communication with a wide range of Libyans involved in the conflict against the Qaddafi regime forces as a part of its broad engagement during that time. On 5 April, the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) claimed to have undertaken a surprise attack on Libyan National Army (LNA) forces in southern Derna, allegedly killing two LNA fighters. These events follow a media statement on 1 April by leader LNA Khalifa Haftar warning that the time given to the DMSC – which occupies and controls the city of Derna – to disarm and lay their weapons has expired and suggests that major clashes in Derna could start at any time.
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. Eye-on-Isis-Logo-001

Check out my new CTC Sentinel piece co-authored with Andrew Lebovich: "Assessing Al-Qa`ida’s Presence in the New Libya"

A year after Libyans rose up against Colonel Mu`ammar Qadhafi, Western governments and observers continue to watch the security situation in that country with trepidation, concerned with instability in the wake of Qadhafi’s ouster but also watchful for a possible spread of al-Qa`ida in the sparsely populated, oil-rich country. This article provides an overview of the history of Libyans in jihadist organizations (including al-Qa`ida), an assessment of al-Qa`ida and affiliated media activities following the Libyan uprising, an analysis of available evidence of a potential al-Qa`ida presence in Libya, and an evaluation of the possible role the group could occupy in a new Libya. Click here to read the rest.

Check out my new post at al-Wasat: "Is al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghrib Gaining Influence in Libya?"

One of the biggest questions and worries the past year in Western counterterrorism circles has been about how the MENA uprisings would affect al-Qa’ida. Many pointed to the uprisings as evidence that the citizens of the MENA were not only shedding off the yoke of tyranny, but also discrediting al-Qa’ida. On the other side of the debate were those that believed that it would provide the impetus for jihadis to take over. Throughout the past ten months I have maintained that one would see something more in between these two visions and that one should focus on the internal dynamics of each country. The three countries that have worried me the most are Yemen, Syria, and Libya. Gregory Johnsen has done a great job keeping everyone updated on al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s evolution and advances in Yemen. Additionally, I have a forthcoming post at al-Wasat about the potential for jihadi penetration in the Syrian theater if the country does indeed devolve into a civil war. This post will therefore only focus on Libya and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghrib’s (AQIM) outreach to Libyans since the beginning of the Libyan uprising in February.
For the rest of the post click here.

Letter from Noman Benotman to Usāmah Bin Lāden

NOTE: Noman Benotman was a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). In 2008, Ayman al-Zawahiri stated that LIFG had merged with al-Qā’idah, but this was short-lived since LIFG split from al-Qā’idah in 2009. In 2009, LIFG also released “Corrective Studies,” which was a revision of their past jihadist ideas that came out of a dialogue between LIFG’s senior leadership and Libyan government officials including Sayf al-Islām, son of Mu‘ammar al-Qaḍḍāfī. Currently, Benotman is a senior analyst at the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank. For more on this, see what Leah Farrall has to say over at All Things Counter Terrorism.

Noman Benotman — Letter to bin Laden
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Noman Benotman — Letter to bin Laden (Arabic)
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Fatwā from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group's Shaykh Ḥasan Qā'id (Abū Yūnus al-Ṣaḥrāwī): "About the American Crusader Attacks on Afghanistan"