Monday, 15 June 2015

Islamic State in Libya

During the 2011 Libyan Revolution, which resulted in the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his government, many Libyan revolutionary fighters went to Syria to fight alongside Syrian revolutionary and Jihadist groups who were fighting against Bashar Assad forces and his allied Shiite Militia in the Syrian War.

In 2012, one group of Libyans fighters fighting in Syria declared the establishment of an Independent militant group named the Battar Brigade, which would later pledge loyalty to Islamic State and fight for it in both Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State flag / Wikipedia


In the spring of 2014, around 300 Battar Brigade fighters returned to Libya. In Derna, they formed a new group called the Islamic Youth Shura Council, which began recruiting militants from other local groups. Among the joiners were many members of the Derna branch of Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia. During the next few months, they declared war on anyone in Derna who opposed them, by killing judges, civic leaders and other opponents, including local militants who rejected their authority over the city.

Battar Brigade logo / Twitter 

Battar Brigade Fighters / Twitter 

In September 2014, an IS delegation that had been dispatched by the group's leadership Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi arrived in Libya. The representatives included Abu Nabil al Anbari who is now Emir of IS in Libya, a senior advisor to al-Baghdadi and a fighter of the Iraq conflict, the Saudi Abu Habib al-Jazrawi, and the Yemeni Abu al-Baraa el-Azdi, a militant and preacher from Syria. On 5 October 2014, the Islamic Youth Shura Council-aligned militant factions came together and pledged allegiance to IS then celebrated the pledge by a ceremony of more than 60 pickup trucks filled with fighters cruised through the city in a victory parade.

IS convoy parading in Sirte / Twitter


On 13 November 2014, al-Baghdadi released an audio-recording in which he accepted pledges of allegiance from supporters in five countries, including Libya, and announced the expansion of his group to those territories. He went on to announce the creation of three wilayat [Provinces] in Libya, Barqa (Cyrenaica) in the east, Fezzan in the south, and Tripolitania in the west of the country. 

IS provinces in Libya / Twitter 

According to information which is being shared between Algerian, Egyptian and Tunisian Intelligence services that there around 3,000 IS fighters in Libya coming from 31 countries around the world. Most of the IS foreign fighters in Libya are from neighbouring countries in North Africa and the rest are from Middle East and Europe, there are experienced fighters since they were involved in many terrorist acts and clashes with different Armed forces in the region also most of them were part of Al-Qaeda in Maghreb region. There are 500 Tunisians, 500 Egyptians, 300 Sudanese, 300 Moroccans, 200 Algerians, 100 Saudis, 80 French and other 100 are from different nationalities from Mali, Europe and Middle East.

IS fighters in Sirte / BBC 

IS claims it has presences in al Bayda, Benghazi, Sirte, al-Khums, and the Libyan capital Tripoli. The Barqa branch of IS has around 800 fighters and has half a dozen camps in Derna's Suburbs. It also has larger facilities in the Jebel Akhdar area, where fighters from other countries in North Africa and Europe are being trained military and ideologically.

IS presence in Libya / New York Times

IS are fighting all factions in Libya like Libyan National Army led by General Haftar, Libya Shield Force and other small Islamist groups. They are commanded by an Iraqi Emir Abu Nabil al Anbari who was sent by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently to try set up his base there and expand his influence using the Libyan city of Derna as his capital in North Africa. Derna was fully under IS control, with the Black IS flags flying over government buildings, police cars carrying IS insignia, and the local football stadium being used for public executions. 

IS Court in Darna / Twitter 

On 15 February 2015, IS released a video showing the beheading of 21 Christian Egyptians who had been kidnapped in Sirte.

IS fighters executing Egyptian Copts / Twitter


On 19 April 2015 a video was released online by IS showing the killing of approximately 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya. 15 of the men were beheaded, and another group of the same size were shot in the head.

IS fighters executing Christian Ethiopians / Twitter 


IS expansion in Sirte and capture of the airbase there has allowed them to have heavy weapons which will be used by IS in their fight against Libyan Army then later they will push towards the Oil fields which is heavy guarded by Libyan forces. In November 2014, IS Barqa media wing claimed it had previously dispatched nine suicide bombers from Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia to carry out attacks against Libyan security forces in and around Benghazi.

Islamic State has managed to rise in Libya quickly due internal conflicts between different factions in the country, the weakness of Libya Dawn and the Libyan army has left a security gap which was exploited by IS to rise rapidly. The Islamic State’s growth could further destabilize a country already suffering from a devastating civil war. And Libya could offer the IS extremists a new base from which to launch attacks elsewhere in North Africa.


References:

Elchourouk, 3,000 IS fighters from 31 countries in Libya (Arabic) – [http://www.echoroukonline.com/ara/articles/244758.html]

BBC, How powerful is ISIS in Libya? (Arabic) - [http://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast/2015/02/150205_islamic_state_in_libya]

New York Times, how a Libyan City Joined the Islamic State Group (English) – [http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/11/09/world/middleeast/ap-ml-libya-islamic-state.html?ref=world&_r=1]

Foreign Policy, The Islamic State of Libya Isn’t Much of a State (English) -[http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/17/the-islamic-state-of-libya-isnt-much-of-a-state/]


CNN, ISIS comes to Libya (English) – [http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/18/world/isis-libya/index.html


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