Tagged: Sirte

House Panel Witnesses: Islamic State Remains ‘Potent’ Threat in Libya

(BREITBART) — by Edwin Mora

WASHINGTON, DC — The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) remains a “potent” menace in Libya more than a year after U.S.-backed local forces pushed the group out of former stronghold Sirte, experts told a House panel.

Soon after the Islamic State (IS) lost Sirte in December 2016, U.S. and Libyan officials began warning about a potential resurgence of the terrorist group, noting that the jihadists were regrouping elsewhere in Libya, namely the desert valleys and inland hills southeast of the country.

In written testimony prepared for a hearing Wednesday held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and Africa, Christopher Blanchard, a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), acknowledged:

Transnational terrorist groups and locally organized armed extremist groups, including supporters of the Islamic State organization and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), remain active in Libya. Some IS fighters appear to have regrouped in rural areas after fleeing Sirte in late 2016, and the group claimed a series of attacks on Libyan forces in 2017.

Robyn Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), predicted early this year that ISIS would “give priority to the restructuring of security forces and infrastructure, and to launch strikes, which may include targets in the Libyan oil crescent.”

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Islamic State fighters overrun checkpoint in Libya, behead captives

(LONG WAR JOURNAL) — By Thomas Joscelyn

Jihadists loyal to the Islamic State’s arm in Libya overran a checkpoint manned by the Libyan National Army (LNA) yesterday. LNA officials confirmed that at least 11 people were beheaded after the raid.

The so-called caliphate’s Amaq News Agency claimed that 21 members of General Khalifa Haftar’s “militia” were “killed and wounded in an attack by Islamic State fighters on a checkpoint” in the Jufra region.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari told the press that Amaq’s claim was generally accurate. “The terrorist organization Daesh (Islamic State) attacked al-Fogha checkpoint in Jufra region this morning, killing nine soldiers and two civilians were slaughtered,” Mismari said, according to Reuters. Mismari added that the 11 people were beheaded.

The Jufra region is in the middle of Libya, south of the city of Sirte, which served as the Islamic State’s stronghold in North Africa until late last year. Local Libyan forces, backed by the US and its allies, pushed the jihadists out of Sirte over the course of several months.

The State Department reported in July that the Islamic State’s Libyan branch had “as many as 6,000 fighters in its ranks” as of early 2016, but “more than 1,700 ISIS terrorists were killed during the Sirte counterterrorism operations.”

This left the group with approximately 4,300 fighters, at least some of whom have stayed in Libya. It is not clear how many Islamic State loyalists are still in the country. But State confirmed that “many members of the terrorist organization fled to Libya’s western and southern deserts, abroad, or into neighboring urban centers.”

The attack in the Jufra region yesterday confirms that the organization continues to operate well south of its former safe haven along the Mediterranean coast. Since the loss of Sirte, the jihadists have been reorganizing for future operations.

It is certainly possible, if not likely, that the jihadists recorded the beheadings for use in propaganda. In Feb. 2015, the Islamic State released a gruesome video documenting the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians along the coast. The video was used to announce the Islamic State’s growing presence in the country, frighten its local opponents and threaten the West.

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