ISIS in Africa: Terrorism ravages Libya (Part 4)
Libya has become a fertile breeding ground for terrorist organizations since the fall of the regime of late President Muammar Gaddafi, especially for ISIS, which is wreaking havoc in the country’s east and west. Its latest crime was the targeting of a checkpoint in the city of Sabha in southern Libya, which led to the killing of two people, one of whom was a senior police official, with a car bomb that was carrying high explosives.
ISIS’s roots in Libya go back to extremist groups that took advantage of the security vacuum and chaos after 2011 to consolidate their presence mainly in the city of Sirte in the center of the country, and then announcing later their pledge of allegiance to late ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who in turn spoke in 2014 about the presence of ISIS in Libya and referred to three states: Cyrenaica with its capital Derna, Tripoli with its capital Sirte, and Fezzan, which are the three historical regions that make up Libya. The terrorist organization’s leadership was assigned to non-Libyans, and the first ISIS leader there was the Saudi Abdul Qadr al-Najdi.
ISIS also succeeded in attracting members of al-Qaeda and formed a number of quality cells in Sirte, Bani Walid, Derna and Benghazi, before its fortresses fell one by one and they were expelled from these areas under the pressure of the strikes by the Libyan National Army (LNA).
Following ISIS’s collapse in Iraq and Syria in 2019, it tried to compensate for its losses by extending its influence in new areas in light of the security chaos and instability as in the Libyan case, especially in the south of the country where it wants to maximize its influence, taking advantage of the area’s geographical nature, which is far from the central state, contains vast desert lands, and includes half of Libya's oil production, 500,000 barrels of oil per day, which made the terrorist organization salivate.
ISIS is based in several main points in southwestern Libya, especially the outskirts of the Sabha region, which is characterized by an important and vital strategic location, as it gives the organization the advantage in security confrontations and also allows it to carry out suicide attacks from time to time against the Libyan security forces, as happened recently when it targeted a police ambush.
ISIS elements also surrounded the towns of Al-Fuqaha and Ghadduwah, controlling them for hours before withdrawing again to their camps in the desert. Then, the organization’s elements attacked the headquarters of the military command in the city of Sabha and took control of the city temporarily before withdrawing again, after adopting the tactic of security states instead of the idea of spatial states in order for the organization to avoid heavy losses, according to a recent study by the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.
Vladimir Voronkov, UN Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, stressed that the number of ISIS fighters in Libya does not exceed a few hundred, but it is still capable of threatening the entire region, especially that they are able to hit, run and flee within the African Sahel and West African countries very easily. This was noticed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who instructed the French army to cut the supply lines between ISIS in Libya and ISIS in Mali, where France has been fighting a violent war for seven years against the elements of the organization in Mali.
It is worth noting that ISIS has launched nearly 200 operations during the past three years, taking advantage of the instability in the country to add to its pain and ravage the security of the Libyan people, who have suffered greatly as a result of terrorism and the political conflict that the country has been going through since Gaddafi’s ouster in 2011.