Eye On Jihadis in Libya Weekly Update: June 12 2018

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On 9 May, one of the Derna Mujahadeen Shura Council’s key religious ideologues with alleged connections to al-Qaeda, Omar Refaair Sorour, was killed during a Libyan National Army (LNA) air strike on a residential area in downtown Derna. Sorour is thought to have been one of al-Qaeda’s top recruiter in Libya and was a key figure in the group’s plans to rebuild itself following the demise of ISIS. Sorour is said to be on one of Egypt’s most wanted terrorists in Libya with close ties to Hisham al-Ashmawy, a prominent Egyptian jihadist, and his death has been eulogized by significant al-Qaeda affiliated figures including Moroccan jihadi preacher Omar al-Haddouchi. The announcement of Sorour’s death coincided with reports that Abdulsalam al-Awami, the al-Qaeda Imam in Derna and prominent al-Qaeda leader, Sufian Bin Qammu, were also killed during LNA raids in Derna.

On 9 May, the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) Operations Commander stated that they intended the Derna siege to end by mid al-Fitr, which is expected to fall on 15 June. Throughout the last week the LNA made significant advances in the city and is reportedly set to retake the city in the coming days and officially announce its “liberation” from jihadist control. Important jihadist leaders have either been killed or fled according to jihadist social media outlets. The LNA says 240 militants from various nationalities have been arrested and is already asking residents displaced from Derna as a result of the fighting to come back to their homes. The relatively successful advance so far in Derna has eased pressure from the LNA allowing it to mobilise units to others fronts including the Oil Crescent, Bayda, and Benghazi.

On 6 June, local sources claim that ISIS fighters established a fake checkpoint between Zillah and Waddan in the Jufra region and fired upon a vehicle killing two civilians from the Qadhafa tribe. However, in contrast to this version of events, ISIS published a claim stating that its fighters had killed two LNA soldiers during clashes at an LNA checkpoint in the Jufra district.

On 5 June, U.S Africa command (AFRICOM), in cooperation with the Government of National Accord (GNA), conducted a drone strike near Eshmikh, 35 km south of Bani Walid, killing four alleged ISIS members. Included amongst those killed was Abd al-A’ati Ashtaiwy, who is believed to be a senior figure within ISIS in Sirte. In a statement released about the incident, an AFRICOM spokesperson claimed the operation served to “degrade ISIS-Libya’s freedom of movement and its ability to reconsolidate in the region”.

On 6 June, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) gathered to discuss the results of the 29 May Paris summit on Libya. The UNSC issued a presidential statement expressing that the so-called ‘French initiative’ was a notable step forward in bringing peace to Libya and welcomed the preparations towards elections. The statement noted the timeframe to which the Libyan leaders committed themselves but did not mention the specific dates.

On 7 June, the UN Security Council’s Libya Sanctions Committee added 6 individuals to their sanctions list (involving travel bans and asset freezes) for their involvement in human trafficking and smuggling of migrants in Libya. Significantly, these include Mohammed Kashlaf (al-Qusab) who effectively controls Zawiyya port, Abdurrahman Milad (al-Bidja), the acting commander of the Zawiyya coastguard, and Ahmed Dabbashi, who used to control Mellitah port. While these individuals have been sanctioned for their involvement in smuggling people, they are also closely linked to fuel smuggling networks. The NOC praised the move and called on the UNSC to include more fuel and oil smugglers on its list.

On 9 June, four suspected ISIS fighters were detained as part of the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) operation “Nation Storm” in the al-Saddadah area near Bani Walid following local reports of 10-armed vehicles moving in the area.

 

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