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Islamic state in Libya – Strategy and power secrets


By: Saqr Eljeebany*

The group known as Islamic State in Libya has turned from small armed groups in particular areas into a dangerous phenomenon

Saqr Eljeebany
Saqr Eljeebany

spreading like cancerous cells in East, West and center of Libya, and tangled the country in inner exhaustive wars might entice Arab or foreign military intervention under the slogan of “fighting terrorism”.

What strategy does the group follow in choosing its targets and spots in Libya? Why did the group choose Derna and Sirte cities? What is the secret behind its strength and expand? What are the investible weakness spots to demolish it?

I will try to answer those questions in the upcoming subtitles:

Cyrenaica State

The group’s choice of Derna, East Libya, to be its initial spot, wasn’t out of coincidence. It was probably planned by abroad players; it may have been advised by battalions of “Al-Battar group” that is involved in fights in Syria before it moves back to locate in Derna and form a militia coalition with other groups of similar ideology that later became the Islamic State group in Cyrenaica after it declared allegiance to Al-Baghdadi.

Why did the group choose Derna?

Derna, unlike most Libyan cities, has a unique social texture, resulting from rare rapprochement of East and West Libyan tribes (Al-Abeadat, Al-Morabteen, Misrata, Zliten, Al-Twageer and Warfalla, in addition to other minorities) who were mixed themselves by marriage pedigree and good company and history.

This is a great characteristic in peaceful times that created diversity, enriched culture, and dissolved tribal tensions amongst city’s members which eventually made the urban nature prevail.

In war time, this positive characteristic turned into weakness point given Libya’s lack of institution; the IS has used this characteristic for its own good. Unlike Derna, Tribalism has taken the spot of central authority after revolution in other Libyan cities which partially filled security vacuum after the fall of regime.

Derna happens to be the weakest Libyan city in the security side, as it has no police or army forces causing the largest security vacuum amongst Libyan cities after the regime was toppled. The remaining security forces in the city of its inhabitants and from near areas have fled to their cities or have been killed.

Did IS find popularity amongst people in Derna?

The group didn’t find social acceptance or popular hospitality in Derna; it was socially isolated and face primarily with “negative resistance” that lasted among a full absence and ignorance form the Libyan city until the armed conflict took place between the group and forces of Derna Shura Council which enticed inhabitants to participate in the armed resistance.

Derna citizens then, served all man, materialistic, and media unlimited support during armed conflicts with the group during fights to free the city from the group’s grip. Youth and men of the city still fight hand in hand with the council’s forces to face attacks by group’s remnants barricading in surrounding mountains.

Tripolitania State

A surprising event to several observers is the group’s choice to coastal city of Sirte, 450km East Tripoli, to be its stronghold and annexing it to “Tripolitania state”.

The group found some popular hospitality in Tripolitania in the beginning; it seems to be hatred to February rather than favorability to the group. This can be compared to the welcome of Iraqi Sunni Mosul city to the group defiance in Shiites.

Why did the group choose Sirte?

The group’s strategy in Tripolitania was based on moving on 2 different paths; moving east and west. The group moved west launching single raids and quality attacks sometimes in the forms of suicidal attacks in Misrata outskirts, that is known to be the most powerful and organized Western Libyan city, and some operations in Tripoli.

Despite the limited operations the group launched in Tripolitania, they still are dangerous indication of the group’s strength, proliferation, and spread of fighters who started to knock the doors of the capital while officials are in negligence.

The other path is moving east which is the most important movement for the group and most dangerous on the national level, as the group continuous its spread towards oil ports. Oil ports have been the top strategic aim of the group in accordance with “Cyrenaica State”, it goes for it through increasing assassinations in Ajdabiyah city to accelerate the fall of the city and the control over the “oil crescent”.

The secret behind the group’s power

The group derives its strength from the power of the mother organization in Iraq and Levant that is known as “Daesh”

“Daesh” is originally an extension of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia that is a derivative of the main group in Afghanistan, which is an American made tool, the American and Pakistani intelligence used to stop the Soviet expansion in Center Asia during its occupation to Afghanistan (whether Al-Qaeda knew it or not).

“Daesh” was born with blind violence in its genes inherited from Al-Qaeda and developed its inherited experiences.

The group’s atom depended on the remnants of the dissolved Iraqi presidential forces; they are the finest of Saddam Hussein’s army with a high standard of training. The group also created a very strong media arm that surpassed all other similar groups. It used shock and intimidation in killing its captives with “creative”, cruel and inhumane killing methods before broadcasting it on YouTube with professional production accompanied with chants for millions to watch, including the “assumed enemy” to defeat it psychologically before attacking it militarily.

“Daesh” used social media websites, on the internet, to attract teens of low education and economic and social problems to its lines with promises of achieving their wishes.

But on the ground, the group chose the most security fragile areas to flourish and attract strangers from everywhere.

The IS in Libya exploited the huge security vacuum and deep political division between rivals vying for power, in addition to deterioration of economic and living conditions, disintegration of local power, and lack of unite military force.

 Are we before a new generation of radical organizations?

Since its very first moments, the group dealt with its parent, Al-Qaeda as it did to other groups when it firstly emerged. The IS accused Al-Qaeda of disbelief in Iraq, fought it in Syria and called it heterodox in Yemen.

Radical group used to fight each other after the foreign occupier is out of the way, or the authoritative ruler is down, as they state it. But those groups’ fighting in the beginning of the road means that we are ahead of a new generation of that kind of groups, a generation that gathered all fascist and Nazis thoughts and added religious pigment to it.

The IS’ weakness spots

As the group has strength points in Libya, it also has weakness points. An important one is the Libyan society rejection to strangers the group brought from outside and recruited them in its lines. The religious and doctrine homogeneity of the Libyan society makes taking the group down a possible step in case political powers agreed, united in a central authority and translated that into a united force on the ground that fights this danger before it gets out of control.

*A Libyan Writer

Translated By LIBYAPROSPECT: Source