Since the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) invasion of the capital Tripoli and with it the collapse of the armed militias that had ruled and controlled the capital for years in coordination with Fayez al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA), LNA spokesman Colonel Ahmed al-Mesmari revealed the formation of a new ISIS-affiliated terrorist organization inside Libya called Saraya al-Sahraa (Desert Brigades).
Mesmari pointed out that the current leader of the organization is called Abu Moaz al-Tikriti, without disclosing any additional information about him.
According to obtained information, Tikriti is one of the biggest ISIS leaders, having been the organization’s deputy leader for the Libyan states administrative area before ISIS was restructured in 2017.
Tikriti, also known as Abd al-Qadir al-Najdi, took the post of governor of Libya for ISIS after Wissam al-Zubaidi, also known as Abu al-Mughirah al-Qahtani and Abu Nabil al-Anbari, was killed in 2015. Since then, the organization in Libya has been subordinate to Tikriti, who disappeared into the Libyan desert before the GNA-backed Fortified Structure Forces took over the city of Sirte.
It is not well-known what Tikriti looks like, because he wears gloves and a mask, not revealing his face except to a very narrow few. However, according to obtained information, Tikriti is one of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s special envoys sent to Libya, where he was instructed to establish a terrorist organization in Libya. He then received instructions to wage a guerrilla war in the Libyan desert following the loss of the group’s basic stronghold in Sirte and to follow the same tactics and methods used by ISIS after its defeat in Iraq in 2008, which were originally developed by Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
Tikriti was a former member of the Tawhid wal Jihad group founded by Jordan’s Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq in 2003. He was active before joining the group in resisting US forces that entered Iraq in the Sunni triangle area, especially in Fallujah.
He was later arrested in Iraq and imprisoned with Anbari. During his imprisonment, he had a dream while asleep that he was slaying a member of the Iraqi army. When he told Anbari, he promised to make this dream reality immediately after their release. They were then transferred to Boca Prison for a while before being released to participate in the so-called Tribal Awakening War, which had been established to the expel the organization from the Sunni triangle.
ISIS of Libya
During his detention, Tikriti met with one of the Libyans affiliated with Tawhid wal Jihad, Hussein Balaraj, who was arrested by the Iraqi authorities in 2005 on charges of entering Iraq and forming terrorist groups on Iraqi soil. Balaraj was released in 2012 and returned to Libya to form another group, called Libyan Tawhid wal Jihad. He then announced allegiance to Baghdadi after the latter’s declaration of his “caliphate” in 2014.
With the ISIS leadership’s desire to establish a new branch in Libya to transfer the war to North Africa, Anbari and Tikriti were chosen to lead the new ISIS branch in Libya. They were smuggled into Libya through the Mediterranean Sea, accompanied by Turki al-Binali, a former leader in the organization.
They stayed in the city of Derna for some time before the clash broke out between elements of ISIS and elements of Libya Dawn and al-Qaeda, who were active at the time on behalf of the Shura Council of the Revolutionaries of Derna.
Tikriti and Anbari were the cause of the “fighting” between ISIS elements and other currents, claiming that the elements of Libya Dawn and al-Qaeda were “apostates” and must be fought before fighting the LNA led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. They also participated in the slaughter of Egyptian Copts in Libya to achieve Tikriti’s old dream, which he saw during his imprisonment in Iraq.
Tikriti and Anbari also supervised the selection of ISIS leaders and recommended them to the leadership of the parent organization. After Anbari’s death in Derna in 2015, Tikriti assumed the post of ISIS deputy leader for the Libyan states administrative area.
After his appointment, Tikriti circulated a letter to Libyan ISIS elements and bodies in which he claimed that Libya should join the terrorist organization and be kept under its control.
With the intensification of the military campaign against the organization’s strongholds in Libya, Tikriti completely disappeared. The GNA Attorney General’s office announced that Tikriti was still leading the guerrilla war being waged by the organization and is “hiding in the desert.”