With the Libyan elections stumbling in the obstacle of delays, armed groups are active in the country, especially in southern Libya, taking advantage of everyone’s preoccupation with the election arrangements and their endless conflicts and disputes. At the head of these groups is ISIS, which has shown remarkable activity since the beginning of this year, not only in Libya, but in other regions as well, most notably the Hasakah prison operation, and in conjunction with it, the organization’s operations in Iraq, especially in Diyala, which coincided with the Hasakah prison operation in northern Syria, followed by its operation at Baghdad Airport.
Although the death of the leader of ISIS was announced on Thursday, February 3, the situation in Libya remains specific, given the nature of the country, which was about to take the first steps towards stability, but the political situation prevented that, encouraging ISIS elements to declare themselves again.
The second half of January witnessed new movements by ISIS in southern Libya, taking advantage of the political and security instability in the country. The terrorist organization announced January 17 targeting the headquarters of the Libyan army with an explosive device in the Umm al-Aranib area, which resulted in the killing of two soldiers and the injury of two others.
This was the first attack by ISIS in the country during the year 2022, after only four attacks in 2021. The last attack in Umm al-Aranib was in June 2020.
The terrorist organization announced through its media outlets that its members attacked the Libyan army forces, and the attack resulted in the killing of two soldiers and the wounding of a third in a new attack south of Sabha.
On January 31, ISIS members targeted two vehicles of the Libyan army on the road linking the towns of Umm al-Aranib and Qatrun, south of Sabha, with automatic weapons, which led to the damage of a vehicle, killing two and wounding a third.
Motives for return
The terrorist organization’s operations diminished over the past year due to the isolation of Fayez al-Sarraj government directly loyal to the Brotherhood, the start of political negotiations, and the precursors of the road map for holding presidential and legislative elections in Libya, which led to a period of relative stability in the country, during which militia operations and terrorist attacks in the country stopped in soft areas in the south and areas where there are pockets of armed group elements, especially in western Libya.
With the dwindling of opportunities for holding elections and the preoccupation of the political factions in the conflicts between them, this climate was favorable for armed activity in the south, aimed at reviving the activity of ISIS in this region, in which the passage of the organization’s elements coming from the Sahara, who represent ISIS’s most important human tributaries, is easy. The Libyan army revealed during its recent operations to comb the area that the bodies of foreign elements were found among the dead of the terrorist organization.
Despite the Libyan army’s response to the terrorist organization’s activity in the south, the political dispute still dominates the scene, which threatens the recurrence of these operations amid political conflicts and the lack of unification of the domestic front, especially the Government of National Unity (GNU) headed by Abdel Hamid Dabaiba, who tried to attribute the confrontation with the organization’s elements to the Ministry of Interior. According to Major General Khaled al-Mahjoub, director of the Moral Guidance Department of the Armed Forces, the operation resulted in the killing of 23 ISIS militants, eight of whom blew themselves up before their arrest.
Mahjoub denied what Dabaiba had said about the participation of a force from the Ministry of Interior in the confrontations, saying that the government had not yet provided anything to support the armed forces in securing the south and borders and combating terrorism.
Dabaiba had said on Twitter, “I seek mercy on the martyrs of the homeland who rose to their righteousness during their fight against ISIS in the municipality of Qatrun, and I salute the efforts of the Ministry of Interior and the forces supporting it for carrying out their duty,” and concluded by saluting the army and police.