The battle for Tripoli between rival Libyan forces both championing the fight against “terrorism” has created a security vacuum, allowing the Islamic State group a chance to re-emerge, analysts warn.
Libya expert Emad Badi says the fighting has given IS “the opportunity to reorganise, recruit and strike alliances with other groups (and organise attacks) to show they are still around”.
Jihadist groups capitalised on Libya’s descent into chaos after the 2011 uprising that killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi to establish a presence in the North African country.
IS had its main stronghold in Kadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, east of Tripoli, until it was expelled from the Mediterranean coastal city in December 2016.
The group’s demise came at the hands of forces loyal to the Tripoli-based internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), especially fighters from the western city of Misrata.
Those fighters are among pro-GNA forces now battling the self-styled Libyan National Army of military strongman Khalifa Haftar who launched an assault on Tripoli on April 4.
Haftar has vowed to “cleanse” Libya of jihadists and presents himself as the country’s saviour.
In 2017, he drove hardline Islamists out of second city Benghazi after a three-year battle and ousted jihadists from Derna, also in the east.
Then in January he launched an operation to “purge the south of terrorist and criminal groups” before setting his sights on Tripoli.
But despite being weakened, the jihadists still pose a threat in oil-rich Libya, where they were blamed for around 20 attacks last year.
And over the past week IS has carried out two deadly assaults targeting Haftar’s forces — on a training camp in the southern city of Sebha on May 4 that left nine dead and an attack Thursday in Ghodwa, also in the south, that killed two civilians.U.S. expands Venezuela sanctions, mounting pressure on Maduro’s government