The Beachhead: Islamic State Uses Libya to Gain African Foothold
The Islamic State is using the same strategy it deployed in Syria in order to expand its territory in North Africa. Libya has become the center of its deadly activities in the region.
The cinematic staging hinted very early on at the plan. As masked men with the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia massacred 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach in February, the camera positions, lighting and editing were professional in a way that had only previously been seen in videos eminating from IS headquarters in Raqqa.
Their base is the city of Sirte, the hometown of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The jihadists had no trouble conquering the city, even after a failed first attempt in the traditionally Islamist city of Darna in the east. As in Syria, they use extreme brutality to underline their claim to power. After a tangle with IS in August, popular Salafist imam Khalid bin Rajab Ferjani was murdered. When his tribe rebelled, dozens were killed, including the crucifixion of at least four men in a busy traffic circle in Sirte.
Potential Libyan victims are also repeating the same mistakes made in Syria and Iraq. One military leader from Misurata told the New York Times recently that they, too, were against the IS -- but, for the time being, they weren't fighting against them. Instead, they fear any weakening of the front against their main opponent in the Libyan civil war, General Khalifa Haftar in the east. Eventually, they say, they will begin fighting IS, but no one wanted to say for certain when that might happen.
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