Article published by: TheMaghrebiNote
Libya has experienced drastic changes all over its territory; all across Libya we are witnessing different groups with different agendas and ideologies.
But the most interesting movements to look at are those groups and movements who seek to establish Islamism across Libya and the whole of region. Over the past weeks, months and even years we have seen how Jihadi groups have established their strongholds in especially the Eastern region – observing these changes is very important in order to understand what might happen in the upcoming months and years.
Dernah, the Libyan Raqqah
The city of Dernah has become the Libyan Raqqah in my sight – with ISIS militants controlling the city and implementing the usual social strategies of the ‘Islamic State’. In the end of September the Jihadi group “Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Dernah” (Council of Islamic Youth in Dernah) gave its pledge of allegiance to the ‘Islamic State’, establishing a stronghold of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of the ‘Islamic State’. The leader of the Jihadi group “Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Dernah” gave his pledge of allegiance on behalf of the group, swearing that he will be loyal to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi through times of hardship and times of ease. After this oath of allegiance given by the Emir the Jihadi group’s fighters marched on the streets of Dernah screaming the usual chants of the ‘Islamic State’, “Baaqiyah”; “The Islamic State will remain”.
With this militant group having previous conflicts with one of the other Islamist militant groups named “Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade”, it was only logical to ask how other groups felt of this announcement – and it seems that this announcement have split the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade with some members being in favor of the announcement and others being against it, while other groups like Ansar Al-Sharia, who are not that influential in Dernah have been neutral. So overall it seems that no other group has recognized this announcement of a Caliphate inside Libya, but knowing the ‘Islamic State’, it most likely won’t change their vision.
Allegedly a picture from Dernah showing a vehicle belonging to the Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Dernah, a vehicle named “Islamic Police”…used to patrol the city – very similar to the vehicles used by the ‘Islamic State’ to police their territories in Syria & Iraq
Interview with a member of Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Dernah
In an interview with a member of the group, Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Dernah through twitter – I ask about the oath of allegiance to ISIS and also some internal issues with the group and other movements in the region;
Question: Salam Aleikum, did you in Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Dernah give your oath of allegiance to the ‘Islamic State’ and to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and where is the official statement expressing this & and what is the situation with the other groups, have they supported you in this decision?
Answer: Yes by the grace of Allah we have our allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and the announcement of the oath of allegiance is not for us but the matter is referred to the ‘Leader of the believers’, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Ansar Al-Sharia have not given their oath of allegiance and the same goes for Abu Salim Martyrs brigade, as for the rest of the factions that are combined under the Majlis Shura, the have pledged their allegiance, and to Allah is all praise
Question: What are the issues between you and Abu Salim martyrs brigade?
Answer: The problem we had with Abu Salim is that they in the beginning of the revolution, protected the tyrant, Abdul Jalil when he came to Dernah – then they entered the committees of the interior Ministry. But now most of their leaders have repented, and now this battalion is undergoing a rough time, between those who are pleased with the ‘Caliphate’ and those who oppose it, and we are happy that they return once again [on a new platform].
It seems very much that the Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Dernah are keen on establishing a stronghold in Libya with the ‘Islamic State’ as their father, and when I asked this member whether his group are wishing to establish this Islamic Emirate in Libya only or further expand in Northern Africa, he said, “inch by inch, we will expand” – suggesting as suggested by the ‘Islamic State’ itself, that no borders will stop these men from fighting.
Benghazi & the Revolutionary council;
Like we observe and see from Dernah, Benghazi is also a city where the Jihadis and the Islamists have taken control. Ansar Al-Sharia in Benghazi and their allies formed a new group named; “The Revolutionary Council of Benghazi”. Consisting of 4-5 groups, the Islamists decided to take it upon themselves to counter the offensive that General Khalifa Haftar announced back in May called, “Operation Dignity”. An operation that was supposed to ‘eradicate’ the Islamists from the face of Benghazi only ended up strengthening them.
The group itself, the Revolutionary council of Benghazi consists of Islamists of diverse views and ideologies, yet this operation managed to unite them under the same goals. In fact they collectively released a statement assuring and promising that their goal is to establish Islamic law (Sharia) across Benghazi and maybe even further – this statement was also signed by Rafallah Sahati, a group known previously for their democratic efforts. Rafallah Sahati’s most prominent face in this council is Jalal Makhzoum.
Jalal Makhzoum is the leader of the Brigade called “Saraya Al-Farouk, not much is known about Makhzoum, but what is worthy of noting is his recent appearances together with Ansar Al-Sharia leader and the prominent Jihadi figure, Wisam Ben Hamid.
A graph illustrating the dynamics within the Islamists in Libya. The red being nearest to an Islamist ideology close to what the ‘Islamic State’ possesses.
In the video above, Jalal Makhzoum promises the people of Benghazi security and safety, while also claiming victory over Khalifa Haftar.
And there are good reasons to claim victory, the revolutionary council of Benghazi have expelled Khalifa Haftar and his ally Abu Khamada from all major bases inside Benghazi, and the only remaining base of ‘Operation Dignity’ is the one located inside Banina Airport of Benghazi.
The Islamists managed on the end of July to capture all bases inside Benghazi, and now they are desperately trying to enter Baninah and expel Khalifa Haftar and his forces from Benghazi
The map above shows the areas that the Revolutionary Council controls – and with their two main bases being in Sidi Mansour & Sidi Fredj while receiving re-inforcements from the Bu’atni district in which a special forces military base was located, Khalifa Haftar and his allies are desperately forced to besiege the city of Benghazi through airstrikes every day.
The Islamists have suffered some big losses, both in numbers and also in prominent figures.
One of the Islamic Field workers of Ansar Al-Sharia, Ahmed Al-Fatouwi was killed during battles in Baninah and another prominent figure, Salim Nebus was killed in same battles.
But nevertheless, Khalifa Haftar and his forces have led huge losses too – the leader of the Azmi Al-Barghati brigade, loyal to Haftar was killed on October the 6th. Likewise, Colonel Ahmed Sa’idhi, commander of Brigade 133 was killed on 10th of October.
The Islamists are loosely controlling the city of Benghazi – their main focus at the moment is to expel Khalifa Haftar and his allies from Benghazi, and as Jalal Makhzoum promised, then the safety and security of Benghazi will come.
The leader of Ansar Al-Sharia, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Zahawi, also suggested this.
In a video released by the Media Outlet of Ansar Al-Sharia, Shaykh Muhammad Al-Zahawi said; “After this victory Benghazi will be able to ponder and be free of worries & despair, this pure city will be of good.”
So unlike the Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Dernah, the Revolutionary Council are keen on removing Khalifa Haftar from the area and afterwards implementing their governance over Benghazi.
The question will be if the Revolutionary Council of Benghazi will try to expand their control further on, as it is very clear that Khalifa Haftar and his allies are launching airstrikes from the neighboring city of Al-Marj and Beida. These two cities and the surrounding area are heavily influenced by tribes – if the Jihadis wish to march forth, then the situation will be very similar to that of Iraq and Yemen, if the tribes are with them then their job will be eased, if they are against them it will be difficult. But what is clear now, is that this development that we see in Eastern Benghazi has paved the way for Jihadism to establish its stronghold – as many will claim that this Jihadism already existed, not many could’ve predicted that it would be Libya that would be the new hub for Jihadism.
 An Arabic word for a Leader