‘Islamic State’ in Libya repeats same media-manoeuvre from Syria & Iraq

Article written by @TheMaghrebiNote

The ‘Islamic State’ as it is known has a base in Libya, most notably in the city of Dernah where the former Majlis Shabab Al-Islam fi Dernah is now operating under its name.

The Islamic State’s effort to appear as a governing authority
Something that often goes unnoticed is how the ‘Islamic State’ uses its media skills in Libya, what are their goals and how are they trying to achieve them?
One thing that becomes noticeable and often resembles how the ‘Islamic State’ acted in Syria is their attempt at showing themselves as a governing power and not just a militancy.
And example of this is a picture series released by the ‘Islamic State’ January the 12th and January the 16th 2015. In the first release, the ‘Islamic State’ shows pictures of men patrolling in what they refer to as “Wilayat, Tarabalus”, now after asking a resident of Sirte, the streets and markets resemble exactly those in Sirte – these pictures however serve as a an important part in the ‘Islamic State’ media tactics, these are directly aimed at its current hardcore supporters but also those who are at the verge of sympathizing with them.
You would often see in Syria how ISIS back then would release images and videos of them governing, giving aid, applying the Islamic penal code ect. – all that played into their hands and was a huge magnet in terms of foreign recruits and it was arguably the most vital part of ISIS’ recruitment success in Syria.

A picture allegedly showing ‘Islamic State’ office for “Police forces” situated in Dernah

And in another release in January the 16th, the ‘Islamic State’ shows pictures of their fighters destroying a Shrine – this is an interesting scenario because from Iraq and Syria we have seen that the ‘Islamic State’ almost collectively in all of their captures of cities have destroyed shrines and other alike symbols, so for them this is a symbolic event that they can repeat the same actions in Libya.
What is worth noticing in both releases is that the ‘Islamic State’ uses the wording “Rijaal Hisbah” to describe both the campaign of patrolling in the markets of Sirte but also destruction of the Shrine – the title means Men of the Hisba Force, in Islamic teaching they are are groups of men that roam the streets of an Islamic governorate to guard the safety of the people and to command the people towards the good.
For the ‘Islamic State’ to use such a term is interesting because in reality the ‘Islamic State’ does not control Sirte although it was a stronghold of Ansar Al-Sharia militants, many of whom now have joined the ‘Islamic State’ and thus allowing them to have a base in the city.
But despite this the ‘Islamic State’ uses this term because to its supporters it shows again that it has those governing aspects in Libya, although it is worth noting the strength of the ‘Islamic State’ in terms of governing in Libya is minimal, almost non-existing, even in the city of Dernah where they have their strongest presence, the ‘Islamic State’ shares power with other more powerful groups like Abu Slim Martyrs brigade & Libyan Islamic Army.

Islamic State’s attitude towards other Islamist groups incl. Jihadis
And while we speak about Dernah, the ‘Islamic State’s’ approach towards other groups, especially the Shura Council of Dernah[1] is very interesting. The ‘Islamic State’ has conducted several operations in cooperation with the Shura Council but the ‘Islamic State’ has chosen not to mention anyone but themselves.
In a statement released summarizing an attack on Labraq Military Airport conducted by the Shura Council of Dernah in cooperation IS militants, the statement released by the Shura Council mentions the attack was done in cooperation with ‘another group’ without mentioning the ‘Islamic State’ explicitly, while the ‘Islamic State’ only mentions itself[2].
This is an important part of the ‘Islamic State’s’ media-campaign as they & their supporters regard themselves as an actual Caliphate…that means there is no room for groups or organizations or councils to exist in the same land as the ‘Islamic State’ has presence, but as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi said in his speech, “And even if the disbelievers dislike it”, it is incumbent upon those groups in Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Sinai ect. to join the ‘Islamic State’.
So it would be a great sign of weakness to its supporters that after Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi demanded oaths of allegiances from other groups that in fact the ‘Islamic State’s’ authority is limited for these groups to be able to deny giving their pledges.

Statement by the ‘Islamic State’ on the Labraq Military Airport attack

But besides this what is also worth noting is that strategically the ‘Islamic State’ does not want to really make enemies with these groups like the Abu Slim Martyrs Brigade or Feb. 17th Brigade as they are much more powerful. Similar to the situation in Syria pre-infighting era the Islamic State often did cooperative attacks with Jabhat Al-Nusra and even alike Islamist groups, of course that changed drastically because in the post-infighting era in Syria it became beneficial and strategically smart for the ‘Islamic State’ to show themselves as ‘the only guided ones’.

Recruitment efforts & methods
Something that is very important to remember when one talks about the ‘Islamic State’ is their recruitment methods. Of course a big part of their recruitment efforts are based in the media area, but specifically the Islamic State is known for videos that are very direct and target specific audiences. For example videos with French speakers calling Frenchmen to make Hijra[3] or Britons calling their fellow countrymen to also make their way to the ‘Islamic State’. The ‘Islamic State’ in Libya has not released many videos but they have in fact released a video that falls under this category.
On January the 20th the ‘Islamic State’ released a video featuring two Tuareg fighters speaking Berber language while calling on youth in the region of Azawad (Northern Mali) to make their way towards the ‘Islamic State’ in Libya while also demanding Jihadi groups in the region of Islamic Maghreb to give their pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi including those in Mali[4].
This is symbolic in several ways; first of all it is a way for the ‘Islamic State’ in Libya to show themselves not just as an established brand among Libyans, but also beyond Libyans.
Something that the ‘Islamic State’ in Syria and Iraq often brags about is that they have fighters from all types of countries. On the other hand the fact that the ‘Islamic State’ released this video from Sirte[5] in their Wiliyat Tarabalus is also important to note because its a way for them to “debunk” the claim that they only exist in Dernah, of course as mentioned this is in the sight of their supporters.

The ‘Islamic State’ also has made efforts to recruit via. Social media – as we saw in Syria scores of foreign fighters on twitter linking to their ask.fm for those who wanted to ask questions on how to reach to Syria or a short Kik referral. Now of course that was in an unmatchable size but nevertheless the ‘Islamic State’ in Libya does have twitter accounts of members from the group and besides this, ‘Islamic State’ members have released a short guide for those living in Tunisia on how to reach the ‘Islamic State’ in Dernah.

There is also a blog run by one of the ‘Islamic State’ fighters in Libya posting regular updates on the situation in Dernah and as recent as last week there was spreading an article allegedly written on a story about a one of the ‘Islamic State’ supporters who joined the ‘Islamic State’ in Libya, all the way from the Arabian Peninsula.
A map released by ‘Islamic State’ members in Libya showing the three official regions of the IS branch in Libya

So the ‘Islamic state’ is using the power of social media to expand their reach and to recruit and no doubt just like in Syria using the media to propagate their message to their supporters and to recruit – and most importantly the ‘Islamic State’ is doing all it can to deliver a strong message to its supporters on its authority in terms of both military and governance.

[1] Shura Council of Dernah, a newly formed Shura Council consisting of three Major groups in Dernah; Abu Slim Martyrs Brigade, Ansar Al-Sharia Dernah & Libyan Islamic Army

[2] https://twitter.com/MaghrebiNote/status/556181027031642112

[3] Islamic term for emigrating if one is not able to practice his religion in a non-Islamic state

[4] English Translation of the video: https://themaghrebinote.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/translation-of-new-is-video-featuring-two-tuareg-fighters-in-tripoli/

[5] The video is filmed in what the ’Islamic State’ refer to as ”Wiliyat Tarabalus” (Tropolitania), as their precense in this area is shrinked to Sirte and sleeper cells in Tripoli its most likely Sirte this video was filmed in taking that into account and also almost all releases from ”Wiliyat Tarabalus” have been conducted in Sirte


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s