Audio files captured from IS fighters in Libya reveal plots to assassinate rival Islamist leaders in Benghazi

Audio files captured from IS fighters in Libya reveal plots to assassinate rival Islamist leaders in Benghazi: 

In the eastern city of Dèrna, the militant group IS have been largely expelled by rival Islamists in the Shura Council of Dernawi Mujahideens (MSMD) – IS are now confined to small areas of Al-Fata’eh region and similarly small areas in Sahel Al-Sharqi. The MSMD launched a huge offensive in June this year after the IS militant group had killed a senior figure in MSMD. The offensive also lead to several findings, for instance, MSMD managed to recover millions of Libyan dinar that was stolen by the IS militant group during their presence in the city, findings of stolen medicine from the central hospital in Dèrna also took place and simiarly stolen weapons from another Libyan Islamist brigade was documented – but among the more insightful and interesting findings were the recently published audio files by MSMD, uncovering a lot of secrets about the Islamic State’s plans in Libya with regards to other rival Islamists and Jihadists in Benghazi and Dêrna.

In one of the audio files released by the MSMD, an IS militant first threatens MSMD with slaughter and claims that he possesses a Fatwa by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi that allows him to take the wives of MSMD fighters as slaves – he goes on to call them apostates and infidels. In the second part of the released file, another militant, supposedly Tunisian who claims that he is in Sirte, a stronghold of IS, threatens MSMD: “by Allah we will not come to you with nothing but slaughter oh you apostates, for us you are not Muslims so between you and us there is nothing but slaughter”.
This is not necessarily something now as its no secret that IS declares MSMD to be apostates, but nevertheless its quite insightful that Baghdadi’s connection to the Libyan IS branch might be closer than thought for him to be sending Fatwa’s to them.

Listen to the audio clip below:

A more intriguing issue is another sound-clip, which was released by MSMD affiliated figures online. A sound clip found in an IS militant’s phone who was killed by MSMD called Abu Muhammed Al-Ansari on the messaging-app Telegram.
In the audio-clip Abu Muhammad is in correspondence with another militant named Abu Hafs, reportedly situated in Benghazi – Abu Muhammad requests from Abu Hafs to assassinate the two leaders in Shura Council of Revolutionaries in Benghazi (SCBR), Wesam Ben Humeid & Jelâl Makhzum, in order to avoid the same scenario that took place in Dêrna where the MSMD managed to largely repel IS from the city. Furthermore Abu Muhammed requests that the Jihadist group Ansar Al-Sharia is overrun and to take control over it so as to make sure that Anti-IS elements don’t prevail.

Listen to the audio clip below:

A lot of outrage was also sensed from IS-supporters over the Shura Council of Benghazi commander Muhamed Drissi who in a speech, commemorating the Eid Al-Adha, angered IS fans by saying that the constitution of the Libyan state should be Sharia – thus not recognizing the self-declared IS-caliphate.
One could argue that the image IS tried before to paint regarding its relationship with the Shura Council Benghazi is fading away, ties with GNC and rifts with top Shura Council figures is destroying that vision.

Islamic State leadership in Libya

Breakdown of top-leaders of IS in Libya by @MaghrebiNote:

Barqah, the foundation for the ‘Islamic State’
In an audio message published the 10th of November 2014, a man claiming to be a leader of the ‘Mujahideen in Libya’ swore his oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and accepted him as the Caliph and new leader over Libya. That man reportedly goes by the name, Abu Habeeb Al-Jazrawi – a Saudi man who just weeks before had stepped in the streets of Derna calling the people to give their allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. He had arrived to Derna along with many other fighters and leaders in mid-September 2014 in order to establish headquarters for the ‘Islamic State’ in Eastern Libya. Along with Abu Habeeb there was also Abu Baraa Al-Azdi and Abu Nabeel Al-Anbari, Abu Nabeel is a close ally & friend of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, he is an Iraqi national and also served as the former governor of Salahudeen province in Iraq[1].
Abu Baraa Al-Azdi on the other hand is a Yemeni from the Arabian tribe of Azd and he served as a Mufti for the Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Dernah before the official announcement of pledge of allegiance[2]. Abu Baraa Al-Azdi is the religious face of the group in Dernah and has even authored books and given Fatwas for the ‘Islamic State’ in Dernah, for instance he gave a Fatwa in September 2014 on the ‘legal justification behind MSSI’s[3] swift application of the Islamic penal code’. Later on he was reportedly appointed as the Wali (governor) of Derna after the official announcement of the Bay’ah (pledge of allegiance). Another influential IS member in Derna is the Egyptian ‘judge’ that goes by the name, Abu Maryam Al-Misri.
Abu Maryam Al-Misri served as a previous judge for Ansar Al-Sharia in Dernah[4], but was later identified as IS-judge when he gave a fatwa in April 2015 where a man accused of stealing had his hand cut off in Alateek mosque in Dernah[5].
Another influential member of the Islamic State leadership, mainly in Dernah is the man known as Abdulhameed Al-Qasimi. Abdul-Hameed Al-Qasimi – a Saudi national who joined ISIS in Dernah functions as some sort of Imam or religious writer for the Islamic State in Libya. He has authored several articles on different theological & ideological issues, for instance on the Dawn Militia and how the Islamic State views them.
And most notably perhaps is how he in early 2015 authored an article on how he made his way from the Arabian peninsula to Libya to join the Islamic State, this was part of a heavy recruitment-campaign where the ‘Islamic State’ was trying to attract fighters to Libya. So it seems, besides his theological function he also has a big role in the media and propaganda of the Islamic State in Libya.


Benghazi
When the fighting in Benghazi broke out in May 2015 between Islamists and Haftar allied forces, fighters from what was known as MSSI back then streamed in many numbers to Benghazi in order to join the intensive fight against Haftar there. Not much is known about the actual leaders of IS in Benghazi as they mostly function as a fighting force more than they are engaged in governance or control – but there were for instance rumors of a Military commander named Abu Zaheer Al-Tunisi who was reportedly killed in fighting in Bo’atni district[6]. According to Libyan army officials he served as the commander of the ‘Islamic State’ in Benghazi – similarly a man that went by the name Waleed Al-Bernawi[7] was also reportedly killed in Al-Hijaaz street in Benghazi while fighting against the Libyan Dignity forces.

Most importantly, the presence of the ‘Islamic State’ in Benghazi was strengthened when a head Sharia representative of Ansar Al-Sharia in Benghazi, Abu Abdullah Al-Libi gave his pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State. Abu Abdullah Al-Libi has a lot of influence in Jihadi circles in Benghazi where he was seen as a religious face of the Jihadists in Benghazi.
Abu Abdullah Al-Libi is now functioning as a Shar’i of the ‘Islamic State’ in Benghazi and is posting articles and Fatwas defending the group – just recently Abu Abdullah released a short article regarding the Shura Council of Benghazi in which he denied that there was a link between the Shura Council and the General National Conference, which ISIS formally calls apostates – hence defending the ‘Islamic State’ and their close alliance with the Shura Council.
He is also due to release a book named “the legal validity of the pledge of allegiance to the Islamic state”.

Nawfaliyah:
The Islamic State shocked the world when it entered the city of Nawfaliyah the 8th February 2015 – it was ex-Ansar Al-Sharia members who facilitated the logistic support for these huge convoys of ISIS members to enter Nawfaliyah, and the ‘Islamic State’ also demanded the residents of the town to give pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, similar to how they did it in the eastern city of Derna and a lecture was given by one of its fighters on the ‘importance of the Caliphate’.

The initial leader of Ansar Al-Sharia in Nawfaliyah, Ghedan Saleh Al-Nawfali reportedly refused to give his oath of allegiance to ISIS, and has announced that he has left the group (Ansar Al-Sharia). On the other hand other elements of Ansar Al-Sharia in Nawfaliyah did not just facilitate the logistical support for ISIS to enter Nawfaliyah, they also gave their pledge of allegiance publicly in the city. It was at this point the ISIS also gifted some of those Ansar Al-Sharia defectors by appointing one of them, Ali Qarqaa, also known as Abu Humaam Al-Libi as the governor of Nawfaliyah while appointing another ex-Ansar Al-Sharia member, Abu Dujanah Al-Libi as the preacher/Sharia representative[8].

Tarabulus (Tripolitania), the new hotspot for the ‘Islamic State’
The Islamic State marked its presence in Wilayat Tarabulus by conducting several deadly attacks in the capital – most notably the Corinthias Hotel attack that was launched by a Sudanese and a Tunisian.

But the most significant Islamic State presence in Wilayat Tarabulus is by far in Sirte – the Islamic State managed to create a stronghold for itself by successfully attracting almost the entire Ansar Al-Sharia branch of Sirte. Huge scores of Ansar Al-Sharia members defected to the ‘Islamic State’ as one of the earliest to join the group, in fact, as early as a few weeks after the official pledge of allegiance in Libya, Islamic State affiliates were claiming online that the whole branch of Ansar Al-Sharia in Sirte had defected.
The spiritual leader of the ‘Islamic State’ in Sirte is Hassan Karamy also known as Abu Muawiyah Al-Libi. Abu Muawiyah was present on the first Daw’ah event the Islamic State held on October the 30th where they called to pledge of allegiance to ISIS where he functioned as a preacher. He later participated and ordered the first Hisbah[9] activity in Wilayat Tarabulus when a group of ‘Islamic State’ fighters destroyed a shrine on the outskirts of Sirte. Abu Muawiyah also functions as the preacher of the group today in Sirte where he is responsible for the Friday speeches in the central mosque in Sirte, Masjid Rabaat.
According to a list released by the Brigade 166 (part of Operation Sunrise, Dawn Militia allied) Usama Karamy serves as the leader of the ‘Islamic State’ in Sirte.
The Governor of the Taraabulus region is according a Libyan army spokesman a man that goes by the name, Abu Talha Al-Tunisi[10].

Fezzan, the ‘Islamic State’s’ Wilayah for deadly operations
Wilayat Fezzan has functioned as a region where ISIS conducts highly destructive attacks against oilfields where it also kidnaps the workers. Not much is known of the leaders of this region – according to Wall street journal, one of the commanders of the Al-Mabrouk oil-field attack in February 2015 was an ex-member of the Tariq Bin Ziyad brigade[11] – an AQIM affiliated brigade that was led by the now killed Abdelhamid Abou Zeyd, a well known AQ-figure who led Al-Qaeda offensives in Northern Mali.

Chart: Islamic State leadership in Libya (CLICK THE PICTURE FOR FULL RESOLUTION):

LibyaLeadersChart


[1] http://chamalpost.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/398.jpg

[2] https://themaghrebinote.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/isis-and-its-origins-in-libya-themaghrebinote.pdf

[3] Abbreviation for Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam

[4] http://www.assabahnews.tn/article/94408/ليبيا-قطع-رأس-أحد-الناشطين-المساندين-للجيش-في-درنة

[5] http://www.libyaakhbar.com/libya-news/77059.html

[6] http://www.arrakmia.com/196455/مقتل-أبو-زهير-التونسي-أحد-قادة-داعش-في-ب/

[7] http://www.akhbarlibya24.net/2015/02/08/مصدر-عسكري-ينفي-قتل-وليد-البرناوي/

[8] http://www.alwasat.ly/ar/news/libya/60518/

[9] Islamic Police, the ’Islamic State’s’ police patrol

[10] http://www.tunisia-live.net/2015/02/13/libyan-army-spokesperson-to-assarih-tunisian-is-leader-of-isis-in-tripoli/

[11] http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-gained-strength-in-libya-by-co-opting-local-jihadists-1424217492?cb=logged0.7932960875332355

The Islamic State in Libya, between a Jihadi movement and a Caliphate

The Islamic State in Libya, between a Jihadi movement and a Caliphate
The Islamic State in Libya has drawn more and more attention to itself over the last few weeks and months. First in January when it executed two Tunisian journalists in Libya, then the Coptic massacre of 21 Egyptians in late February and then most recently at the Tunisian museum attack in Bardo where the perpetrators of the attack allegedly were trained in Libya.

Libya is a rare case for ISIS, very much different from its model in Iraq and Syria – in Libya ISIS has found itself to be the first Jihadi organization that starts from practically having no territory and then having to build itself and expand its territory – all this, not by running an AQ styled long term movement nor by means of simple Da’wah (preaching) activities to win the hearts of the people, but under the image of being an actual Islamic State.

So the question is, how has IS tried to deal with this and how has it tried to implement its strategy in Libya with the restricted authority it has?

Relationships
ISIS is not capable of using as risky behaviour as it has in Syria or Iraq, the group has very little authority in the land and it faces much stronger fighting groups in the region that challenge it. As it sometimes becomes clear that ISIS acts very irrational and does things that are strategically illogical in order to maintain its image – although what can be seen in Libya is actually quite exceptional from the group. ISIS has been very cautious in making enemies, of course they are not BFF’s with all factions in Libya but in comparison to Syria they maintain a fairly strategic relationship with other factions.

If we take the example of the Shura Council in Benghazi, ISIS probably has the best of relations with this council more than any other faction in Libya, whether Islamists or Jihadis.
ISIS fights alongside the Shura Council in Benghazi against Haftar allied forces and in fact maintains a good relationship with the leaders of the council such as Wisam Ben Hamid and Shaykh Jalal Makhzoum. In fact just recently, ISIS affiliated social media accounts were paying commemorative tributes to the fallen Shura Council commander and Emir of the Shuhada Al-Bareqah Brigade, Buka Al-Araibi.

On the other hand ISIS is having a lot of beef with other factions such as the Shura Council of Derna and the Dawn Militia. The first clashes were seen this month, March 2015 where Dawn Militia allied brigades mainly from Misurata clashed with ISIS in Sirte outskirts and Nawfaliyah. ISIS already had called Dawn Militia apostates and released several unofficial statements branding them as deviant and misguided fighters, but Misurata fighters did not attack the Islamic State in Sirte, region after ISIS took over both Sirte city and Nawfaliyah, out of fear that it would case harm upon the civilians, as ISIS are known for destructive military techniques – but now the groups are still fighting, although the clashes are not as intensive as how they began.

CAPvGdjVAAAoCYp

Brigade 166 (Operation Sunrise, Dawn Militia allied forces) on frontlines against ISIS in Sirte, Libya
This mixed approach towards other groups is all in bid to try and show the effectiveness of its authority, to paint the situation similar to that of Syria where there are only two sides, those with ISIS and those against it. It was not long ago that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi said in an audio statement that “the organizations in Libya are nullified”, meaning that only the “Caliphate” and its authority is legitimate and all other groups should give pledge of allegiance. Its tarnishing the image of ISIS that the command of their leader is having little to no effect on the ground as no organization in Libya except elements of Ansar Al-Sharia have given pledge of allegiance.

Balancing between governance and militant activity
The limited power and authority ISIS has limits the group in their struggle to show themselves as a powerful Caliphate that “governs the affairs of the Ummah[1]” – and what is clear is that wherever ISIS has this sort of restriction it tries to compensate by doing deadly attacks that spill lots of blood. The Tripoli attack on Corinthians Hotel testifies to this tactic, so does the Al-Qubbah suicide bombings that left 47 Libyans killed. ISIS did not win over many of its followers by being a mainstream Jihadi organization that replicates Al-Qaeda – rather it stands out because it portrays itself as being an actual state, beyond a militia or Jihadi organization – so for it to keep its followers intact it must maintain this image.

The announcements of expanding into Libya and Egypt or Nigeria for that sake were very risky for ISIS when it comes to its support-base. These expansions put ISIS in a position where now it has to cater to its image and protect its reputation in more than two countries – of course it also has given ISIS advantages because it creates that sense of euphoria in the minds of its supporters – and feeds them this idea that the Caliphate is actually expanding to another continent.

MAPDARNAHDISTRICTUPDATE

Territorial Map of Derna, Libya
On the other hand ISIS has capitalized of its stronghold Derna where it releases pictures and videos very often – many of them resemble those that we see from Syria and Iraq, for instance burnings of cigarettes or musical instruments. These events are vital for ISIS because for this group governance is key and it thrives off showing these images to once again, keep away any talks of the group simply being a Jihadi movement.

[1] Islamic Nation

Follow me on twitter: @MaghrebiNote

Translation of the statement by Shura Council of #Derna on the Al-Qubbah bombings done by ISIS

Translated by: @TheMaghrebiNote
“All Praise is due to Allah who has forbidden injustice for himself and has made it forbidden among the people, to precede….

This is condolences & disownment…

Condolences to those Muslims who were killed unjustly in the Al-Qubbah bombings at the hands of ISIS, and we ask Allah to bestow his mercy upon them, as we ask Allah to grant patience to their people upon this great grief and that he the Almighty pays them a great reward without reckoning. As we hope from Allah that they do not become afflicted with bad thoughts towards the Mujahideen and they they do not respond to the campaigns of sedition from the TV Channels, for Indeed by Allah we did not unite, except to repel the aggression from the Muslims and to defend the oppressed.

And as we affirm our disownment from Haftar and his supporters and whoever was killed among them in these bombings – and disownment from Sisi and his soldiers in Egypt, who spread corruption upon the earth as they terrorised the innocent people in Libya and Egypt with their declaration of a heavy war against Islam and Muslims. And Indeed we will not stand by idly in front of the barbaric aggressions against innocent Muslims, and we vow them a punishment from Allah or in the hands of the Mujahideen.

And then disownment from the one who does not differentiate between Muslims and the followers of the criminal Haftar. For indeed this is not Jihad in the way Allah prescribed for the establishment of the Religion and the repelling of the evil of the disbelievers upon the Muslims – and truly this inability of differentiation between them caused great devastation. We ask them to repent to Allah from this – as we also call upon the principle of establishing Allah’s law upon oneself firstly, before establishing it upon others. For Indeed the blood of the Muslims spilled in the Qubbah bombings does not became lawful by the killing of the criminals, for leaving a thousand disbelievers is better than a injury from the Muslim blood unjustly. For indeed the blood of the Muslims has great significance in the sight of Allah.

And whoever dares this has caused upon himself a great warning, a promise that Allah gave when he said:

“Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment,” – Surah Maidah verse 33:”

Translation of Statement regarding the Egyptian Aerial bombing of the city of Derna by Shura Council of Derna

Translated by @TheMaghrebiNote

“Today, the city of Derna has become catastrophic due to the targeting of innocent people in several neighbourhoods of Derna from the Egyptian Airforce that resulted in the deaths of many innocent children and innocent women in their homes and a lot of wounded, some with serious & critical injuries.

We, the Shura Council of the Mujahideen in Derna and its suburbs express our condolences and sympathy with those families of the Martyrs, and we ask Allah the lord to keep them patient and grant them comfort, and we wish for them a quick recovery to those wounded in this Egyptian Barbaric aggression.

As we also see that these current events are nothing except another pretext and cover, in order to justify external aggression on the country by those who follow the Criminal Hafar and the Egyptian intelligence – and also particularly the intention of this Egyptian aggression against Derna was declared long ago where the Egyptian Airforce previously targeted the city many times under the so called ‘Operation Dignity’, as well as the big media incitement by the Egyptian media on the city of Dernah.

And we all know that we in the Shura Council of Mujahideen in Derna and its suburbs was not founded except to protect the innocent and to repel aggression against them regardless of their nationality.

And we also assure our people in Egypt that the Children of Egyptian workers are in safety and hospitality as they also entrusted this situation decades ago

And lastly: We say to the criminal Sisi and his follower, the war criminal Haftar – that the blood of our children and women will not be cheap, and there will be a harsh and painful response, in the right time and place.

And Allah is predominant over all his affairs, but most people are unaware.“

ISIS/IS enters the town of Nawfaliyah in Sirte district of #Libya

On Sunday the 8th February 2015, a huge convoy of ‘Islamic State’ fighters entered the town of Nawfaliyah located in the Sirte district of Libya. Pictures surfaced around social media of a large ‘Islamic State’ parade through the city with black flags and masked fighters. B9WcWcaCMAAoaxcB9WcWy0CcAQBVMM One of the first set of images that surfaced the internet showing ‘Islamic Stater’ fighters entering the city

There are several reports from the town that suggest it was ex-Ansar Al-Sharia members who facilitated the logistic support for these huge convoys of ISIS members to enter Nawfaliyah, and the ‘Islamic State’ also demanded the residents of the town to give pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, similar to how they did it in the eastern city of Derna and a lecture was given by one of its fighters on the ‘importance of the Caliphate’.

The initial leader of Ansar Al-Sharia in Nawfaliyah, Ghedan Saleh Al-Nawfali reportedly refused to give his oath of allegiance to ISIS, and has announced that he has left the group (Ansar Al-Sharia).

On the other hand other elements of Ansar Al-Sharia in Nawfaliyah did not just facilitate the logistical support for ISIS to enter Nawfaliyah, they also gave their pledge of allegiance publicly in the city. It was not a secret that mainly elements from Ansar Al-Sharia in Sirte had given pledge of allegiance to the ‘Islamic State’ quite a while ago, but this is the first time we see disputes arising due to this issue.

The ‘Islamic State’ in Libya and elements of Ansar Al-Sharia in Libya had long been cooperating, both in the city of Benghazi in fighting against Haftar but also in Derna. Although the ‘Islamic State’ was pressuring especially those Ansar Al-Sharia elements that were sympathetic towards the ‘Islamic State’ to join the ranks of IS, this is the first time that we have seen demands being made from the ‘Islamic State’ and it is clear that the pressure is growing on especially those Ansar Al-Sharia elements that perhaps don’t want to join the ‘Islamic State’, and therefore we might see incidents like these where even top members like Ghedan Saleh defecting from Ansar Al-Sharia.

Other reports are also coming from the city of clashes between the ‘Islamic State’ and forces belonging to the Sunrise Military Operation (allied to Dawn Militia), although no confirmation of these clashes and conflicting reports on the casualties.

The ‘Islamic State’ also released a video from Nawfaliyah, by a media outlet called “Al-Bashaer Media”…an outlet that 2 weeks ago published videos from a protest with black flags and banners, this could well again imply that this is/was a stronghold of Ansar Al-Sharia: