Further military intervention in Libya has been a serious consideration in Washington as the U.S. ramps up it's fight against ISIS.Read More
It might be facing a string of defeats in its core territories, but in Libya ISIS continues to advance.Read More
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With ISIS suffering one of its largest defeats to date during the YPG’s Tel Abyad offensive, many feared the terrorist group would mount a deadly counterattack in response. Unfortunately these fears were well founded, and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, ISIS struck back hard, not just in their strongholds of Syria and Iraq, but also on a global scale against a number of soft targets.
Kobane, Syria – 300+ dead
The largest attack during ISIS’s Ramadan offensive was against the Kurdish city of Kobane. On June 25, ISIS fighters reappeared in the centre of the city, detonating a suicide car bomb (SVBIED) near the border gate with Turkey and then spreading throughout the city, massacring civilians as they went. While the exact number of fighters is unknown, they likely numbered between 50 and 100 based on YPG reports. Indeed it took days of fighting and several coalition airstrikes to fully secure the city once more.
When the dust had settled more than 300 people, mostly civilians, lay dead and people were left wondering where the fighters came from. One line of thought is that they crossed into Syria from Turkey, with some pro-Kurdish sources alleging that this was facilitated by the Turkish Government. The other line of thought is that the fighters infiltrated into YPG-controlled territory from Jarabulus disguised as allied FSA troops.
Hasakah, Syria – 100+ dead
Concurrent to their attack on Kobane, ISIS also made a massive push into the city of Hasakah in north-eastern Syria. This city is jointly controlled by the YPG and the Assad regime, however the ISIS attacks were mainly concentrated against the regime-held south of the city. There, the terrorist group pushed deep into the city, forcing regime-aligned NDF units to retreat, ceding territory to the YPG.
Reacting to these losses, the Syrian Government deployed elite troops to the city in order to stabilize the front. These deployments were partially successful, however as of right now fighting is ongoing and ISIS is continuing to advance slowly in several neighbourhoods.
Sousse, Tunisia – 38 dead
One day later, ISIS horrified the world with an attack in the city of Sousse, Tunisia targeting foreign tourists. A lone ISIS gunman approached the Riu Imperial Marhaba Resort from the beach, opening fire on the mostly British tourists who were sunbathing there. Over the course of several minutes of carnage, the gunman managed to kill 38 people, before he himself was killed by the police. Several days after the attack it was also revealed that the gunman had trained in Libya alongside fellow ISIS fighters who attacked the Bardo Museum in Tunis earlier in the year.
Kuwait – 27 dead On the same day, at roughly the same time, ISIS attacked yet another soft target. This time the group attacked the Imam Sadiq Mosque in Kuwait City, packed with up to 2000 worshippers during Friday prayers. An ISIS suicide bomber attacked the Shia mosque with explosives, killing himself and 27 other people, including nationals from Iran and India. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was part of their campaign against Shiite Muslims.
Sinai, Egypt – 100+ dead
Finally on June 1, ISIS’s Egyptian affiliate ‘Wiliyaat Sinai’ (The Province of Sinai) conducted a large-scale and complex against the Egyptian Army. Primarily, a group of tens of fighters attacked the town of Sheikh Zuweid, close to the border with Israel and Gaza, detonating car bombs against military checkpoints before besieging the town’s police HQ. In addition, separate groups of fighters carried out attacks in the nearby city of Rafah.
The Egyptian Government response was slowed by IEDs, however by evening their airpower and ground forced had forced ISIS out of Sheikh Zuweid, at a very heavy cost. Following the fighting, the Egyptian Government claimed to have killed more than 100 ISIS fighters, a claim it backed up with gory photos of their bodies. This being said, the total death toll from this attack is still unclear, with no reliable estimates of the civilian and military casualties caused by ISIS.
By Lucas Theriault Presented with this new information, analysts are scrambling to determine what this means and news agencies are trying to explain the new turn of events. This particular analysis will look at a little bit of background for the situation, examine the Libyan wing of the Islamic State, and will answer what this means for the region (including why the Islamic State is praying for Western Intervention).The Islamic State shocked the world this past week with the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians, drawing attention to their growing presence in Libya. The public conscious imaged the Islamic State as the territory held by the rebel group ISIS in Syria and not as part of some broader movement.
After the Libyan Civil war, tensions between opposing political blocs in the government led to the establishment of two separate governments in either side of the country and a civil war. The Tobruk-based secular government controls most of the west of the country and is associated with Operation Dignity while the Islamist government out of Tripoli is associated with Operation Libyan Dawn and controls the east. The fighting was intense at the end of 2014, but there has been essentially no major violence between the parties in 2015 and they’ve agreed to a ceasefire. Nevertheless, the two governments still remain separate and talks to form a unity government are not guaranteed to succeed.
This instability and lack of unity, cited by the Brookings Institute as conditions ISIS feeds off of, allowed for the expansion of the Islamic State into Libya. ISIS-linked militants bloodlessly took the Egyptian-bordering town of Derna in October of 2014 and declared Allegiance to the Islamic State. They remained quiet until an attack on the five-star Corinthia Hotel, which has kicked off their campaign in Libya. In this past month, they have taken control of key towns, government buildings, and an oil field around the city of Sirte.
While the land is roughly evenly split, in terms of military capabilities, the pro-Government faction has the upper hand. This is due to the fact that they retained the loyalty of the Libyan Air Force, which they have used to cripple airports in the west of country, as well as beat back Islamic extremists closer to home. However, this alone is likely to not be enough for them to retake the rest of the country, given that experience from Syria and the earlier Coalition air campaign in Libya has shown limited air strikes do little to degrade unconventional, infantry forces.
Now that we know both the history of this new Libya Civil War, its major factions and how the battlelines have been drawn out, question remains: where to from here? In the final installment of this three part series we will look as the possible developments in the country, and the regional consequences and fallout from a further collapse in the country.
Part 1 of a 3 part series on the new civil war in Libya.
By Michael Cruickshank
In 2011 Libya was host to the first civil war brought on by the Arab Spring. 6 months and close to 30,000 lives later the former dictator of the country, Muammar Gaddafi was disposed, and then killed in the final days of the war. While the conflict was bloody, it served as a pale shadow of the much larger conflict that began to bloom in Syria following its conclusion.
Now in late 2014, we are faced with a second flare up of violence within the country and many are already beginning to call it a “Second Civil War” for the country. With thousands already dead, and at least 3 major factions at play, there is little change for the situation to improve in the near-term. But what went wrong in the last 3 years that brought about this conflict?
To understand the current conflict within Libya, a wider look needs to be give to the major forces within the region…
In the wake of the the Arab Spring, 3 rough political factions emerged in the Middle East. These were the Statist establishment, moderate Islamists, and extremist Islamists. While this is a broad simplification of the very messy politics going on in the region, it would be fair to say that over the course of 2011 and into 2012 the main winners from the upheavals of the Arab Spring were moderate Islamists. After the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Egypt, and similarly aligned governments took power in Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere, things were looking up for this faction.
However, than the tides began to change. For a number of reasons, not limited to these movements ability to form effective consensus governments, their popularity began to rapidly decline. The old guard military/secular establishment began to fight back politically and militarily, holding a coup in Egypt, and taking the upper hand in the conflict in Syria. This in many cases drove the increasingly marginalized moderate Islamists to join extremist movements like Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Similarly, Libya, site of some of the first armed clashes of the Arab Spring has found itself once again following this tide of history. Over the last year, the same backlash against moderate Islamist government has played out, and has set the scene for massive internal division, and
This internal division in Libya manifested itself in the following way over the course of the last year.
- In January this year, an Islamist government called the General National Congress (GNC) was elected to power in Tripoli.
- Over the course of the next few months, the security situation in Libya dramatically deteriorated, with radical Islamist groups allegedly being funded by the GNC. Several high profile assassinations and kidnappings were blamed on such groups.
- In May Khalifa Haftar, a western-educated general in the Libyan Army declared a new military campaign called “Operation Dignity” against Islamist forces. Many units within the armed forces rallied to his call and began to be engaged in heavy fighting with Islamist groups within the eastern city of Benghazi.
- As part of Operation Dignity, Haftar-aligned forces took control of Tripoli and disbanded the GNC, calling snap elections.
- These elections resulted in a large anti-Islamist groundswell, which caused their numbers to be massively reduced in the new provisional government.
- In response to this electoral defeat, in July armed Islamist militias from Misrata launched “Operation Dawn”, a military campaign which resulted in them retaking the capital Tripoli after more than a month of devastating fighting around Tripoli’s main airport.
- Operation Dawn then reinstated the GNC declaring the previous government void.
- In October Haftar-backed Operation Dignity forces in Benghazi step up their campaign against Islamists in and around Benghazi, and see some success clearing the central portion of the city.
- Around the same time, Islamist groups based in the city of Derna declared their allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), calling themselves Wilayat Libya.
- Finally, in November, Operation Dignity forces conducted air strikes against targets in Tripoli, signalling the start of an all-out war between the GNC and General Haftar’s forces.
Now in December 2014 the country has split into at least 3 warring groups, and neighbouring countries are beginning to be dragged into the fight. With seemingly intractable ideological differences and a country away with weapons, the stage is set for further deterioration into bloodshed and violence.
Stay with Conflict News for the next in this three part on the 2nd Libyan Civil War, where we analyse the various factions involved in the war, and where the battle lines have currently been drawn….