- ISIS’s Libyan branch has regenerated after two years of regrouping near the Tunisian border.
- The militants have waged over a dozen attacks against militia groups, security forces, and oil facilities, posing a threat to the countries crude oil supply to Europe.
- The group’s resurgence largely follows the 2017 predictions of terrorism analysts, some of whom theorized that ISIS would try to destabilize surrounding countries by unleashing a mass migration from Libya.
The Islamic State has reared its ugly head in Libya once more, conducting over a dozen attacks, drawing recruits, and threatening Libya’s oil production.
The terrorist group re-emerged in the country in early 2018, two years after the Libyan National Army, backed by U.S. airstrikes, drove ISIS out of their stronghold in the town of Sirte. The militants regrouped in remote desert hideouts and, buoyed by funds and taxes stolen from Sirte’s treasury, have waged a series of attacks that not only threatens to disrupt the flow of oil from one of Africa’s richest oil reserves, but could also destroy the country’s fragile potential for recovery from civil war. (RELATED: Former Anti-Nuclear Peace Activist Sentenced For Plotting ISIS-Inspired Attacks)
The terrorist group has claimed responsibility for attacks on rival militia groups, Libyan security forces, and the May bombing of the headquarters of the Libyan election commission. They also attacked Libya’s state oil company with gunmen and suicide bombers last week, killing two employees.
“They use these attacks to show they’re back in business, to rebrand themselves, to draw recruits,” Frederic Wehrey, a Libya expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Wall Street Journal. “The best recruiter for the Islamic State in Libya is political turmoil, political infighting. When Libya is divided, that gives room for the Islamic State to grow.”
While the attack on the state oil company did not disrupt oil production, it did temporarily drive up oil prices worldwide and also deepened concerns that potential supply disruptions in Libya would add to those already happening in Venezuela and Iran. Given the fact that Libya provides high quality crude oil to European countries, the country’s oil facilities are all the more appealing to ISIS as potential targets. ISIS has, in fact, said as much.
“We stress that the oil fields supporting the Crusaders and their projects in Libya are legitimate targets for the mujahedeen,” an ISIS communiqué concerning the attack on the state oil company read.
ISIS’ resurgence in the region is anything but unexpected, given analysts’ observations from as early as 2017 that the militants were regrouping in towns along the Tunisian border. Their attacks on Libya’s oil facilities lend further credence to the 2017 prediction of Joseph Fallon, Islamic Extremism expert and U.K. Defense Forum research associate, who said that ISIS would likely take advantage of the chaos in Libya to carry out such attacks.
Fallon predicted that ISIS would use the attacks on the oil facilities and ports “to unleash a mass migration of people to destabilize neighboring countries and Europe,” according to Fox News.
While ISIS’ new series of attacks has aided the militants’ recruitment efforts, so too has their resources stolen from Sirte and their more recent source of funds from a protection racket for human traffickers. ISIS’ resources in the region mean that they can afford to pay their recruits better than local militias and can pay theirs and, as long as Libya’s security forces are locked in the chaos of civil war, ISIS’ swelling ranks can operate in the country with relative impunity.
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