IS is continuing to make small but highly significant gains in central Libya. Having taken the town of Suwawa last week, this week saw it capture Wushka, 100 km to the west of Sirte, entering the town without any resistance. This is particularly worrying news for Misrata. Wushka is only about 40 km from Abu Ghrayn, which is considered as Misrata’s eastern gate. Misrata fears therefore that IS is edging ever closer and that the militant group is intent on forcing some sort of confrontation with it.
Misrata is also acutely concerned that IS will strike inside the town. Although Misrata maintains that last week’s explosion at the Air Force Academy was an accident, IS has since claimed responsibility for the blast. IS also threatened that it was intending to blow up fuel depots in Misrata and to attack the town’s port and airport. Although it is not clear whether IS has the capacity to carry out such attacks, Misrata fears the presence of sleeper cells inside the town that might be mobilised to act. It fears, too, that IS might benefit from those tribes and areas surrounding Misrata that are hostile to it. Tawergha, Bani Walid and other nearby areas all have their own particular antagonisms with Misrata and it is not inconceivable that they may help facilitate an IS attack by providing logistical support.
In a video posted on Twitter this week IS acknowledged its losses in Derna, but vowed to avenge its fighters there. As such further suicide bombings should be expected.