Using Videos from Sirte for Dawa 

The Islamic State continues to control Sirte, ineluctably strengthening its grip on the coastal city over time as no coherent forces oppose it. As no forces are opposing its consolidation and expansion, it is quite likely to overflow into the strategic oil heartland nearby. The recent spotlight on ISIS in Libya by international media, with not so subtle hints of the possibility of Sirte becoming the future capital of the group if it loses ground in Iraq and Syria, has coincided with reports of unusual movements around the Ouagadougou Conference Complex, the main HQ of ISIS in the city. Rumors are rife throughout Sirte and local social media regarding the arrival of key ISIS personalities from Iraq. Although nothing is yet confirmed, the recent professional video material published depicting law and order in Sirte, amongst them the first video made by an ‘official’ ISIS media agency (AMAQ), suggests that special support from HQ may have indeed arrived. The AMAQ video is titled ‘Life in Sirte’ showing regular traffic and various normal scenes of shopping and social activities in the city.

Another video, titled ‘Islamic Police in Sirte’ was also released showing 12 young men in balaclavas, long-robed uniforms carrying rifles, driving several vans and Toyota land cruisers, with flashing lights in the city, and managing traffic. The propaganda videos are used by the group to portray itself as disciplined, ordered and in control. They serve as a message to “supporters” to migrate to Sirte. IS also released photos of the Sirte Sharia Court building, and pictures of its ‘Hisbah’ (Local police) demolishing graves allegedly used by some locals as Shrines of worship.

In Tripoli, a Sufi Zawiya (shrine) was bombed in the city center area of Abu Meshmasha in the late hours of Monday 21 December. While no claim has yet been made for the incident it is likely that IS are behind the attack. However other Salafists, hostile to IS, could also be the culprits. Yet this is less likely as the key Tripoli militias combatting ISIS, such as the special deterrence forces (Rada) led by a prominent anti-IS Salafist, Abdurraouf Kara, are unlikely to be responsible as they are trying to court public support among moderates in Tripoli.