In Tripoli, pro-GNC militias captured an alleged member of ISIS last week. The captive, a Tunisian, detailed ISIS activities throughout Libya, implicating Murad Al-Gumati, leading to his murder by the Tripoli Rada militia (AKA special deterrence forces or – قوة الردع الخاصة). The incident follows on last week’s assault on an official of the religious affairs ministry who was accused of having ISIS affiliations. Although the Rada enjoys popularity in the capital as a keeper of law and order (such as these concepts are understood in Libya) the Salafist affiliation of Rada’s commander, Abdulraouf Kara, may have encouraged him to provoke a “black-on-black” fight between Islamist militias that are pro and anti-ISIS.
Information from the alleged ISIS member captured by the Rada militia in Tripoli indicates ISIS affiliates control 12 military camps in Sirte and have a sprawling network throughout the region that even reaches from Tunisia to Sirte (with cells in Tripoli, Misrata, and Sabratha) and possibly a coordinating hub in Turkey. However, the authenticity of this confession is dubious. Suspicion that the ISIS label is being used to legitimise killing off political rivals is growing in Tripoli and Sabratha. The council of Sabratha rejected the international report on ISIS presence in the town as grossly misinformed and inaccurate, and the mayor invited international media to visit the city and region and hold the council responsible if training camps are found. This shows that even midlevel captured ISIS operatives may know how to manipulate media fascination with the organization for recruitment and aggrandizement purposes.
In Derna, clashes between the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) and ISIS continued mainly in the Al Fatieh and Sahel (east coast) areas. However, ISIS continues to hold these districts, even releasing pictures of the city and the port from its vantage point. This means that reports that ISIS is on the verge of being evicted from Derna are false although the group has been largely confined to the suburbs. Haftar targeted a vessel near Al Khatba port, a key supply route for IS.
In Ajdabiya, tensions continue to escalate after ISIS assassinated another LNA soldier. The killings are fuelling the planned 15 December pro-Haftar uprising. However, the LNA’s airstrike campaign against the Ansar Al Sharia-affiliated Ajdabiya Revolutionary Shura Council (ARSC) militias is also fueling local divisions: threats of abduction against members of tribes supporting airstrikes have been reported. In this deteriorating environment, the Federalists are attempting to outflank Haftar by providing 16,420 state jobs to their tribal affiliates in sectors including agriculture, health, education, and even tourism to placate their loyalists and allow them to collect pay checks from state coffers.