Islamic State (ISIS) militants attacked the Libyan National Army (LNA)-controlled al-Fogha checkpoint near Jufra this morning, killing at least nine soldiers and two civilians. According to LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari, the eleven victims were beheaded and many others were left injured. The IS Amaq news agency released a statement this morning claiming the incident and announcing that 21 members of “Haftar’s militias” had been killed or injured.
The Times of London reports that according to Libyan officials, there are still almost 1,000 IS members across the country. Although the total number of ISIS affiliates in Libya is down to one 6th of what it once was, in the absence of a centralized authority extremist groups have ample opportunity to reinforce positions in Libya and use the country as a launching point for terror attacks abroad.
The attacks today follow in the wake of Misratan-led al-Bunyan al- Marsus (BM) forces’ announcement that they had detected ISIS activity on the road between Sirte and Jufra near the al-Load agricultural project and had raised their ant-ISIS alert level in response. It was reported that on 22 July, BM forces sent 20 vehicles to Sabaa and established checkpoints at the west and east of the city in anticipation of an impending Islamic State attack on Sirte from the south and the east. On 26 July, they claimed to have detected more ISIS movements and on 27 July, local sources claimed that two unidentified airstrikes targeted ISIS positions on the road.
In the context of heightened tensions between BM and LNA-aligned forces, on 23 July the spokesperson for the GNA’s forces, Brigadier Mohammed al-Ghosri, denied rumours that BM requested military support from the LNA in the fight against IS. Ghosri postulated that the LNA’s position in Jufra may actually facilitate the presence and movement of ISIS south of Sirte. This is the second ISIS attack on LNA forces this summer following the attempted suicide bombing on Sidra gate checkpoint on 20 June. While the LNA was able to prevent the attack in June; today’s events demonstrate the LNA’s weakness in areas outside of their central control.