Last week media sources reported that Italian authorities suspect that ISIS and other jihadi networks in Libya are in cahoots with the Italian Mafia and illegal fuel smuggling operations. According to La Republica, the police had found substantial amounts of Libyan and Syrian crude that “shouldn’t have been there” and were greater than some local refineries’ inventories. Despite a lack of concrete evidence of connection between the mafia and extremist groups, rumors circulate about cooperation in the illicit economy via fuel and drug smuggling in the Sahara Desert.
Such beliefs run against factual evidence that ISIS has been relatively unsuccessful in financing itself through illicit trade in Libya. Instead, as explained in Eye on ISIS analysis “Who Funds ISIS in Libya?,” ISIS failed to expand its source of revenue beyond basic taxing systems and into more lucrative sector of narcotics, antiquities, and human trafficking. As the group looses its last footholds of territorial control, their capacity to coerce local citizens to pay taxes deteriorates. It follows that they will need to adapt to new systems of revenue to survive, but remains to be seen if this will include illicit trade.
GNA- aligned al-Bunyan al-Marsus forces continue to conduct anti-ISIS reconnaissance missions in Abu Hadi area, south of Sirte. The looting of power cables and other infrastructure continues too as criminal networks take advantage of the conflict in the city.