On 22 September, the US conducted an airstrike on an ISIS camp in the desert valleys about 150 miles south-east of Sirte, reportedly killing 17 ISIS fighters and destroying 3 vehicles. US Africa Command (Africom) said the strikes were carried out by armed Reaper drones flying from a base in Sicily. Reda Eissa, a spokesman for the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Misrata-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) coalition said he had no information about the airstrikes. Interestingly, the Libyan National Army (LNA) also said that it conducted airstrikes against ISIS targets near Sadada, west of Sirte, on the same day.
Africom officials said that ISIS used the camp to move fighters in and out of the country, stockpile weapons and equipment and plot and conduct attacks, adding that, “ISIS and al-Qaida have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring and directing terror attacks.” Africom also praised the GNA and their aligned forces for being valued partners against terrorism. This is the first US airstrike against ISIS under Donald Trump’s presidency.
Last week, the ISIS branch in eastern Libya, known as Wilayat Barqa, published its first video since the beginning of the year entitled ‘We didn’t fray or weaken’. The long video covers the ISIS suicide car bomb attack in Nawfaliyah on 31 August and the Fugha checkpoint massacres in southern Libya on 23 August, as well as patrols east of Sirte and camps in the desert.
The video revealed that Ramadan Muhammed al-Rabeeie, whose nom du guerre is Abu Faraj al-Ansari, was the suicide bomber responsible for the Nawfaliyah attack in which 4 people died. He was reportedly born in 1984 and was a resident of Ras Abeida in Benghazi with five other brothers. He was imprisoned during the Qadhafi regime for connections to al-Qaida. He was a senior leader in Ansar al-Sharia Benghazi and allegedly commanded a specialist assassination and bomb squad. He joined ISIS in 2014. Al-Ansari had managed to escape from Sabri area of Benghazi in January 2017 but it appears that he has now perished in the suicide car bomb.