Militant Islamist groups are also operating in Tripoli and in other western towns and there was evidence this week that ISIS – Tripoli Wilaya is stepping up its rhetoric in the capital. ISIS called on parents to withdraw their daughters from Tripoli University and other educational establishments on the grounds that they should not mix with the opposite sex.
Misrata proved its vulnerability to attacks by ISIS elements once again this week with another suicide bomb exploding at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the town. Five people were killed and eight wounded when a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint at Dafniya on the western edge of Misrata on 31 May. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which it asserted was carried out by a Tunisian. The blast prompted an angry reaction from the Misratan local council who blamed the GNC in Tripoli for failing to carry out its national responsibilities in the fight against terrorism. These accusations reflect Misrata’s growing sense of its own vulnerability in the face of ISIS expansion in the Sirte area.
The most important security development this week occurred in central Libya where ISIS elements extended their control over Sirte, taking over the town’s civilian airport as well as the Qardabia base. ISIS is also still pushing to take over the nearby town of Harawa that it has attempted to seize on previous occasions. It was reported this week that Harawa residents had negotiated a surrender to ISIS, although other sources claim that local forces are preparing to fight back. Although Misrata is stepping up its efforts to try to defeat the group and while the GNC appears to have finally woken up to the danger, there is still a strong sense of complacency towards the group inside Sirte itself with many local residents preferring to be dominated by ISIS elements than by those from outside, particularly those from Misrata. As such there is scope for ISIS to continue to expand Westward.
Oil Crescent (Ras Lanuf and Sidra)
Although the ceasefire agreement between Libya Dawn and the LNA in the Oil Crescent continues to hold, the situation remains fragile and could be reversed at any future point. In addition, the expansion of ISIS in and around Sirte means that if left unchecked the group could move to threaten the Oil Crescent area more directly.
The area around Derna has seen worsening violence this week as militant elements, including those linked to ISIS have carried out a number of attacks against pro-LNA forces. Clashes occurred after militants attacked an army checkpoint at Lamluda, killing one guard and wounding others, as well as reportedly later beheading another guard. However, it seems that LNA units were able to repel the attack and push the militant elements back. Fighting also occurred at Ain Mara and Ras Al-Hilal, the latter of which is where many militant elements are concentrated. As such the stalemate situation has continued and is unlikely to change in the near to medium term.