ISIS continues to assertively maintain its control of the city, and has intensified its crackdown on local dissent, executing 25 residents on 22 January in the city square for various offenses. Sources in the city report a dramatic increase in ISIS raids against specific households and neighborhoods in Hay 2, Hay 3 and the 700 residence complex.
The clampdown is intensifying due to reports of increasing dissent. Throughout the last two weeks, a mystery ‘sniper’ is gaining fame in the city after picking off several ISIS fighters and vanishing without a trace. The reported assassination of one of the chiefs of the Hisba (or religious police) and a Libyan ISIS commander named Abu Abdullah Al Ansari, brings the total number of ISIS fighters killed by the sniper to five.
International media is also reporting that a new ISIS commander has arrived to Sirte from Iraq (Abu Omar). Additional reports state that foreigner fighters are entering Libya and taking up positions in the southern part of Sirte, where ISIS has reportedly built a new jail, and transferred there many of the captives held within the city.
ISIS is also reportedly organizing educational seminars inside Sirte University. Its key media arm (Al Amaq) published a report on a ‘Legislation Seminar’ for 1200 students held in the main Ouagadougou conference complex in the city.
The Oil Crescent
In the early hours of 21 January, ISIS again attacked the Oil Crescent, targeting the pipeline connecting Ras Lanuf’s oil port to the Amal oil field, southeast of the terminal. According to the National Oil Corporation (NOC) based in Tripoli, the attack destroyed five oil storage tanks in the Ras Lanuf tank farm, and the ensuing fire has burnt approximately four million barrels of crude, with three of the tanks completely destroyed.
ISIS is likely to continue to target the Libyan Oil Crescent, and possibly other ports in the country. In a recent article of Dabiq, ISIS’s official magazine, the group stated their strategy of attacking Libya’s wealth to deny revenue and oil to the government and European powers. The impact of the ISIS assaults against Ras Lanuf and Sidra in the last two weeks has effectively eroded the storage capacity of these oil ports for the time being.
In a video released by ISIS last week, a man named Abu Abdul Rahman Al Libi is shown threatening to attack Brega and Tubruq ports, after the ‘successful’ shock attacks on infrastructure at Ras Lanuf and Sidra.