On 21 July, reports began emerging of confessions from Derna Protection Force (DPF) prisoners interrogated by the Libyan National Army (LNA) suggesting that Mahfouz Ould al-Walid (Abu Hafs al-Mauritani) and Hisham Ashmawi (Abu Omar al-Muhajir al-Masri) are amongst one hundred or so Derna Protection Force (DFP) remnants isolated to small pockets of old town Derna by the LNA. The DFP confessors alleged that the two were fighting “shoulder to shoulder” with the DPF militants. This follows long-standing unconfirmed rumours that the two were in Derna.
Al-Walid is an al-Qaeda associated Mauritanian Islamic scholar and was on the shura council of al-Qaeda and the head of their sharia committee. Hisham Ashmawi is a former Egyptian Special Forces officer who is said to lead the al-Qaeda-linked organization Ansar Al-Islam.