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The establishment of ISIS in Libya
ISIS operatives in ISIS’s provinces in Libya continue to carry out terrorist attacks against various targets:
At least two suicide bombers carried out attacks in the city of Qubba, in eastern Libya. More than 40 people were killed and around 70 were injured. The suicide bombing attacks were carried out in the city, which is under the control of the (secular) Libyan government based in eastern Libya. According to a Libyan Army spokesman, one of the suicide bombing attacks was carried out at a gas station. Two other suicide bombing attacks were carried out near the home of the speaker of the House of Parliament and at the headquarters of the security forces. According to the ISIS branch in Libya, these attacks were carried out in response to Egyptian attacks against them in Derna (Yahoo News, February 20, 2015).
On February 22, 2015, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack against the home of the Iranian ambassador in Tripoli. The Iranians said there were no casualties because Iran’s embassy in Libya has been closed since the summer of 2014. ISIS’s claim of responsibility was posted on Twitter, as follows: “Islamic Caliphate troops carried out a double attack against Iranian Embassy in Tripoli”. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman reported that the ambassador’s residence sustained minor damage (Al-Arabiya TV, February 22, 2015).
ISIS is making efforts to establish and increase its influence in Libya.
ISIS in Libya recently launched a Twitter campaign designed to recruit foreign fighters into its ranks. The organization called on Muslims to come to Libya and join the fighting in its ranks.
On February 18, 2015, ISIS’s media arm in the province of Barqa (eastern Libya) published a series of photos documenting the activity of its Morality Police (Hisba). The photos show a group of masked operatives burning cigarettes and musical instruments.
Egyptian appeal to the international community to act against ISIS in Libya
Following the killing of the Egyptian Copts in Libya and the Egyptian attacks, Egypt has appealed to countries around the world to help Libya. Speaking before the UN Security Council, the Egyptian foreign minister said that the purpose of Egypt’s appeal to the UN is to emphasize the need to build a broader coalition than the one that was established in Syria and Iraq, in order to assist the Libyan government. He said that the countries of the world must make “strong and real” decisions and take “practical steps” to remove the threat posed by ISIS and similar organizations (Al-Arabiya al-Hadath, February 18, 2015).
On the other hand, the US State Department spokesman said that the fight against ISIS is currently focused on Syria and Iraq and that a decision to expand the operation to additional other locations such as Libya has not yet been made (US Department of State website, February 18, 2015). The meaning of this statement is unwillingness, at least at this stage, to broaden the scope of activities of the US-led international coalition, leaving Egypt to operate outside the coalition.
Counterterrorism and preventive activity
An ISIS operative who attempted to carry out an attack in Belgium managed to return to Syria
Issue No. 7 of Dabiq (ISIS’s English-language organ) published an interview with an ISIS operative codenamed the Belgian Abu Omar (Abdelhamid Abaaoud). In the interview, he talks about his journey from Syria to Belgium together with two friends of his, codenamed Abu Zubayr and the Belgian Abu Khaled. The purpose of their trip was to carry out an attack in Belgium in revenge for its participation in the coalition against ISIS.
According to the Belgian Abu Omar, it took the three men a few months to get to Belgium. They obtained weapons and a safe house and planned to carry out an attack. Their intention was thwarted when Belgian security forces raided the house where they were staying and found explosives and weapons. The Belgian Abu Omar’s two friends were killed in the raid by the security forces and he himself managed to escape and return to Syria (Dabiq, No. 7, p. 72).
The battle for hearts and minds conducted by ISIS
ISIS’s threats “to conquer Rome”
ISIS-affiliated elements recently issued threats entitled “conquer Rome”. On February 20, 2015, an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account published a poster showing the Colosseum in Rome. Alongside the photo it says in Arabic and Italian: “We will not stop fighting until we call ‘Allah Akbar’ and calls to prayer in Rome as conquerors, Allah willing.” The writer emphasized the word Rome (ISIS-affiliated forum, February 20, 2015). Rome is the symbol of Christianity, and conquering it, from ISIS’s perspective, would symbolize the victory of jihadi Islam over the Christians.
The struggle between the Al-Nusra Front and ISIS on social networks
The Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, has set up a website called “The Islamic State, the Caliphate of Tyranny and Corruption”. The purpose of the website is to attack ISIS, whose presence on social networks, especially Twitter, is much broader than that of the Al-Nusra Front. A manifesto published on the website accuses ISIS of attacking Muslims in Syria with false propaganda, presenting themselves as Muslims acting in the name of Islam, and posing a real danger to Islamic society at the conceptual, military and political levels (http://www.kfasad.ga2h.com/, an official website of the Al-Nusra Front, February 18, 2015).
Written by: The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC)