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Monday, November 30

Islamic State starts relocating to Libya as RuAF and SAA rout them from Syria

I'll bet the ghosts of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi are having a good laugh about now.   

Picking up on a Wall Street Journal report yesterday (Some in Libyan City of Sirte Resisted Islamic State Takeover), a report today in Sputnik spells out the bad news a little more clearly than the Journal: Moving Closer to Europe: ISIL Sets Its Sights on Expansion in Libya. Before I turn over the floor to both publications, a couple points:

The Sputnik report specifically notes that Islamic State was able to exploit sectarian divisions in Libyan society. They were able to do the same in Iraq and Syria. But the divisions in Syria were greatly exacerbated by machinations of agents and dupes of the United States government and various of its allies. The Wikileaks publication of State Department cables relating to Syria make it explicit that the machinations started well before the Obama regime although it carried them forward.

The task of cleaning out the Augean Stables in Syria has been left largely to the Syrian military, Russian air force and Kurdish ground troops. Some measure of their success is that Islamic State is now directing new recruits to head for Libya rather than Syria. 

But do American and European regimes seriously expect Russians to clean up Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan for them? While all the time they do whatever they can to make life hard for Russians?    

From Sputnik's report:

“They want to take their fight to Rome.”

The Islamic State has increased its presence in the Mediterranean city of Sirte in Libya from 200 fighters at the start of the year to a force of 5,000 men, including administrators and financiers; the base is the first to be directly established by ISIL outside Syria and Iraq, and brings the terrorists closer to Europe.

The militant group has apparently found a new base where it can “generate oil revenue and plan terror attacks,” according to a Wall Street Journal report, based on estimates provided by Libyan intelligence officials, residents and activists in the area.

The group has apparently expanded its staff and activities in the Mediterranean city of Sirte since February 2015, when it first announced its presence in the area.

It now has roughly 5,000 men there, including administrators and financiers. The new stronghold is directly across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy.

Sirte is a gateway to several major oil fields and refineries farther east along the same coast and the Islamic State has targeted those installations in the past year, the newspaper says.

“They have made their intentions clear,” it quotes Ismail Shoukry, the head of military intelligence for the region that includes Sirte, as saying. “They want to take their fight to Rome.”

The group has already announced their plans to recruit foreign fighters, and is calling them to travel to Libya instead of Syria. According to residents and activists from Sirte and Libyan military officials, recent weeks have already seen a flood of foreign recruits and their families.

“Sirte will be no less than Raqqa,” is a mantra often repeated by Islamic State leaders in the Libyan city during sermons and radio broadcasts, the newspaper quotes several residents and an activist from the city as saying. Raqqa is the group’s self-declared capital in Syria.

About 85% of Libya’s crude oil production in 2014 went to Europe, with Italy being the largest recipient. About half of the natural gas it produces is exported to Italy.

“The control of Islamic State over this region will lead to economic breakdowns,” the leader of the Libyan operation said, “especially for Italy and the rest of the European states.”

The extremist group has already called for recruits who have the technical know-how to put nearby oil facilities into operation.

The militants, as it turns, were able to successfully exploit deep existing divisions in Libya, which has two rival governments, which are entangled in a violent, nationwide power struggle.

The internationally recognized government has been forced to operate from Tobruk on the eastern border with Egypt and its rival self-styled government in Tripoli, which is run by Libya Dawn, a dominant group of Islamists forces.


From the Wall Street Journal report


For three days, the band of resisters fought and believed they were inflicting losses on Islamic State, whose fighters came from Tunisia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

MISRATA, Libya—Islamic State’s black banner now flutters freely over the Libyan city of Sirte. But some residents of the hometown of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi put up fierce resistance to the takeover.

In early August, Islamic State gunmen stalked a young cleric named Khaled Ferjani who had been agitating against their growing hold on his city. Fed up with his influence in an area known as District 3, they killed him on the doorstep of his home shortly after the evening prayers he led at his mosque.
His assassination touched off a three-day uprising in Sirte by the imam’s supporters and residents of District 3, a revolt Islamic State rapidly crushed.
By doing so, the militant group gained control over a city that sits almost midway between the capital Tripoli and its second city, Benghazi and is a gateway to multiple oil fields and refineries. It has become the only city the group governs outside of Syria and Iraq.
Over the last six weeks, residents and activists say, many foreigners have arrived to settle in Sirte. But for months, District 3 had resisted Islamic State’s rule and became the site of one of the most visible uprisings—and bloodiest crackdowns. Mr. Ferjani, an adherent of Salafism, an ultraconservative form of Islam, had preached against the militants’ sweep through Sirte in February and his sizable flock resisted their influence.
Shortly before the imam’s killing, Omar, a 33-year-old resident who only wanted his first name used, had been bristling under the austere and often brutal Islamic State rules. A chain smoker, Omar had run afoul of the group’s smoking ban more than once, earning fines. On one day, he was again caught smoking in front of his house by two members of a morality police patrol. A Tunisian Islamic State patrolman lectured Omar, telling him he was going to prison or would be subjected to 80 lashes. His Libyan partner intervened, saying this would be Omar’s last warning.
“Imagine a foreigner sticking his finger in your face, telling you that you can’t do this or that,” Omar said in a recent interview.
Omar wasn’t a follower of the young imam. But once the cleric was killed, he joined a call to arms by the imam’s supporters at the mosque, bringing along an AK-47 rifle he said he bought for self-defense after Libya’s 2011 civil war but had never fired.
“I’m a civil engineer. I knew nothing about fighting,” said Omar, who speaks English with a slight British accent from three years of studying abroad in Scotland. He said he and dozens of neighbors began setting up roadblocks around District 3, while more hardened veterans of the battles in 2011 began taking shots at Islamic State positions in the area. For three days, the band of resisters fought and believed they were inflicting losses on Islamic State, whose fighters came from Tunisia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
But on the third day, Omar said, the militants brought in a column of reinforcements in armored vehicles and armed with heavy weapons and they shelled District 3 until the revolt was put down.
The militants began rounding up residents they accused of joining the resistance and marking homes in the district with one of three orders; You may return; Check with Islamic State police; or This is now property of Islamic State.
Omar fled to Misrata with his elderly parents, a sister and an aunt using back roads to avoid the multiple Islamic State checkpoints on the highway linking the two cities.
According to the United Nations, Omar and activists from Sirte, Islamic State later publicly executed five people accused of participating in the revolt, crucifying their bodies in public squares.
At Mr. Ferjani’s mosque, the group hung up a new black banner with their trademark white Arabic font, declaring that the house of worship would now be known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Mosque. It was named after the deceased Jordanian founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of Islamic State.
“People outside of Libya need to know what is happening in Sirte,” said an activist from the city. “They are terrorizing the city and will soon use it to terrorize the world.”

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