One of the Islamic State’s so-called “provinces” in Libya claims to have captured the town of Nawfaliyah. The group has released a photo set showing a large convoy entering the town. The military-style parade likely took place earlier this month. One of the photos can be seen above and the rest are at the end of this article.
In addition to the jihadists’ purported gains in Nawfaliyah, the organization’s fighters seized several key buildings, including radio and television stations, in the city of Sirte. Separate photos posted on social media show the Islamic State’s province broadcasting propaganda from one of the captured media facilities.
Assessing the extent of the Islamic State’s presence in Libya and elsewhere is difficult, as the group’s propaganda machine has exaggerated its fighters’ gains. (The same is true for the Islamic State’s jihadist rivals.) For instance, press reports said late last year that the Islamic State’s supporters had taken over the city of Derna, with a population of about 100,000 residents. But this wasn’t true.
While the Islamic State has a significant presence in Derna, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s followers are not in control of the entire city. Other jihadist groups that are not allied with the Islamic State, including the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade (ASMB), remain deeply entrenched in Derna. In December, the ASMB announced the creation of the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) of Derna, a jihadist alliance that has not sworn allegiance to Baghdadi. The United Nations has even erroneously reported that Ansar al Sharia in Derna, which is part of al Qaeda’s network and allied with the MSC, has defected to the Islamic State. This isn’t true either, as Ansar al Sharia’s leadership has not come out in favor of Baghdadi.
Still, the Islamic State’s network in Libya has been growing. And independent reports confirm that the group has been operating in and around Sirte.
In early February, gunmen attacked an oil field south of Sirte, killing 12 people. The French oil company Total owns a stake in the field, and French officials blamed the attack on the Islamic State’s followers.
The Islamic State’s jihadists have also kidnapped 21 Egyptian Coptic workers in Sirte. The Guardian (UK) reports that the men were captured in two separate operations in December and January.
The Coptic hostages were featured in the latest edition of Dabiq, the Islamic State’s English-language magazine, which was released last week. Photos in Dabiq show the men being marched along the coastline as their captors brandish knives. The images are reminiscent of how the Islamic State has paraded and then beheaded its captives in Iraq and Syria.
Dozens of Toyota trucks are pictured in the Islamic State’s photo set from Nawfaliyah. The photos suggest a large presence of Islamic State fighters, perhaps totaling in the hundreds.
Islamic State propaganda photos showing military parade in Nawfaliyah, Libya