Recent fighting in Tripoli marks the largest outbreak of violence in the western Libyan capital since the the 2011 revolution. Monday, September 10th, several masked gunmen committed an assault on the National Oil Corporation in Tripoli. The Islamic State took credit for organizing this attack. Here we asked the chairman of NCUSLR’s Advisory Board and security & policy analyst, Wolfgang Pusztai, to answer some pressing questions surrounding the attack and the state of security in Libya.
Video source: Global Defence & Security YouTube Channel
What is the role of Daesh in Tripoli and how do they organize themselves in the city?
Daesh has several sleeping cells in Tripoli and other northern Tripolitanian cities. Furthermore, they are also able to send dedicated "attack teams" to the city from nearby. Having learned from previous experiences, those cells don't have a direct contact between them. Their purpose is to reconnoiter targets of relevance and to attack them if activated.
What is Daesh’s general goal in Tripoli and Libya? What are the implications of their presence in the country?
The objective is to undermine any kind of stabilization efforts in Libya by attacking high profile targets in Tripoli with limited means as well as checkpoints and facilities on the Great Man-Made River in other parts of the country. The hydrocarbon industry is increasingly endangered.
However, the overall strategy of Daesh is to use the remote south of Libya as a “safe haven”, following what Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been doing since 2011. These areas are used as a training ground, a logistics and communication hub, and as a staging area for operations abroad. This is an increasing danger for the countries in the southern Sahara and the Sahel.
Monday, September 10th, there was an attack on the headquarters of the Libyan National Oil Corporation. Why did Daesh attack now?
The timing of the attack Monday was unfortunately about perfect. After days of fighting the focus of the militias was on each other. Alertness regarding terrorists was low.
Who participated in the attacks? What does Daesh’s recruitment like in Libya?
An increasing number of fighters from Niger and Chad are being recruited by Daesh. The attackers on the High National Elections Commission last May and at least some of the assailants today come from these countries. It is also not unlikely, that Daesh tries to hide jihadists in between migrants to infiltrate them into Europe.
The terrorists today were - like those seen in the attacks of late May - so called Inghimasis: Well trained fighters, who try to infiltrate the target and use open fire with rifles to kill as many people as possible before detonating their suicide explosive vests when running out of ammunition.