As part of a coordinated Islamic State offensive in western Libya Thursday, a Tunisian suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a checkpoint near the coastal city of Misrata, killing five people.
Jihadists of the ISIS terror group launched attacks south of the Libyan coastal city of Misrata Thursday, and claim to have taken control of several villages between their Libyan stronghold of Sirte and the city of Misrata, including Baghla, Zamzam, and Abu Najaym, as well as the town of Abu Grain.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, which took place at the town of Abu-Grain, some 50 miles from Misrata. The bomber has been identified as Khabab al-Tunisi, and the five victims were members of a local militia, who were manning the outpost.
Suicide bomber named as Khabab al-Tunisi (Tunisian) and the operations as part of ‘raids of Sheikh Abu Ali al-Anbari’
— MENASTREAM (@MENASTREAM) May 5, 2016
Istishaadi brother khabaab Al Tunisi May ALLAH accept him.. pic.twitter.com/vL6rGsCLy4
— Anaksabil (@anaksabil95) May 5, 2016
The Islamic State asserted that their strike had killed “all the forces there and opened the road” for the group to take control of villages in the surrounding area.
Local official Mohammed Shamia said that warplanes taking off from Misrata had struck Islamic State positions nine times, killing an unknown number of terrorists.
Thursday’s attack came as the military forces of eastern Libya are said to be preparing an offensive to regain Sirte, which has been held by ISIS for almost a year. The Islamic State group, which has benefited from the chaos and security vacuum in Libya since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, now controls a 150-mile long swath of territory along the Mediterranean coast north of Sirte.
A UN-backed government arrived in Tripoli at the end of March, and it hopes to unite Libya’s divided armed factions against the Islamic State. The fragmentation of forces has been one of the main reasons that efforts to counter the terror group have had little success so far.
Libya shares part of its western border with Tunisia, where Islamic State terrorists have killed dozens of people since last year.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome