The Islamic State raised its threat profile in Libya by attacking the heart of Sabratha, a coastal city described by the UK Daily Mail as a “hub for migrants heading for Europe.” While in control of the city’s security headquarters, ISIS militants decapitated 12 members of the staff, then used their corpses to build a roadblock against returning security forces.
Sabratha is on the far side of Tripoli from the Islamic State’s Libyan stronghold of Sirte, the hometown of late dictator Moammar Qaddafi. The Daily Mail describes the attack as a sign of “the enduring presence and unpredictable striking power of the local ISIS militants.”
Islamic State activity in the area has already drawn airstrikes from U.S. planes, during which two Serbian embassy staffers kidnapped by ISIS in November were unfortunately killed. The Serbians were taken hostage after their diplomatic convoy was attacked by ISIS militants near Sabratha.
In addition to U.S. airstrikes, the UK Guardian reported on unconfirmed rumors that French and British special forces are on the ground in Libya, helping keep ISIS at bay while the Libyans attempt to get a unified government up and running.
Newsweek describes ISIS as briefly controlling Sabratha before Libyan army forces arrived to drive them out of the city. Four Libyan troops were reportedly killed, and five more injured, during the fighting, along with an undisclosed number of ISIS casualties. An anonymous Libyan official told the Associated Press the total death toll among military and police officers during the occupation and ensuing clashes was 19.