The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is “trying to regroup” in Libya following its defeat at the end of last year in its former stronghold of Sirte, a coastal city located a few hundred miles from the shores of Europe, revealed a Libyan militia, echoing the U.S. military.
In December 2016, U.S.-backed Libyan militias pushed ISIS out of Sirte, once considered the jihadist group’s largest bastion outside of its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. However, Libyan troops affiliated with the both the United Nations-backed government have warned that ISIS is trying to make a comeback.
“We have spotted movements by Daesh [ISIS] in the south of Sirte, where they are trying to regroup and break through our forces’ lines in the south,” recently declared Mohamed Ghasri, spokesperson and senior commander of a Misrata-based militia linked to the U.N.-backed government, reports the Telegraph.
The news outlet identified the militia as the al-Bunyan al-Marsous forces.
“Daesh [ISIS] is currently what you would call a wounded animal in Libya,” Ahmed el-Sherif, a Libyan soldier, told VICE News in May.
In March, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the chief of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), told American lawmakers that ISIS is “regrouping” in southern Libya.
“The status of ISIS in Libya is they right now are regrouping. They’re in small numbers … after they left Sirte, we developed intelligence [and] we bombed them on January 18 and they were in the southern part of Libya. They’ve scattered again now,” he explained.
The al-Bunyan al-Marsous militia, which was instrumental in liberating Sirte, believes ISIS is planning to attack the city of Misrata, Libya’s trade capital.
“ISIS’s leaders in the country are now operating in the southern Sirte countryside,” notes the Telegraph. “Mr Ghasri did not give details on how many fighters Isis is believed to be readying for a fresh assault on Misrata.”
“Faced with a string of military defeats in its ‘caliphate’ across Syria and Iraq, observers believe Isis will concentrate on its operations in countries such as Libya, which face power vacuums, and step up terror attacks on civilians worldwide,” it adds.
Libya has been gripped by chaos since the U.S. -backed overthrow and execution of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The North African country has become a breeding ground for jihadists.
The U.N.-backed government and the Russian-backed opposition have reportedly reached a ceasefire agreement that excludes operations against terrorist groups.