The international media has been full of reports this week about the hold that the Islamic State (IS) has acquired in Derna. At the end of October the most influential militant group in the town, the Shura Council of the Islamic Youth of Derna, staged a major ceremony at which its members pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed caliph of IS, Abu Bakr Baghdadi. Yet, it is unlikely that they are taking orders from Baghdadi. It is much more likely that they simply admire IS’s military successes and ability to control territory and wish to emulate those. Since giving their allegiance the group has started referring to the Cyrenaican province (Wilayat Barqah) of the Islamic State. It has also upped its hold over the town and recently carried out a number of beheadings of young social activists, although according to local reports the group has been carrying out executions, especially of foreigners, for some time.
As this Wilayat Barqa strengthens, they are still up against other militant factions in the town who are resisting pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Meanwhile unconfirmed reports emerged this week suggesting that fighters pledging allegiance to IS also have a small presence in Tripoli. The situation in Derna remains unaltered with radical IS-aligned groups maintaining control of the city and of its infrastructures. Furthermore, news reports indicate that the situation in town remains far from quiet due to ongoing power struggles between newly established IS-aligned groups, backed by large groups of youngsters and foreign fighters gathering in the city, and local Salafi groups supported by preachers and activists belonging to key-families from the city and members of the revolutionary-era Martyrs of Abu Salim Brigade. Lastly, reports indicate that armed groups in the city are preparing themselves and their defence lines for a potential assault from the Libya National Army and Haftar’s Operation Dignity Forces. Local Salafi leaders affiliated with the Martyrs of Abu Salim Brigade are coming increasingly under pressure from members of IS-affiliated groups in the city. Armed groups in the city are also reportedly preparing their positions and defence lines for an expected attack from forces aligned with Haftar’s Operation Dignity. See: http://www.libyaakhbar.com/libya-news/39402.html