ISIS,local jihadist forces controlling the city and the Derna Mujahedeen Shura Council (DMSC) continue to fight in the areas of Al Fatieh south of the cityand in the Sahel region overlooking the eastern coastline. Despite ongoing violence fighting has occurred at a noticeably reduced rate relative to previous weeks.
Local sources also report that an ISIS leader in Derna named Abu Aisha, a Sudanese national, was killed in the fighting last week.
Benghazi saw heavy fighting between the Libyan National Army (LNA) & ISIS in the Buatni area, including LNA air strikes.. Reports indicate six LNA soldiers were killed in the fighting.
ISIS issued a statement on 1 February claiming one of their improvised explosive devices (IEDs) killed 22 LNA soldiers during an ambush in the Laithi district of Benghazi. However, there has been no confirmation of such an incident suggesting that ISIS may be attempting to overstate its capabilities.
However, ISIS continues to appeal to potential recruits through its media tactics. Last week, ISIS published a new video of an attack on the LNA near Benghazi port in the areas of Sabri and Suq Al- Hoot. ISIS also published gruesome pictures of the beheadings of three Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) members it had captured during a raid against a Turkish company that operates in the Marada oil field. One of the pictures was widely circulated amongst the local population, becoming an emotionally charged symbol of the Libyan tragedy. Sirte
Sirte remains the bastion of ISIS in Libya and is likely to be the prime target of a possible international intervention.
Sources in Sirte report ongoing, and sometimes low-flying, reconnaissance flights of American or French drones, throughout last week. No airstrikes were reported.
Local sources report a frantic demobilization effort by ISIS on 30 January. The group vacated checkpoints in the city and near the port, presumably as a defensive preparation against impending airstrikes. Sources report ISIS moving weapons and ammunition supplies to hotels and conference centers in the city.
ISIS radio is also reportedly broadcasting instructions to residents in Sirte not leave the city, asking them not to be afraid of the ‘crusader enemy aircraft’.
Libyan media has reported a story of a witness who escaped Bin Jawwad, claiming that Tunisian members of ISIS were the most extreme, leading attacks and committing a majority of the looting. He also added that it was Tunisian ISIS members in Sirte who cut off the hand of a Senegalese pharmacy worker (apparently also an ISIS member) found guilty of “theft”.
The city continues to face a severe shortage of basic supplies. Banks have been closed more than a year, while the city has not had internet or mobile phone service since 25 August 2015. Reports estimate that at least 20,000 of Sirte’s 80,000 residents have fled since ISIS took control of the city.