Other – July 7 2014

Jul 7, 2014 | Other Jihadi Actors

On 4 July, well-known Sufi imam Tareq Abbas was kidnapped in front of his house near Omar Al-Mukhtar Street in Tripoli, not far from Martyrs’ square. Although no one has claimed responsibility for Abbas’s abduction, it is widely assumed to have been the work of militant Islamist elements. His abduction prompted angry protests in the capital, and represents the extent to which social life in Libya mirrors some of the cleavages that are present in the country’s high politics.

Three Europeans who were working for the Italian company, Piacentini Costruzioni, disappeared on 5 July near Zuwara. They were working on a project to upgrade the Zuwara port and were seized from their vehicle as they were travelling to work. It seems likely, therefore, that this was an opportunistic attack by criminal elements seeking financial gain. According to local security sources, such types of kidnapping operations are on the increase in and around the capital.

On 5 July Special Forces (Saiqa) intelligence officer, Hassan Buzgaya, was killed when a bomb exploded under his car in Benghazi’s Istiqlal Street. On the same day air force officer, Abdussalam Ali Al-Shahubi, who worked at the Benina Airbase, was shot dead as he left a local mosque in the Qawarsha neighbourhood. According to an Interior Ministry statement issued the day before these two attacks, there had been 17 assassinations in the city since the start of Ramadan.

The Libyan Foreign Ministry remains under siege, with armed men refusing to leave the building until Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz is expelled from his job and a handful of diplomats with ties to be former regime forced out of their posts. It is still not clear who is behind the siege, although it looks increasingly to be the work of the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR). This ‘revolutionary’ militia has strong ties to the GNC and a history of intervening in politics, including a previous threat to the Foreign Ministry in June 2014 and the kidnapping Ali Zeidan in October 2013.

Three salafist imams killed this week in the Sidi Hussain area of Benghazi.

On 6 July, the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council, an umbrella group representing the various Islamist brigades and militias, including Ansar Al-Sharia, issued a statement threatening to “stop and imprison anyone who is affiliated to Libya’s Operation Dignity.” The statement declared that the group would not release anyone they captured unless Haftar’s forces freed those they were holding prisoner.

Fighting between rival militant groups in Derna shows no sign of abating. The main battle being played out is between the Majlis Shura Shabab Al-Islam fi Derna (the Shura Council of the Youth of Islam in Derna) and the Abu Slim Martyrs’ Brigade, the latter of which is comprised largely of former members of the LIFG. The presence of the newly established Al-Battar Brigade, whose members include returnees who reportedly fought with ISIS in Syria, has contributed to the conflict. These groups are caught up in an increasingly violent turf war in Derna that is now completely beyond state control.