Senior Islamic State fighters are relocating to Libya, says official

ISIS LibyaSenior members of the Islamic State are moving from Syria and Iraq to Libya, according to a Libyan intelligence official who spoke to the BBC. Since 2014 and the outbreak of the Second Libyan Civil War, the North African country has been engulfed in a multipolar struggle for dominance between rival armed groups and alliances. Among them is Libya Dawn, a loose coalition of former al-Qaeda-linked militants, ethnic Berbers, members of the pro-Egypt Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the al-Shorooq Force, an Islamist militia from Libya’s northwestern coastal city of Misrata. Libya Dawn troops have been engaged in ground-combat against Islamic State forces, which currently control Libya’s north-central coastal region.

The area ruled by the Islamic State includes the cities of Bin Jawad and Sirte —the latter being the birthplace of Libya’s late ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi. Some believe that loyalists of Gaddafi’s regime in Sirte, including members of his extended family, have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and are actively supporting the militant group. Meanwhile, the armed factions that surround the territory controlled by the Islamic State, which include the Tobruk-headquartered Libyan National Army, are at war with each other as much as with the Islamic State itself.

On Wednesday, Ismail Shukri, head of intelligence for Libya Dawn in Misrata, spoke on BBC television’s flagship current-affairs program Newsnight about the current status of Islamic State forces in northern Libya. He told the program that his informants in Islamic State-controlled territory were reporting “an influx of foreign fighters” from Iraq and Syria. The majority of the settlers had arrived “in recent months”, said Shukri, and were located in Sirte. They appeared to be senior Islamic State military and civilian officials, who had “long-term importance to the Islamic State”. When asked why these Islamic State members were pouring into Libya, Shukri said they viewed the North African country “as a safe haven” and were relocating there in order to escape the military offensive by international forces in Iraq and Syria. Shukri told the BBC that nearly three out of four foreign Islamic State members in Sirte were from Tunisia, with remaining numbers consisting of Egyptian, Algerian and Sudanese citizens. There were also several Syrians and members of Iraq’s Baathist armed forces during the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, he said.

Rumors have circulated for several months that Libya Dawn forces are preparing a major ground offensive against the Islamic State. There are also reports that Western countries are engaged in negotiations with groups fighting the Islamic State in Libya, over the possibility of providing intelligence support and air cover for a ground assault. However, Shukri refused to speculate about future military campaigns.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 February 2016 | Permalink

News you may have missed #486

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  • Australian government unveils new spy legislation. The Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill, which has been unveiled by the Australian government, contains changes to the intelligence services and criminal code legislation designed to “improve the operational capabilities of key spy agencies“, according to the country’s Attorney-General.
  • Dutch military intelligence: closed on Sundays. A Dutch government-commissioned report has revealed that the country’s military intelligence service, the MIVD, played no role in the decision, earlier this month, to attempt an evacuation operation by helicopter near the Libyan city of Sirte. The reason is because the evacuation took place on a Sunday, and requests for intelligence went unnoticed at MIVD headquarters.

West directs spies, information-warfare at Libya

Libyan rebels

Libyan rebels

Along with airborne surveillance and the bombing of targets, Western nations in charge of imposing a no-fly-zone over Libya are directing their intelligence and information-warfare arsenals against the Libyan regime. British newspaper The Daily Mail reports that MI6, the UK’s primary external intelligence agency, is sharing with the British military its lists of telephone numbers belonging to senior Libyan military officials. The latter are now receiving calls from British civilian or military intelligence officers prompting them to defect. The paper cited “a senior source” who claimed MI6 is warning senior Libyan military officers that the Royal Air Force has “the GPS coordinates” of their command posts and that “it could be fatal to remain loyal to the Libyan leader” Muammar al-Gaddafi. Presumably, the calls are conducted in the Arabic language. They also do not appear to be pre-recorded, unlike those directed by the Israel Defense Forces at Palestinians during the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict. The “senior source” told The Mail that the same technique “worked in Iraq” in convincing senior military commanders to either defect or —in most cases— abandon their posts. Read more of this post

Libyan TV accuses detained Dutch helicopter crew of spying

Sirte, Libya

Sirte, Libya

Just days after the capture of a British paramilitary and intelligence team in Libya, the country’s state television has accused three Dutch marines, captured by pro-government loyalists, of spying. The three-member team was detained by armed militias in the outskirts of Libya’s pro-government stronghold of Sirte, while using a Lynx helicopter, allegedly to evacuate two foreign nationals. The Libyans allowed the two unnamed evacuees, a Dutch engineer and another European Union citizen, to transfer to the embassy of the Netherlands in Tripoli, but arrested the crew of the helicopter, which includes a female pilot named Yvonne Niersman. Soon after news of the arrest emerged, the Dutch government said that the mission of the helicopter crew was to evacuate Dutch nationals from Libya. But on March 6, Libyan state television aired footage of the detainees, which showed a collection of items allegedly confiscated from them by the Libyan authorities. They include several weapons, ammunition, as well as a significant amount of United States currency. Read more of this post

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