BBC reports that militants from so-called Islamic State (IS) have been pushed out of the key eastern city of Derna, a rival Islamist group has said.
Derna has seen a three-way conflict between IS, DMSC and forces loyal to Libya’s eastern government.ISIS took hold of territory in Libya as two conflicting governments and a number of armed factions came to blows to control the country in the past two years. But it has also faced resistance from other local armed groups on the ground.
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) 20 avril 2016
Derna was an early stronghold for the terrorist group, as it had witnessed a history of jihad. The militant group lost control of the city last June to rival armed jihadist grouped under the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council, but retained positions around the outskirts.
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) 22 avril 2016
“IS escaped into an area south of Derna, following the instructions of their leader [Abu Bakr] Al-Baghdadi, and from there they fled into the desert,” the spokesman for Derna’s Omar Mukhtar Security Operations Room, Abdelkarim Sabra, told Middle East Eye. Sabra said the militants had escaped in an estimated 32 vehicles towards Sirte, situated on the central Libyan coast. While fleeing, the militants detonated a bomb at a patrol station in the Al-Maheili area, which is known as a hotspot for the smuggling of weapons, drugs and people, Sabra said.
The developments since Wednesday mark the fall of what is believed to have been the last IS foothold on the outskirts of Derna. If this holds, it is a significant development and will be seen as evidence of the group’s faltering presence in Libya.
Despite the alarm bells ringing over IS expansion in the country in recent months, many observers believe the extremist group remains a minor player in Libya’s bigger picture of armed groups.
Today, IS fighters only have full control of the central city of Sirte and a stretch of territory on its outskirts.
— Al-Masdar News (@TheArabSource) 22 avril 2016
However, its members and affiliates pose a violent threat in other parts of the country.
Libya’s rival armed groups largely agree on the need to fight IS, but each side is fighting on, and for, its own turf – they have not been able to unite in the battlefield.
Since 2014, Libya has had two competing governments – one in the capital Tripoli, and another in the eastern city of Tobruk.
Last month, a U.N.-backed unity government arrived in Tripoli, where it has been trying to establish its authority. The West regards the new government as the best chance of terminating Libya’s political divisions and uniting its armed factions to take on ISIS.
But the government has yet to win approval from Libya’s eastern parliament, which received international recognition and has repeatedly failed to hold a vote on the issue.
— Beyond The Levant (@TheRealBTL) 22 avril 2016
— Sergio Altuna (@wellesbien) 21 avril 2016
Dans un communiqué rendu public, le conseil présidentiel du gouvernement de consensus national Libyen a annoncé que ville de Derna est libérée de l’organisation terroriste Etat Islamique. Les combattants djihadistes se sont retirés le mercredi 21 avril 2016, des positions, proches de la ville, qu’ils ont contrôlées pendant des mois.
Les forces de sécurité alliées à l’administration en place dans l’Est libyen ont mené des attaques sporadiques contre l’EI dans le secteur au cours des derniers mois.
Il faut noter que Daech a pratiquement perdu le contrôle de la ville de Derna en juin 2015 après en avoir été chassé par d’autres islamistes.
— Afrique 360 (@afrique_360) 21 avril 2016
— Info Du Jour (@_InfoDuJour) 30 mars 2016
— Italian Politics (@ItalianPolitics) 21 avril 2016