Dozens of Isis fighters have entered the Libyan capital Tripoli since the start of the month. Sources in Libyan intelligence say the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Libyan Muslim Fighters Group (linked to Al-Qaeda) are facilitating the movement of these Isis fighters.
The Minister of Defence in the Government of National Accord, Brigadier Al Mahdi Al Burghathi, told 7Dnews that the capital is hosting inactive Isis cells at a time when the security and military authorities in Tripoli are not strong enough, and the capital is controlled by competing armed groups.
The Isis fighters and their supporters arrived in Tripoli at the beginning of May in 20 buses from Sabratha and Gharyan in the west, and from Al Khums and Misurata in the east, to mourn Wesam bin Hamid, an Islamist leader killed in Benghazi.
A security source in Tripoli said dozens of Isis fighters attended the mourning ceremony in the historic Martyrs Square where the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi used to deliver his speeches.
The security source added: “Well known Isis leaders reportedly did not return to their areas after the ceremony. Buses returned carrying noticeably fewer passengers. They are hiding in Tripoli.” He said most Isis affiliates came from Sabratha, a hotbed for extremists who fled Syria. They first arrive in planes using fake identities and then get into the country by land or sea, he explained.
Isis faced western airstrikes in Sabratha a year ago. According to the security source, it seems Sabratha still attracts the new arrivals before they move to Tripoli. Military intelligence in the capital revealed that it had intercepted a call from a leader of Isis hiding somewhere in Syria or Turkey - he is called “Aby Al Hassan Al Muhajer” - on the 26th of last month, in which he encouraged a new wave of operations against what he called “The Aggressive Crusade Campaign”. The areas he suggested striking included Libya and West Africa.
Dr Mohammed Alwrfli, the leader of the conference of the Libyan tribes told 7Dnews, “It is believed that Isis fighters have fled the battles in Syria and arrived in Tripoli”. Alwrfli also thinks Isis is being supported by the Fighters and the Muslim Brotherhood. He added, “Their ideology is the same, although the means are different. Muslim Brotherhood are the soft version of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Isis and Al-Qaeda aim to establish a cross border state.”
The Muslim Brotherhood and Isis fighters are opposed to both Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the Commander of the National Army, who is leading a campaign against extremists in the east of the country, and Fayez Al Sarraj, Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord, who leads the country from the capital in the west. Haftar and Sarraj are competing to establish their sovereignty over the entire country. Issa Abdul Majed, the leader of the Toubou tribe and President of the Toubouan Congress told 7Dnews that extremists were taking advantage of this split and getting into Tripoli.
Bin Hamid ties with extremist groups
The Islamists organised mourning ceremonies in multiple Libyan cities, and in Gaza and Turkey as well, for bin Hamid. Mourners arriving at Martyrs Square on Tuesday chanted “Wesam, Wesam, heaven is the musk of conclusion”.
The army led by General Haftar said bin Hamid was an extremist leader. An army official said, “bin Hamid was one of those who sit in the Benghazi Shoura Council of revolutionaries. This council brings all extremists together and is classified as a terrorist organisation. It extends from Derna in the east to Sebratha in the west, to Tripoli and other cities.”
Bin Hamid’s family say he was fighting to defend the revolution that toppled the Gaddafi regime. The fate of Bin Hamid was unknown until his family announced that he died three weeks ago as a result of his injuries from fighting Haftar’s forces near Benghazi some months ago.
Mohammed Al Mansouri, media spokesperson of ‘Mojahideen Shoura’, the city council, said bin Hamid “was a symbol of resistance and heroism, he gave us a clear message to stand up for what he died for, achieve what we want, and continue what he started”.
A security official said the attention given to Bin Hamid by extremist groups indicates cooperation and unity among those groups. An unknown extremist group called “The Benghazi Commission” invited the crowd to Tripoli for the mourning ceremony on April 30th.
Extremists manipulating the divide in Tripoli
Tripoli is divided between many competing forces. Among them is the force that Al Serraj depends on to protect the city. It is a semi-organised force operating in the south and the centre of Tripoli and consists of both military personnel and civilians.
There are also opposition forces in Tajura and some areas south and east of Tripoli. Lastly there is the Minister of Defence’s forces, who is not working in harmony with the Chairman of the Presidential Council.
Isis said they were responsible for an explosion at election headquarters in Tripoli a day after the mourning for bin Hamid. An investigation by the weakened security forces concluded the explosion was committed by two dark skinned people, allegedly members of Boko Haram.
The security source added that Boko Haram, which is linked to Isis, has been active in Libya for approximately two years. He added, “we have information that some of those African Isis fighters were in Sirte in the north of Libya, then fled to Syria, then returned to Libya again.”
Investigators indicated that a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood had asked the Ministry of Interior in Al Serraj government to permit the mourning ceremony in Martyrs Square. The request was submitted in writing and was approved in writing as well. Al Serraj, who was not in the country at the time, was not pleased with the decision to give the go ahead, said an investigator.
Brigadier Al Mahdi Al Burghathi confirmed that Isis cells have entered the city and are taking advantage of the divisions between forces. Al Burghathi is an officer with other security forces that was powerful during Gaddafi’s reign, and still operate with modest capabilities to secure Tripoli.
The Toubouan leader Abdul Majed said the most recent arrival of members of Isis from Syria and Iraq came three weeks ago. He said, Syrians, Egyptians and Algerians with counterfeit passports took flights then crossed the land border to Sabratha. They stayed there for several days before moving to Tripoli.
Subsequently security forces in the Libyan capital said dozens of Isis members in the capital’s jails and other jails in Sabratha and Misurata have disappeared. Among them Egyptians and Algerians arrested in operations in Sirte and Tripoli.
Alwrfli said that official forces in Tripoli are unable to do anything decisive to counter the danger of Isis in the city. He added, “there are no real security forces, such as police, general intelligence, investigators.” He explained that when Islamist groups took control of Tripoli in 2011, they dissolved those security apparatuses, took over their information, and used this data to blackmail their enemies internally and externally.
Al Burghathi confirmed that the inactive Isis cells are large and will endanger Tripoli in the future. He added, “as long as political divisions persist, the danger will be greater.” It seems that the Ministry of Defence, led by Al Burghathi have no definite plan to maintain security in Tripoli and tackle the inactive Isis cells, partly because of lack of resources in personnel and funding.