Libya: Chronology of security incidents and violent clashes in Libya: 08 – 14 August period

By Rida Lyammouri

August 16th, 2016

There are two types of Islamist militant groups operating in Libya. Local groups: Benghazi Revolutionaries Shurah Council (BRSC), Darnah Revolutionaries Shurah Council (DRSC), Ajdabiya Revolutionaries Shurah Council (ARSC), Ansar al-Sharia Libya (AAS), Defense Brigade of Benghazi (DBB), Ajdabiya Operations Room (GATMJB). Regional groups: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State (IS).

Attacks and incidents listed below are not comprehensive and do not include all violence taking place in Libya. However these are incidents occurring in strategic areas where Libyan National Army (LNA) and its Western allies [with air support mainly] are carrying operations to chase Islamist militants out of their strongholds. Most of information is gathered through open source reporting and social media, and at times it’s difficult to confirm number of casualties and actors involved in an incident.

Key points and comments from MENASTREAM who has been following Libyan conflict very closely and recent evolvement of different groups in Libya:

  • Ajdabiya Revolutionaries Shura Council (ARSC) don’t longer exist and was dissolved several months ago resulting in the creation of ‘Operations Room for the Liberation of the City Ajdabiya and Support for Benghazi Rebels.’ GATMJB as abbreviation is now accepted according to same observer.
  • Ansar al-Sharia do exist but very much folded into BRSC along with Rafallah Sahati Brigade, February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade and few others that seems to have become totally folded into BRSC.
  • GATMJB and DBB work together but are work very closely together pretty much like one with the GATMJB leader al-Saadi al-Nawfali being a senior commander in DB as well along with Zied Bel’am commander of Katibat Omar al-Mukhtar, Mustapha Sharkassi former LAF spokesman i.e. former LNA (Haftar), Frag Shaku, the commander of February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade and also one of the main field commanders in BRSC prior the formation of DBB.
  • Increased use of suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) by BRSC could be explained by the fact they have been pushed back significantly and pretty much holed up in the corner of the ‘Western region’ Gawarsha, Ganfouda and Garyounis/south Benghazi. In this area there is an obvious possible coordination/cooperation with IS which influences this behavior. But also Ansar al-Sharia’s seemingly leading role and the strongly articulated popular support.

Note: This is a trial to see if there is need for weekly reporting about key security related events taking place in Libya. 

Chronology of violent incidents in Libya: 8 – 14 August 2016

Benghazi

09 August 2016: Counterterrorism office in Benghazi discovered and dismantled a sleeping cell of unknown “terrorist organization,” and arrested two suspects. Weapons, cash, and explosives also seized.

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Bushra news agency infographic. Source: @MENASTREAM

11 August 2016: According to Bushra News Agency infographic (above), two airstrikes and four drones attacks were conducted in Benghazi. Reportedly 4 killed and 5 injured.

12 August 2016: According to Saraya media, a news outlet affiliated with Benghazi Shura Council, French drone strike targeted Ganfouda district in Benghazi.

13 August 2016: Two suspects arrested in Benghazi allegedly members of what referred to as terrorist organizations. The arrest took place east Benghazi at Boudzira area. Reportedly suspects are members of Dare’ Libya 1 and Rafallah al-Sahati.

13 August 2016: Islamic State targeted National Libyan Army (LNA) in Gawarsha area in Benghazi.

14 August 2016: A landmine explosion in Al-Gawarsha district killed 2 of Khalifa Haftar’s militiamen and injured 2. The IED targeted volunteering militiamen, who fight with Haftar’s forces, as they were advancing nearby Al-Gawarsha checkpoint.

Sirte

08 – 10 August 2016: After days of fighting, Bonyan Al-Marsous, Libyan militia backed by U.S airstrikes claimed capturing several strategic locations from IS in Libya. Captured locations included Ouagadougou conference center, and the university of Sirte, both have been considered symbolic to IS. Misrata hospital reported to have received 16 dead and 93 wounded soldiers from Bonyan Al-Marsous forces as a result of Sirte clashes.

09 August 2016: Bonyan Al-Marsous team struck an IED at Sirte where the Libyan militia have been clashing with IS.

10 August 2016: Libyan Dawn Air Force (LDAF) plane reported crashed at Sirte due to technical difficulties while IS media arm Amaq claimed its fighters downed the warplane. 2 pilots killed.

13 August 2016: An Islamic State SVBIED targeted Bonyan Al-Marsous gathering near captured Ouagadougou conference center. 7 fighters allegedly killed.

14 August 2016: Bonyan Al-Marsous reported ongoing clashes at both residential districts near the waterfront.

Jufra

09 August 2016: SDB and LNA reportedly clashed near the Naga oil field at Jufra. LNA sources also released photos of alleged IS fighters killed claiming to the group (IS) is supposedly behind the attack.

Darnah

10 August 2016: Libyan Air Force (LAF) reportedly conducted airstrikes on ammunition depot belonging to DMSC.

Libya: Chronology of security incidents and violent clashes in Libya of 01 – 07 August period

 By Rida Lyammouri

August 8th, 2016

There are two types of Islamist militant groups operating in Libya. Local groups: Benghazi Revolutionaries Shurah Council (BRSC), Darnah Revolutionaries Shurah Council (DRSC), Ajdabiya Revolutionaries Shurah Council (ARSC), Ansar al-Sharia Libya (AAS), Defense Brigade of Benghazi (DDB), Ajdabiya Operations Room (GATMJB). Regional groups: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State (IS).

Attacks and incidents listed below are not comprehensive and do not include all violence taking place in Libya. However these are incidents occurring in strategic areas where Libyan National Army (LNA) and its Western allies [with air support mainly] are carrying operations to chase Islamist militants out of their strongholds. Most of information is gathered through open source reporting and social media, and at times it’s difficult to confirm number of casualties and actors involved in an incident.

Note: This is a trial to see if there is need for weekly reporting about key security related events taking place in Libya. 

Chronology of violent incidents in Libya: 1 – 7 August

Benghazi:

BRSC Infographic_7AUG2016.jpg

Infographic released by an Islamist militant group with alleged damages it caused to Libyan Army led by General Haftar. Source: @MENASTREAM

01 August 2016: Libyan investigators released information about suicide bomber that targeted LNA forces July 29th in Benghazi. Suicide bomber was identified and reportedly traveled to Syria before returning to join IS in Sirte then Benghazi.

01 August 2016: Reportedly, Libyan forces arrested son of former Guantanamo detainee, Soufiane Ibn Qamou, at Wadi al-Sahl, west Tubruk.

02 August 2016: 15 LNA soldiers killed and 31 injured in a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack on LNA gathering south of Benghazi. The attack carried near Pipeline Company at al-Gawarsha area. Majliss Shurah Thuwar Benghazi (Benghazi Revolutionaries Shurah Council) or (BRSC) claimed the attack through media arm Saraya.

02 August 2016: Military engineer injured while dismantling IEDs planted in al-Gawarsha passage, an area previously occupied by IS.

02 August 2016: LNA forces claimed to have re-captured al-Gawarsha passage west Benghazi from IS fighters.

03 August 2016: Report released by the IS in Libya showed its forces targeting LNA forces in western part of Benghazi.

05 August 2016: LNA spokesman claimed to have seized VBIED factory making and chemical called al-Doqm at Ganfouda passage west of Benghazi.

05 August 2016: LNA claimed seizing control of a flour supply warehouse in Benghazi at Ganfouda area.

07 August 2016: Head of investigation team in Benghazi reported the arrest of an IS member. However, prosecutors representative also claimed the suspect was a member of other alleged Islamist militant groups in Benghazi without specifying which groups. Suspect also revealed number of sleeping cells in Benghazi and there is an ongoing search for them.

07 August 2016: BRSC claimed to have downed an LNA surveillance drone near Amarat al-Siniya in Benghazi.

07 August 2016: Reportedly, LNA forces clashed with members of BRSC in Benghazi. BRSC pro-media outlet later released infographic with statistics of losses among General Haftar forces claiming to have destroyed 2 armored vehicles and 1 tank, in addition to killing 19 and injuring 32 LNA soldiers.

Sirte:

01 – 07 August 2016: U.S Africom reported to have carried out 20 airstrikes on IS in Libya.

01 August 2016: Bonyan al-Marsous reportedly seized control of Dollar district from IS at Sirte. 5 killed and 17 injured among Bonyan al-Marsous forces.

01 August 2016: Libyan Down AirForce (LDAF) carried airstrike on and destroyed an IS tank at Sirte.

Darnah 

01 August 2016: Omar al-Mokhtar operation room claimed to have destroyed VBIED factory making and arms warehouse in Darnah during an airstrike. The factory was located at Sayida Khadija neighborhood near Korean buildings.

02 – 03 August 2016: LNA carried airstrikes on arms depot located west of Darnah that belongs to the Revolutionaries Shurah Council (DRSC). Reportedly target of the airstrikes was located at Sayida Khadija neighborhood.

04 August 2016: DMSC ambushed LNA forces while traveling on coastal road heading to Darnah. DMSC claimed to have killed and injured at least 15 LNA members without giving specific number.

05 August 2016: LNA carried airstrikes on armed vehicles and military equipment gathering at Wadi al-Shawa’ir in southern Darnah. “Shurah Mujahidi Darnah and its Surroundings” reportedly held the post targeted.

05 August 2016: LNA forces targeted at Dhahr al-Hamr south of Darnah. 7 LNA soldiers killed.

04 August 2016: Reportedly, heavy clashes took place at the western entrance of Darnah between LNA forces and Majlis Shurah al-Mujahideen. Clashes occurred between wadi al-Naqa and Karssat village west of Darnah.

04 August 2016: LNA air force carried airstrike on al-Khashkhash farm west of Darnah.

 

Nigeria: Comprehensive summary of Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi interview in English

By Rida Lyammouri,

August 8th, 2016

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Key points of the interview based on Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi (Habeeb Bin Muhamed Bin Youssef al-Barnawi) comments:

  • Motivation behind pledging allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS) was seeing strength fighting as one and in unity.
  • The real name of the group was never Boko Haram, it’s a nickname given by western media to discredit the group. The real name was given after the founder, Sheikh Youssef al-Barnawi was killed and Shekau became head of the group. The original name is Jamaatu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Daawati wal-Jihad.
  • The group did send its fighters to the Sahara for military training, but al-Barnawi did not specify where and the group that provided the training.
  • Western forces are providing support to coalition forces fighting ISWAP/Boko Haram but have no boots on the ground.
  • Al-Barnawi said the group does not approve or authorize attacks on mosques and markets killing Muslims. Said members for their own personal interests carry these attacks.
  • Al-Barnawi said operations against ISWAP are run from joint operation room in Niger, and when they decide to attack, French and US send surveillance drones from their bases in Niger to locate us. Then joint African forces will carry an on ground assault backed by heavy air support.
  • Narrative of al-Barnawi focuses on accusing Western countries and Christians of having hidden agendas behind their humanitarian work and helping refugees.
  • Al-Barnawi claims increased number of fighters among ISWAP is due to the victories achieved by IS elsewhere. Injustice applied by local government (s) also claimed to be another reason.

Comprehensive Summary of the Interview

Note: This is not a word-by-word translation but rather a comprehensive summary of all talking points while leaving unnecessary comments out. Also this does not represent my views.

For good analysis about what this means please read Ryan Cummings commentary here.

Continue reading

Nigeria: Summary of Abubakar Shekau video in response to appointing Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi

By Rida Lyammouri,

August 8th, 2016

On August 7th Jamaatu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Daawati wal-Jihad or better known as Boko Haram released a new video in response to the appointment of Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, who is real name is Habeeb Bin Muhamed Bin Youssef al-Barnawi, as new emir of Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP). The video came few days after an exclusive interview conducted by Abu Mus’ab to al-Nab’a, Islamic State newspaper, released on August 3rd.

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First speaker surrounded by Boko Haram fighters.  

Boko Haram video was little over 24 minutes long and featured Abubakar Shekau. The first speaker spoke in both, Arabic and Hausa, directing his speech to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and to African and Western forces.

He initially focused on the appointment of Abu Mus’ab al-Barnanwi. The speaker said the group reached out to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi eight times to warn about the commitment of al-Barnawi to the application of al-Sunna but never received any response. He then said that were surprised, just like the rest of the world, about appointing al-Barnawi and removing Shekau. Speaking on behalf of Shekau and his followers, the speaker confirmed they are committed and remain faithful to Shekau while still loyal to IS at the same time. Their decision is based on their loyalty to Shekau but also they don’t see al-Barnawi fit to lead them. Furthermore, the speaker talked about other issues that need to be addressed in private with al-Baghdadi without giving any indications.

Speaker then added the group will remain determined in its fight against its ennemies, referring to Nigeria and neighboring countries, and to their Western allies. Speaker directly threatened Nigeria by naming Abuja, the capital, as the main target. The first speaker then concluded by translating the same speech in Hausa.

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Shekau during the video.

In hist part, Shekau stated that the fight against infidels is just starting against Nigeria, United States, France, Germany, and United Nations. Also hinted that he does not plan to fight his brothers, referring to Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi. He then made it clear that he is the emir of Jamaatu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Daawati wal-Jihad or Boko Haram not only in Nigeria, but in the whole world.

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Video featured hundred of armed fighters.

Mali: AQIM, Ansar al-Din and Related Security Incidents for July 2016

By Rida Lyammouri

August 1st, 2016

Violent extremist organizations (VEOs) operating in Mali remained active and operational in Mali throughout the month of July, especially Ansar al-Din. Attacks conducted in Mali were mainly carried by Ansar al-Din, targeting mostly the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and Malian forces. This trend will most likely continue in coming weeks and months in efforts to undermine national and international efforts to stabilize the country. Malian forces suffered one of the deadliest attacks since 2012 when a joint operation by more than one group targeted Malian Army base at Nampala near Mauritanian borders. The incident further demonstrated both the ability of groups to conduct deadly attacks and to demonstrate that Malian Army remains unable to to prevent such attacks. The use of improvised explosive device (IED) remains the main tactic to target Malian and foreign forces, while targeting MINUSMA logistical convoys is in increase with the aim to disrupt peacekeeping operations.

Month of July was also bad in regards the implementation of the peace process. In July 12th, demonstrations by local population opposed to the process in Gao turned violent when Malian forces fired at protestors killing 3 and injuring more than 30. In July 21st fighting erupted between in Kidal between GATIA and CMA, two key actors in the Algiers peace accord. Further violent clashes also took place in July 31st indicating that violence and use of arms remain the strong negotiations language.

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Images of Islamist militants in northern Mali released by al-Mourabitun of AQIM arm media al-Ribat.

Key July Security Events and Trends in Mali:

  • AQIM branch Grand Sahara announced the death of one of its senior commanders, Abu Bakr al-Shenkiti (Mohamed al-Radhi). This is a major loss to the group because of Abu Bakr’s extensive experience fighting in Mali since joining AQIM in 2009.
  • Malian forces arrested on July 26th Ansar al-Din Macina brigade leader identified as Mahmoud Barry (aka Cheick Yahya). Cheick Yahya reported to have played key role in the Nampala attack, and was arrested between Nampala and Dogofri. He made its first public appearance in a first video released by the same brigade May 18th.
  • Malian forces arrested on July 19th key leader of Ansar al-Din southern brigade, Boubacar Wardogo. Wardogo is from Burkina Faso and was leading Ansar al-Din branch operating along Burkina Faso and Mali borders. His brigade was responsible for number of attacks conducted on both sides of the borders. This arrest was a result of investigations that followed the arrest of Yacouba Touré, another key Ansar al-Din figure in the south who was arrested in May.
  • AQIM claimed 0n July 21st responsibility of kidnapping then assassinating High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) senior commander at Ber. Commander was identified as Alhassane Ag Intoua, and was taken from Ber on June 20th. Also, AQIM sent decapitated body of MNLA member, Efad Ag Arikak taken at Ber on June 6th.
  • Ansar al-Din media arm al-Rimah released an infographic with statistics of the Nampala attack claiming to have seized 5 (12.7mm) Doushka and 5 PK machine guns, more than 40 AKs, 5 vehicles, and important amount of ammunition.
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Ansar al-Din inforgraphic with Nampala attacks statistics.  

Chronology of  AQIM, Ansar al-Din, and VEO Related Incidents

01 July 2016: Unknown armed militants attacked Malian gendarmerie post in Ménaka. 2 killed and 1 injured.

Continue reading

Battle of Niger: Summary and takeaways from Boko Haram/ISWAP video

By Rida Lyammouri

July 6th, 2016

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On July 5th, 2016, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) or better known as Boko Haram, released a 14mn video titled: the Battle of Bosso. Exactly a month ago on June 3th ISWAP militants conducted one of the deadliest attacks on Nigerien forces military base of Bosso, Niger. Video mainly intends to reinforce ISWAP propaganda that regional forces are unable to stop the group from conducting attacks on hard targets and to demonstrate capability of defeating them. Important to note that an initial short video was released June 7th, three days after Bosso attack. However, July 5th video is 12 times longer, has more contents, and much better quality. The video included passages of speeches from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) from 2004 to 2006, was killed in June 2006. Continue reading

Mali: AQIM and Security Related Incidents in June 2016

By Rida Lyammouri

July 4th, 2016

Violent extremist organizations (VEOs) operating in Mali remained aggressive in June and deadly throughout northern and central Mali, especially Ansar al-Din. VEOs operational in Mali include Ansar al-Din, the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) or Ansar al-Din southern brigade, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA or MUJAO). The Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), French, and Malian forces are the main target. Improvised explosive device (IED) still the main tactic used by VEOs.

June also saw attacks against members of armed groups under unclear circumstances. This includes the assassination of High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) military chief in Ber, member of Ganda Izo at Bourem Sidy Amar, and the kidnapping of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) spokesman at Ber.

June also witnessed new developments in central Mali, notably the creation of new group identified as Alliance Nationale pour la Souvegarde de l’Identité Peule et la Restauration de la Justice (ANSIPRJ) on 19 June 2016. This will further complicate operations countering the rise of the MLF and efforts to eradicate violence related to tribal and ethnic tensions in central Mali.

Numbers recorded in June 2016 by Maghreb and Sahel Blog:

  • 26 violent incidents in Mali involving VEOs.
  • Ansar al-Din claimed 10 out of 26 incidents against French, MINUSMA, and Mali forces.
  • IEDs were used 7 out of 26 times during the attacks.
  • MINUSMA forces and MINUSMA contractors were targeted 6 times. Continue reading