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IS continues to show presence in Libya

Although Libya's United Nations (UN)-backed government forces expelled the Islamic State (IS) from Sirte in the north last year, and the eastern-based army defeated rival militants three months ago, Libyans do not believe the war against IS is over.

Three suicide bombers on Wednesday attacked a court complex in Misrata city, located some 200 km east of the capital Tripoli, killing four and injuring more than 40.

The suicide bombers tried to blow up the cars inside the building. The security forces expelled them, forcing them to clash. Two attackers blew themselves up at the entrance of the complex.

Anti-explosives teams dismantled 156 kg of explosives and ammunition from a Hyundai the attackers failed to detonate.

IS claimed responsibility for the attack. "Dedicated soldiers of the Islamic Caliphate forces stormed the court complex, one of the most important strongholds of the unity government in Misrata," IS tweeted shortly after the attack.

Suleiman Al-Faqih, a member of the Libyan House of Representatives, or the parliament, believes that the behavior of IS is "extremist criminal," and is not affiliated with any divine law, but rather a clear expression of thirst to terrorize civilians and kill innocent people.

Al-Faqih told Xinhua that IS's attack on the complex is "a normal response, especially after its defeat in Sirte which forces of Misrata helped accomplish."

"Therefore, the group is trying to take revenge on the city, which had a prominent role in expelling it from its former stronghold," Al-Faqih said, referring to the northwestern city in the African country.

The court complex of Misrata includes all the courts in the city, as well as the offices of the public and sub-district prosecutors. IS members arrested in Sirte during the confrontations against government forces last year were supposed to be tried in the complex that day.

Al-Faqih believed IS's goals in Libya are larger than what was announced.

"They took advantage of security loopholes and hit the court complex of Misrata as an attempt to prove their presence and show everyone that they lost but did not die," he added.

Mohammed Al-Khoja, a Libyan researcher in terrorist groups' affairs, said the IS attack in Misrata provides an opportunity for security forces to deal seriously with such threats, and not settle with the achieved victory in Sirte and Benghazi.

Al-Khoja pointed out that the recent attack must be exploited to intensify intelligence efforts to track sleeper cells in Misrata and neighboring cities.

"How could IS have penetrated the highly protected court complex with intensive deployment of the joint security force?" Al-Khoja wondered, considering the terrorists' success in entering the complex with car bombs and explosive belts clear and strong evidence of the complicity of Misrata residents to facilitate the carrying out of the attack.

"Some IS leaders in Sirte, who were killed or arrested, are residents of Misrata and the surrounding cities. This is another evidence that their presence did not end within the city, and that the future will witness strong and violent attacks in retaliation for the military operation led by Misrata against the organization in Sirte," Al-Khoja said.

The recent attack is not a coincidence. Movements of the group were spotted on the outskirts of Sirte. The U.S. air force recently attacked IS members in valleys and desert areas in Libya.

"We have found many personal belongings of the organization's members, some of which are very recent," Mohammed Rajab, field commander of the forces allied with the UN-backed government, told Xinhua.

IS has carried out three different operations recently, Rajab said. One was in the east on a military gate in the town of Noufliya, the second in the south on the gate of Al-Jafra which killed 12 army soldiers, and the last in Misrata in the center of the country.

"The group appears to want to send out a message that it is still present in all Libya," Rajab said.

He also said that a curfew was imposed in the entire city of Sirte and its surroundings until further notice, following the suicide attack in Misrata.

[Source: By Mohmoud Darwesh, Xinhua, Tripoli, 06Oct17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 09Oct17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.