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U.S. Conducts First Airstrike in Libya Under Trump Administration

ISIS IN ACTION
On 22 September, the US conducted an airstrike on an ISIS camp in the desert valleys about 150 miles south-east of Sirte, reportedly killing 17 ISIS fighters and destroying 3 vehicles. US Africa Command (Africom) said the strikes were carried out by armed Reaper drones flying from a base in Sicily. Reda Eissa, a spokesman for the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Misrata-led al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) coalition said he had no information about the airstrikes. Interestingly, the Libyan National Army (LNA) also said that it conducted airstrikes against ISIS targets near Sadada, west of Sirte, on the same day.

Africom officials said that ISIS used the camp to move fighters in and out of the country, stockpile weapons and equipment and plot and conduct attacks, adding that, “ISIS and al-Qaida have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring and directing terror attacks.” Africom also praised the GNA and their aligned forces for being valued partners against terrorism. This is the first US airstrike against ISIS under Donald Trump’s presidency.

Last week, the ISIS branch in eastern Libya, known as Wilayat Barqa, published its first video since the beginning of the year entitled ‘We didn’t fray or weaken’. The long video covers the ISIS suicide car bomb attack in Nawfaliyah on 31 August and the Fugha checkpoint massacres in southern Libya on 23 August, as well as patrols east of Sirte and camps in the desert.

The video revealed that Ramadan Muhammed al-Rabeeie, whose nom du guerre is Abu Faraj al-Ansari, was the suicide bomber responsible for the Nawfaliyah attack in which 4 people died. He was reportedly born in 1984 and was a resident of Ras Abeida in Benghazi with five other brothers. He was imprisoned during the Qadhafi regime for connections to al-Qaida. He was a senior leader in Ansar al-Sharia Benghazi and allegedly commanded a specialist assassination and bomb squad. He joined ISIS in 2014. Al-Ansari had managed to escape from Sabri area of Benghazi in January 2017 but it appears that he has now perished in the suicide car bomb.

WESTERN RESPONSE
On 20 September, the UN Secretary General António Guterres and Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame outlined the proposed new UN roadmap for Libya at a high level meeting on Libya which took place at the UN General Assembly in New York. The roadmap consists of a 3 stage process. The first involves gaining consensus for limited amendments to the existing Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) by December this year. In order to progress towards this, members from both the House of Representatives (HoR) and the High State Council (HCS) will meet in Tunis on 26 September to begin negotiating the amendment draft with UNSMIL teams.

The second stage is a National Congress Conference of all HoR and HCS delegations, along with those factions who have so far been ostracized, marginalized or have been reluctant to join the political process. The aim of the conference will be to bring all Libyan actors together to agree and endorse the members of a new unity government and discuss the proposed constitution produced by the Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA). The third stage is envisioned as the HoR and the CDA working together to prioritize the legislation for a constitutional referendum and subsequently legislation for parliamentary and presidential elections.

Salame wants all of this to be achieved within a timeframe of one year from now. He also stressed that there must be dialogue with armed groups, an initiative to unify the national army, an intensification of local reconciliation efforts, and decisive actions to address the important issue of Internally Displaced Persons. He also called on UN member states to participate in a new round of funding for the United Nations Stabilization Fund.

On 22 September, the US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert issued a special communiqué applauding Salamé’s “outreach” to Libyan leaders and calling on all Libyans to support and engage in his mediation efforts. Significantly, she said that “the United States will not support individuals who seek to circumvent the UN-led political process.”

Libya-Analysis is the most read independent English-language blog on Libyan affairs. It is run by Jason Pack, founder of EyeOnISISinLibya.com and researcher of World History at Cambridge University

This article was republished with explicit permission from the author.