ISIS IN ACTION
On 30 January, Indian media reported that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs had received information from Libyan authorities that an Indian national named Tabrez Tambe is being held in a Libyan jail as a prisoner of war. Tambe reportedly fled India in January 2016 to join ISIS in Libya. The Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad allegedly sent a letter to the Libyan authorities seeking details of his detention but has received no reply.
On 31 January, the Libyan National Army 12 unit in Brak al-Shatti, a town around 60km north of Sabha, claimed that two ISIS affiliates had been killed in clashes with the LNA and local residents. According to media reports, three men were scouting for food supplies in Brak but when suspicion was aroused, they shot at an LNA fighter before being chased by another LNA fighter and some local residents. Two of the men were later found dead outside the city.
On 2 February, two alleged ISIS fighters were killed and two Libyan LNA fighters were injured in clashes near the town of Maradah. On 3 February, three alleged ISIS fighters were killed in clashes near Waha Company’s Dahra oil field, located between Maradah and Zallah. Two LNA fighters died and another five were injured in the clashes. The LNA media office has stated the recent spate of incidences in the region result from an LNA campaign tracking ISIS fighters who fled Benghazi and participated in attacks against LNA posts in al-Fughaha in October last year.
On 1 February, UNSMIL said more than 200 tons of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) had been destroyed in Libya, with the support of the United Nations Mine Action Service and the governments of Denmark and South Korea. Another 200 tons of ERW is planned to be destroyed in the next phase of the initiative, which is supported by the French government.
On 1 February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report suggesting armed groups with links to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) are preventing at least 3,700 families from returning to Benghazi. The report states that since Haftar launched Operation Dignity to root out “terrorists” from the city in May 2014, an estimated 13,000 families have fled Benghazi. On 6 January, Haftar issued a statement denouncing the looting, destruction and appropriation of private property as well as the forced displacement of people from Benghazi, and instructed the LNA to facilitate the return of displaced people if ‘legally justified’. According to HRW, some families had been prevented from returning after receiving direct warnings from pro-LNA armed groups to stay away, or after pro-LNA armed groups attacked their relatives as a warning.
On 1 February, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, launched the new Joint Operation Themis to assist Italy in its border control activities. Operation Themis will replace operation Triton, which was launched in 2014. Operation Themis will continue to include search and rescue components for migrants, as well as having an enhanced law enforcement focus to assist Italy in tracking down criminal activities, such as drug smuggling. Unlike Operation Triton, rescued migrants do not have to be brought to Italy, but rather the decision on disembarkation is left up to the country coordinating a particular rescue. The security component of Operation Themis will include collection of intelligence and other steps aimed at detecting foreign fighters and other terrorist threats at the external borders.
This article was republished with explicit permission from the author.