Sources report there is evidence of an ISIS presence in the area between Bin Walid, Brak al-Shati and Sebha in southern Libya. ISIS fighters reportedly use the desert roads which connect to the Man Made River pipeline network to move between areas, raid supplies and establish checkpoints. These ISIS fighters reportedly include high profile leaders who managed to escape from Sirte before or during the Misratan-led offensive against the city. There are also reports that training and base camps have been set up in the desert, although no confirmed reconnaissance evidence has yet verified this information.
In Sirte, Brigade 604, a Salafist brigade nominally affiliated with the Misratan al-Bunyan al-Marsus (BM) forces, has been tasked with securing the city’s main installations and residential areas. However, this has caused some tensions within Misrata as this brigade is believed to be close to Haftar. Threats still remain in Sirte from booby traps, IEDs and attacks by any remnant ISIS fighters.
Egypt and Algeria have intensified the pace of diplomacy with Libyan actors. Several meetings have taken place between various political players in both countries. Haftar’s visit to Algeria on 18 December coincided with that of Libyan Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sallabi. The two are understood to have had a discreet meeting together. Sallabi is working with Algeria to facilitate a meeting between Islamists, Haftar, and Qadhafi regime loyalists. The aim is to find a political settlement between these rival actors. HoR President Ageelah Saleh also spent most of last week in Egypt in intense talks. Last month, some Libyan political actors met in Cairo and issued demands including the amendment of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).
Last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov called the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) ineffective, and criticised UN Envoy Martin Kobler for ‘favoring other political forces and excluding Haftar’. Gatilov insisted that Haftar must have a leadership role in a united Libya. Gatilov’s statement indicates strong Russian support for the House of Representatives (HoR) and Haftar. It follows two Moscow trips by Haftar and HoR President Ageelah Saleh respectively.
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