TUNIS Dec 9 Libyan forces are trying to secure
the city of Sirte after ousting Islamic State from its former
North African stronghold in a battle that lasted nearly seven
Here are some facts about Islamic State in Libya:
Islamic State drew on existing pockets of militancy in
Libya, establishing its first major presence in Derna, an
eastern city with a strong Islamist tradition.
It also profited from a security vacuum caused by the
turmoil that followed Libya's 2011 revolution, and from 2014 a
conflict between loose alliances of armed groups loyal to
factions based in Tripoli and the east.
In October 2014 militants from al Qaeda-linked group Ansar
al-Sharia who largely controlled Derna announced they were
transferring their loyalty to Islamic State. Ansar al-Sharia
members in several other parts of eastern and central Libya also
Jihadists who returned from fighting in Syria with the
Libyan al-Battar battalion also made up part of the jihadist
group's initial presence in Libya.
Senior emissaries were sent to the country by Islamic
State's leadership in Iraq, including former leader Abu Nabil
al-Anbari, Bahraini preacher Turki Bin Ali, and Saudi national
Abu Habib al-Jazrawi.
Islamic State affiliates appeared in several places in
eastern Libya including Benghazi, the country's second-largest
city, and Ajdabiya, close to some of Libya's main oil export
In Sirte, hometown of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Islamic
State took full control in early 2015. The group eventually
extended its presence along a coastal strip of about 250 km (155
miles) either side of the city.
Islamic State also established a presence in parts of
Libya's vast southern desert, and built up sleeper cells in
urban centres in northwestern regions including the capital,
Sabratha, a coastal city in the far west, became an
important hub for Tunisian members of the jihadist group
plotting attacks in their home country.
In many areas, however, Islamic State struggled to expand or
retain territory. In Derna, the group was chased out by rival
Islamists and other opponents, and in Sabratha local brigades
took on militants in February in the wake of a U.S. air strike.
Many of those appointed to senior positions in Islamic
State's Libyan branch were foreign, drawing on large numbers of
recruits from countries including Tunisia, Egypt and Sudan,
according to security and intelligence officials in Misrata.
Some senior figures were dispatched from the Middle East.
These included Wissam Abd al-Zubaidi, also known as Abu Nabil
al-Anbari, a former intelligence official and IS governor from
Iraq who arrived in Libya in 2014 to lead operations there and
was killed in a U.S. air strike in Derna in November 2015.
In March, Islamic State publication Al-Naba named Abdul Qadr
al-Najdi as the new leader. Najdi is thought to be the new name
for Abu Habib Jazrawi, a Saudi earlier dispatched to Libya by
Islamic State's leadership in Iraq. Regional media reported that
he was recently replaced by a Tunisian, Jalaludin Al-Tunsi.
Keen to fight the perception that it was a foreign import,
Islamic State also placed Libyans among its leadership in the
North African country. A number of senior Libyan figures were
killed during the battle in Sirte.
Among the first major attacks claimed by Islamic State in
Libya was a January 2015 armed assault on the luxury Corinthia
Hotel in Tripoli in which nine people were killed, including
In the weeks that followed, Islamic State released videos of
dozens of Christian hostages from Egypt and Eritrea being
beheaded and shot in mass executions, two of which were carried
out on beaches.
From February 2015, the militants also targeted Libya's oil
facilities, causing extensive damage and further reducing the
oil production on which the Libyan economy is highly dependant.
In January 2016, attacks against major oil terminals at Es Sider
and Ras Lanuf caused significant damage to storage tanks.
The same month, a bombing targeting police recruits in the
north-western town of Zliten killed about 60 recruits, the
highest death toll from a single attack since the 2011 uprising.
In early May the jihadists pushed north-west from Sirte
towards Misrata, briefly capturing the small town of Abu Grain
and several villages in the area. That advance triggered the
counter-attack that developed into the campaign to recapture
RULE IN SIRTE
As in Syria and Iraq, militants set up a proto-state in
Sirte, registering and taxing local businesses and taking over
public offices and services.
Islamic State also enforced its ultra-hardline rule on
Sirte's residents, prompting many who had not already left the
city to flee. Smoking was banned, barber shops closed, women and
teenage girls were made to wear long black robes, and boys were
trained as fighters.
There were regular public punishments. Suspected thieves had
their hands chopped off and residents accused of spying were
shot dead, their bodies put on public display for several days.
(Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Pravin Char)