Libya chaos opens new doors for ISIS

Libya's Ansar al-Islam have pledged allegiance to ISIS

All roads in Libya today are leading in one direction – out of the country, writes Abdel Bari Atwan.

Libyans from the East are piling into their vehicles, loaded with all manner of belongings and heading for Egypt; those from the West are aiming for Tunisia, while the people of Misrata in the Middle of the country take to the seas in a bid to reach Malta.

It seems there are almost 2 million Libyans currently living in Egypt, and nearly 1.5 million in Tunisia; large numbers have attempted to enter Italy and Turkey and are seeking any country willing to open its doors.

Benghazi, which has been described as the cradle of the Libyan Revolution, has experienced heavy fighting over the last three days between troops loyal to General Khalifa Hiftar and hard-line Islamic groups. At the time of writing, 60 people had been killed and numbers are on the rise.

Hiftar began the so-called “dignity battle” against Islamic groups, led by Ansar al-Islam, back in May. He is the leader of the “Awakening” movement in Libya and strongly backed by the Americans.

The Libyan people are lost between many competing factions and militias, and the country is engulfed by chaotic battles.

The split is not only military but political. Since August there have been two Libyan governments, two parliaments and two armies after Islamists seized Tripoli and set up their own cabinet, under “Prime Minister” Omar al-Hasi, forcing the internationally recognised Prime Minister, Abdullah Thinni, and his cabinet to move to Tobruk.

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NATO-backed Libyan rebels overthrew Gaddafi in 2011
NATO-backed Libyan rebels overthrew Gaddafi in 2011

On Wednesday, the Turkish special envoy to Libya, Emrullah Isler, met al-Hisi in Thinni’s former office in the first official recognition of the new administration in Tripoli. Turkey is one of Libya’s biggest trading partners.

Libya has become a chess board for proxy wars. Qatar supports the Islamic groups while Egypt supports Hiftar. Meanwhile, nobody can confirm the identity of planes that bombed Benghazi.


The new kid on the block in Libya is probably the most dangerous and the most powerful of all. Bernardino Leon, the UN Envoy to Libya, has warned of a growing Islamic State presence in the East of the country, and in Derna the Shura Council of Islamic Youth (MSSI) pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi earlier this month and installed a Yemeni emir called Abu Taleb al-Jazarawey.

IS have established a Sharia court in the city and IS flags are now commonplace.

In the midst of all this chaos, one wonders where the Americans stand. The answer was provided by US Ambassador Deborah Jones who tweeted that terrorist organizations must be countered by the regular army under the control of a central authority that is democratic.

Another tweet condemned Ansar al-Islam suggesting that the US is fully supporting Hiftar who has long been a US ally, was trained by the CIA and twice attempted a coup against Muammar Ghadaffi in the late 1990 under their supervision.

Where are the Libyan people in this jungle of militias and the chaos of weapons? They are lost and anyone with any money has already fled the country – the richest (obtained by corruption) have gone to Europe – while the poor await their fate and live lives of poverty and terror not knowing which group to fear the most.

The last question is: where are the Libyan revolutionaries? I have to leave that answer to you, and the Libyan people. Modern history is more dark and deceitful than anything we have ever encountered.

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