President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi declared in a televised speech that the Egyptian Armed Forces launched airstrikes against specific camps in Libya where the perpetrators of the recent attack that killed 30 Coptic Christians in Minya received training.
These airstrikes are believed to target Islamic State-affiliated military camps and extend to other areas where different extremist and militant groups are located. According to Armed Forces spokesperson Tamer al-Refaei, the forces have managed to eliminate several terrorist hotspots that represent a threat to Egypt’s national security.
These strikes are not the first of their kind; a similar offensive was launched in 2015 in the aftermath of horrific video footage showing 21 Egyptian Coptic expats being slaughtered in Libya.
In the video, militants vowed to target Egypt’s Coptic minority, which raised questioned as to the size and presence of this militant group in Libya, as well as the ideologies of similar groups that sought refuge there.
In this report, Egypt Independent will shed light on the size and affiliations of prominent militant groups that appeared following the ouster of former Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
With the emergence of IS in Iraq and Syria in 2014 due to violent military confrontations between the political regimes and other militants following popular uprisings in 2011, many countries launched airstrikes against IS and the other extremist groups.
These intensive airstrikes and other ground operations by the Iraqi and Syrian armed forces pushed IS-affiliated militants located in these areas to seek alternatives, such as Libya and other African countries.
Upon their arrival to Derna in Libya, the IS-affiliated militants publicly announced their loyalty to IS in Iraq and Syria and began operations to control other Libyan cities, such as Sirte and Surman.
Derna is a port city in eastern Libya. According to CNN, by November 2014 there were about 800 militants located across six camps.
In mid-2016, the militants withdrew from Derna following clashes with the Libyan army. They began to organize themselves in Sirte to fight against the Libyan army, lead by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, as well as other terrorist groups.
The groups found in Libya have varying affiliations, from the Islamic State itself to the Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaeda.
Prominent IS-affiliated groups in Libya
The Mujahideen Libya militia is considered to be one of the most dangerous and represents a huge threat to Egypt’s national security. The militants who carried out the recent Minya attack are believed to have been trained by this organization.
They are also believed to be responsible for the 2015 attack on 21 Egyptian Coptic expats.
The Islam Youth Shura Council declared its affiliation to IS and established an Islamic court and police authority in Benghazi. The group is notorious for decapitating swaths of residents from both Derna and Benghazi.
Prominent Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups in Libya
The Tripoli Revolutionaries (Thwar Troplos) is a military arm of the Brotherhood located in the capital. The group is managed by militants who came from Syria but were not affiliated with IS.
The Libya Shield Militia is mainly located in Misurata and has a number of branches in different parts in Libya, including the capital.
The 17 February Battalion is considered to be one of largest Brotherhood-affiliated militias. Located in Benghazi, it has a large personnel and is well-prepared militarily.
The Libyan Revolutionaries Operation Room is known for hijacking a number of Egyptian diplomats in 2013 who were in Libya at the time.