ISIS’s Retaliatory IED Tactics in Sirte and The Escape of More Fighters
At the moment of partial victory in Sirte, various pillars that should make up the anti-ISIS coalition are feuding with each other. The HoR has rejected the GNA’s government, the LNA and PFG are facing increasing tension over Zuetina in the oil crescent, and various interests are preventing oil production to blackmail for their own demands.
In Sirte, fighting halted last week but resumed fiercely on 27 August. The break in the fighting was reportedly to allow wives and children of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters to exit the conflict zone towards the south-west, though there is no evidence confirming this actually took place. It is likely that key ISIS commanders will have taken advantage of this lull in fighting to escape to the south, meaning the destruction of ISIS in Sirte will not mean the eradication of ISIS in Libya. For more thoughts on this theme, click here.
On 28 August, Bunyan Marsus (BM) fighters aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA) closed in on ISIS-held districts 1 and 3 of Sirte. At least 35 were killed and more than 180 injured as a result of fierce fighting and reportedly 14 attempted suicide vehicle attacks by ISIS (SVBIEDs). BM sources say that 5 of these were neutralised by US airstrikes, 4 where destroyed by BM fighters before impact, while 5 others managed to hit their targets. SVBIED’s, together with IEDs, booby traps and sniper fire accounts for the majority of BM casualties. It is unclear if BM forces have either the training or the resolve to psh past this relentless assault of attacks. In fact we see that ISIS in Libya deploys different but related tactics to ISIS in Syria and Iraq. For more on use of IEDs by ISIS as akin to an artillery barrage see Barak Barfi piece CTC Sentinel.