Libya as the Levant? Jihadist Infighting in Derna
Negotiations between Libyan parties resumed at the start of the week, de facto heading to Berlin where international stakeholders met with UNSMIL representatives, including Bernardino Leon, as well as Libyan ones involved in the UN-backed negotiations process. As widely report in the media, a fourth draft political agreement deal was circulated by UNSMIL at the start of the week, although so far reactions from both the HoR and rump GNC can be considered mixed at best, thus making it all the more unlikely that a deal will be finalised before the start of Ramadan.
More surprisingly, since Tuesday 9 June Derna has become the latest theatre of action witnessing the eruption of serious infighting between Jihadist groups aligned with different strands of thought and strategic thinking. In fact, the local Shura Council of the Mujahideen of Derna and Surroundings (SCMD) has taken on Derna-based IS cells after one of its most veteran members, former LIFG fighter Abdullah Saber, and its leader, Salem Derby, were reportedly assassinated at the hands of the IS. As of Saturday 13 June, reports indicate that the SCMD has gained the upper hand in the fighting, with media reports suggesting that most of Derna’s areas previously under IS control are now firmly in the hands of the SCMD, which has also managed to get a hold of one of the most high profile IS commanders in the country: the Iraqi Abu Nabil al-Anbari, likely dispatched from the Levant to help oversee the development of the organisation in Libya.
Whilst it is still too early to understand what, if any, impact events in Derna will have on the standing of IS cells and groups located in other Libyan regions and towns, such as Sirte, it is easy to trace a parallel between the ongoing infighting registered in eastern Libya and the events that shook the Syrian opposition landscape when in January 2014 infighting erupted between the IS and aother Syrian factions, including the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
Meanwhile, although getting much less coverage and media attention, fighting in Ubari between Tubu and Tuareg factions drags on has it has been intermittently doing now for the past few years. In a very interesting piece for Vice News, Rebecca Murray presents an overview of current events and highlights the role that (perceived external dimension and influences shaping this conflict:
Captain Ali Hussein […] says the Tuareg receive token financial support from the Tripoli government, while medical evacuations are flown out of the nearby Sharara oil field, Libya’s second largest, which is currently secured by forces from the city of Misrata and many of the Tuareg — who just four years before were largely on opposing sides of the 2011 revolution.
The Tuareg accuse the Tebu, who are allied with the Tobruk-based Dignity government, of doing France’s bidding by seizing Tuareg land and resources in southwest Libya. The Tuareg have a long history of regional oppression by the French to draw from.
[…] “We know the Tebu in Ubari — we were in school together,” said Mohamed Al-Ansary, a Tuareg conflict resolution advisor, says. He believes powers like Algeria, France, and many Libyan politicians benefit to keep the Tuareg weak and fighting a proxy battle with the Tebu in the oil-rich land. “When I talk with Tebu leaders, they all agree with peace. So why is there a war in Ubari?”