The Libyan Links of the Manchester Attack
In an article for the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, Rhiannon Smith and Jason Pack discuss the Libyan connections to the Manchester attack and argue that the suicide bombing, and a subsequent ISIS attack against Coptic Christians in Egypt, have had repercussions in Libya, with different factions attempting to use it to undermine their rivals.
Egypt responded to the ISIS attack against Christian pilgrims in Minya province by conducting several airstrikes against the city of Derna, in coordination with eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA). Egypt claimed the ISIS attackers were trained in Derna, yet Derna is controlled by the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC), an al-Qaeda linked coalition of jihadis militias that defeated ISIS cells in the city nearly two years ago.
Significantly, the LNA has been fighting against the DMSC for control of Derna for the last three years, indicating that Egypt is likely using the ISIS massacre as a cover for providing air support to its ally Haftar. This is supported by the GNA’s condemnation of the airstrikes, calling them a violation of Libyan sovereignty.
There is a danger that these aggressive responses to the Manchester and Minya attacks by Libyan factions and their allies will be interpreted as confirmation of the continued strength of ISIS in Libya, leading to calls for stronger counter-terror policies towards Libya. Yet this is simply not the case. Although ISIS maintains a presence in Libya, its influence in the country has been significantly weakened in recent months.
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