ISIL’s new leader in Libya says group is getting stronger every day
TRIPOLI // A senior ISIL militant identified in an interview as the new leader of the group’s Libyan offshoot said the extremists are getting “stronger every day” in the north African country.
Abdul Qadr Al Najdi, described in the interview carried by ISIL publication Al Naba as “the emir tasked with administering the Libyan provinces”, said he was praying for Libya to be made the “vanguard of the Caliphate”.
He also warned neighbouring countries that they would not be able to defend themselves from the militants.
“You are protecting yourself from the detonators with shields of bamboo, and from the flood with a ring of wood,” he said, in the interview released by the Site monitoring group on Thursday.
Tunisia, where more than 50 people died in an assault by extremists near the Libyan border this week, has just completed a trench and barrier on its southern frontier in an effort to stop militants crossing.
ISIL has taken advantage of the political chaos and security vacuum following the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi to establish a presence in several cities. Western officials have expressed alarm over the expansion and estimates the number of ISIL fighters in the country to be as high as 6,000.
Last year the group took full control of the eastern city of Sirte and the surrounding coastline. That proved easier than expanding elsewhere in Libya, where “the number of factions and their disputes” was one reason for failure, Al Nadji said.
ISIL militants were mostly pushed out of the eastern city of Derna by rival factions in June, and have been targeted by local security forces in the western city of Sabratha following a US air strike on a suspected training camp in February.
Al Najdi described ISIL in Libya as “still young” but said it was making progress in imposing religious law in areas under its control, in line with its actions in Iraq and Syria.
“The provinces of Libya have become the destination of the mujahideen and a sanctuary for the oppressed,” he said.
“The numbers of immigrants multiplied from all areas despite the ardent attempts by the West to prevent their immigration.”
The militant said the Libyan branch of ISIL was “in constant communication” with the group’s central offices in Iraq and Syria, where the group took swathes of territory in 2014 but has since come under increasing pressure from air strikes and local forces.
A US air strike on a suburb of Derna in November killed ISIL’s previous leader in Libya, known as Abu Nabil.
On Wednesday, ISIL militants attacked a checkpoint south of Misurata city, killing three security personnel, a military source said. It followed an air strike in Sirte that killed three children and wounded their mother.
The Abu Grain checkpoint was attacked just hours after the air strikes, raising the possibility that it was a retaliatory move.
There was no immediate confirmation from officials in Misurata, but forces from the city regularly carry out air strikes on Sirte.
Updated: March 10, 2016 04:00 AM