Tripoli – The battle for Tripoli between rival Libyan forces both championing the fight against “terrorism” has created a security vacuum, allowing Daesh a chance to re-emerge, analysts warn.
Libya expert Emad Badi says the fighting has given Daesh “the opportunity to reorganise, recruit and strike alliances with other groups (and organise attacks) to show they are still around”.
Extremist groups capitalised on Libya’s descent into chaos after the 2011 uprising that killed veteran dictator Muammar Qaddafi to establish a presence in the North African country.
Daesh had its main stronghold in Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, east of Tripoli, until it was expelled from the Mediterranean coastal city in December 2016.
The group’s demise came at the hands of forces loyal to the Tripoli-based internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), especially fighters from the western city of Misrata.
Those fighters are among pro-GNA forces now battling the Libyan National Army of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar who launched an assault on Tripoli on April 4.
Haftar has vowed to “cleanse” Libya of extremists and presents himself as the country’s saviour.
In 2017, he drove hardline Islamists out of second city Benghazi after a three-year battle and ousted extremists from Derna, also in the east.
Then in January he launched an operation to “purge the south of terrorist and criminal groups” before setting his sights on Tripoli.
But despite being weakened, the extremists still pose a threat in oil-rich Libya, where they were blamed for around 20 attacks last year.
And over the past week Daesh has carried out two deadly assaults targeting Haftar’s forces - on a training camp in the southern city of Sebha on May 4 that left nine dead and an attack Thursday in Ghodwa, also in the south, that killed two civilians.
Feeding on divisions -
Instability has reigned over Libya since the 2011 uprising, with rival political and military forces vying for power and fighting for the country’s oil wealth and cities.
Extremists groups such as Daesh have fed on this chaos to grow, and divisions that persist as reflected by the battle for Tripoli only serve to bolster them, analysts say.
“The divisions give terrorists an unexpected opportunity to mobilise and reorganise,” said Khalid Al Montasser, a professor of international studies who lectures at Libyan universities.
After losing Sirte and Derna,