Our sources have reported that the Egyptian Special Forces Unit 999 executed a joint-raid with the forces of Libyan GEN Khalifah Haftar after the start of airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) positions inside Libya. Unit 999 and GEN Haftar’s forces conducted a raid on a camp located in the Dernah-area (variant: Darna) resulting in the total destruction of the camp. This particular camp is said to have a heavy-foreign fighter presence consisting of Tunisian, Egyptian and Algerian fighters. This particular camp appears to be part of the facilitation ratlines sending weapons and fighters to Syria through Egypt and Gaza, which is probably why the Sisi regime chose to target this location. IS responded by targeting the GEN Haftar stronghold of Quba in a series of bombings.
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Unit 999 conducting training
Source: The ISIS Study Group
The ratlines coming out of Libya are also fueling IS-affiliate Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) to continue moving forward in their campaign to secure the Sinai Peninsula to use as the gateway to Gaza, Jordan and Syria. If you suspect there’s a great sense of urgency on the part of Egypt to eradicate the IS presence in Libya and the Sinai, you would be correct. The reason for the increased operations in both areas has everything to do with ABM attempting to reach out to other jihadist groups in the country to bolster their ranks and create a “unified” command. Unconfirmed reporting has come out over the past few weeks about ABM allegedly reaching out to the Cairo-based group Ajnad Masr for the purpose of conducting joint-operations against the regime. This is significant since Ajnad Masr splintered from ABM in 2013 over their pro-IS leanings and regional agenda as opposed to just targeting the Egyptian government. If confirmed, then ABM will have an effective action-arm for conducting operations inside Cairo itself (ABM’s Cairo operations had been disrupted over the last 4 months due to security sweeps). Adding weight to this possibility are the reports that Ajnad Masr may be looking to target western embassies in the capital.
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ABM in their 2014 video pledging allegiance to IS
The Libyan-affiliate of IS has been expanding rather quickly in the country and initiated the targeting of westerners, as demonstrated in the late-JAN attack on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli and early-FEB attack on an oil field near Sirt. Regarding the oil field attack, IS was looking for westerners but ended up killing one US citizen, a French citizen and three Filipino overseas foreign workers (OFWs) taken hostage. As we’ve seen in Syria and Iraq, a key part of increasing the group’s capabilities revolves around seizing critical infrastructure such as power plants, oil fields and refineries, and its no different here in Libya. We fully expect IS will continue to target Libyan oil infrastructure in order to target western workers, generate revenue and pressure the governments of other target countries – to include EU members.
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The Corinthia Hotel Attack
We assess that GEN Haftar’s faction and the Sisi regime will continue planning for additional joint-operations similar to the Dernah camp raid. The UAE has been sending additional military equipment and weapons/ammo in support of these operations and has apparently signaled that they intend to increase their air campaign on IS targets in the country. Libya is of great importance as it gives IS a main hub from which to support expansion efforts throughout North Africa while providing additional logistical support to the war effort in Syria. The effort is deemed so important by IS leadership that they sent a “support package” consisting of cadre who fought US forces in Iraq to the country to assist in setting up the official affiliate. Furthermore, we assess that six months after IS sends such a group to an area that an affiliate is able to become fully operational. These personnel are a combination of structural IS fighters and personalities native to the target area. Regarding Libya, such personnel aren’t in short supply as the country was a major contributor of foreign fighters for the IS forerunner AQI during the OIF-era (its worth noting many of these personnel came from Benghazi). As such, what we’re seeing in Libya will likely be what we’ll see in the AF/PAK region six months from now. We also see indications that these same type of cadre were sent to Nigeria to assist Boko Haram 12 to 18 months ago. They have also sent similar cadre packages to other Maghreb states in North Africa, particularly those with active insurgencies.
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The ISIS Expansion into North Africa
Its also worth noting that both GENs Haftar and Sisi have not been receiving adequate US military support. More damning is that the Obama administration has even supported “moderate elements” of the Arab Spring that were not hardly at all moderate – such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB -which is the father of the modern Sunni terrorist) for instance. The result was a MB-dominated Egyptian government that became increasingly pro-jihadist and a Libya that became far less stable than it ever was when the Qaddafi regime was in power. The result was our Cairo Embassy being overrun, Libya mission being closed and our ambassador to that country being killed by the very same “moderates” that the Obama administration supported. Once GEN Sisi seized power he took note of what happened to his mentor Hosni Mubarak and has grown closer to Russia. In fact, US influence throughout the Middle East – and globally – has been on significant decline for the past 6 yrs, which began to accelerate at the start of the Arab Spring. If you were wondering why we’re seeing Jordan, Egypt, the UAE and France are now “in the lead” in the fight against ISIS, that’s why – and that isn’t a good thing. The United States is not “more respected” as the Obama administration claimed we would be nor are we feared. The decisions of the American voter in the last two presidential elections won’t fully manifest itself for another 1-2 yrs – but when it does, there will be a lot of blood spilled.
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