Alwaght-ISIS Takfiri terrorist group fighters have reemerged at Libyan desert regions exploiting agovernance vacuum which has resulted in lawlessness in most parts of the north African state.
“Unfortunately, the Libyan desert is still full of ISIS forces, so we have to be very careful and stay alert, defending the borders of Sirte,” says Major General Mohammed al-Ghossri, admitting that the Libyan forces affiliated to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) had been unable to pursue ISIS into the desert following the liberation of Sirte.
Khalifa Haftar, the military commander under Libya’s eastern government, has some forces in the area, said Ghossri, "but the reality is that the south is totally out of any governmental control”.
According to reports, militant elements, including remnants of ISIS and al-Qaeda operatives, were occupying an expansive stretch, from the outskirts of the pro-Muammar Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid, to the southern al-Jufra area, and east to the edge of the oil crescent, south of the fiercely contested oil export terminals of Brega and Ras Lanuf.
Regrouping in remote desert and rural areas, ISIS fighters in Libya have been pushed into a role of insurgency and banditry to sustain themselves, lying in wait for passing motorists along the main road from the coast towards the central Libyan desert town of Sebha, attacking goods vehicles, fuel tankers and ordinary civilian cars.
Security sources have described existing ISIS terrorists in the desert as a mix of Libyans and foreigners, mainly from sub-Saharan African countries.
The oil-rich North African state descended into a deadly civil war after US-led NATO military intervention followed the 2011 uprising that led to the toppling and killing of longtime dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
Libya’s disintegration into a cluster of chaotic internal conflicts has also made the country’s vast Mediterranean coast a choice route used by human traffickers moving thousands of African migrants to Europe.