Islamic State affiliates in eastern Libya are still capable of mounting successful attacks against military and police facilities. This was proven in the early hours of Tuesday as militants of the terror group attacked the town of al-Aghheilah (120 km west of Ajdabiya) killing and wounding 7 members of the Libyan National Army (LNA) and taking a few others as prisoners.
At least one of the slain soldiers was beheaded, according to initial eyewitness accounts which added that the attack lasted from 2am to 5am. The attackers stole food supplies from local shops and fuel from the town’s petrol station, added the same sources. Photos circulated on social media showed the attack’s aftermath including a police station and military vehicles said to have been set ablaze by the attackers.
The raid exposed a substantial failure of LNA’s intelligence and communication capabilities. A police report obtained by this website (below) had warned of an imminent attack on Agheilah by the Islamic State. The report which is dated on 23 July 2018 – less than 24 hours prior to the attack - cites an unnamed member of the public working as a truck driver saying that he was stopped on Monday at an ad hoc checkpoint set up by the Islamic State some 10 kilometres to the south of Agheilah. The unnamed driver said the militants have asked him whether he knew of any “apostates” (IS’s preferred name for members of the army and police) in Agheila whom they then “vowed to decapitate”.
Yesterday evening, reports in the Libyan media said the LNA had launched a counter offensive resulting in the death of the entire group that attacked Agheila following a battle in Wadi al-Jafr, a desert area to the south of al-Agheila. Photos and videos were subsequently shared on social media purporting to show “dead bodies of 13 of the attackers” including Mahmoud al-Barassi, the emir of Islamic State remnants who are roaming the deserts in central Libya. Despite some resemblance between recent photos of Barassi and the dead person shown in some of the videos (below), we cannot verify reports about his death. Four LNA soldiers were killed in the clashes of Wadi al-Jafr.
Yesterday’s attack came after a series of hit-and-run raids carried out by the Islamic State against military checkpoints and police stations in the area between al-Jufrah and Ajdabiya. Such attacks are likely to persist until the LNA conducts a thorough search of these deserts. A goal that currently seems unattainable considering LNA’s weak intelligence and air surveillance capabilities.