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The Libyan National Army arrests Islamic State commander in Awbari

The Libyan National Army (LNA) today said it had detained a prominent Islamic State commander during a security operation in the southern border town of Awbari.

 |  Libya Times Editor  |  News
Abu Omar Awbari

The Libyan National Army (LNA) today said it had detained a prominent Islamic State commander during a security operation in the southern border town of Awbari.

In a press release, LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari, said that the LNA had carried out a series of security operations at 5am today targeting locations of an Islamic State group led by a militant who has been identified as Muhammed Mailoud Muhammed (aka Abu Omar). The statement said that the detained militant was a known leading figure within the Islamic State leadership when the terror group was in control of Sirte in 2015, adding that he was close to the group’s late emir,  Abu Muadh al-Iraqi and that he had taken part in the terror group’s 2015 attack against the Oil Crescent region.

The statement said that Abu Omar fled to Awbari [after the 2016 US-led campaign that drove the Islamic State out of Sirte] where he formed a local terrorist group that was behind the abduction of four Italian engineers in 2016 in exchange of €4 million. The statement said that Abu Omar had contact with Abu al-Walid al-Sahrawi, the emir of Islamic State affiliate in the Great Sahara, and that he had met with al-Mahdi Danqou and Abu Muadh al-Iraqi in Awbari and Murzuq to plot terrorist attacks.

Prior to the statement, the video below was making the rounds on social media websites showing LNA personnel saying that units from the LNA 106th Reinforced Brigade had raided and subsequently blew up a property in Awbari used as an ammunition depot by Islamic State militants.

Libyan social media users subsequently shared photos (below) said to show weapons seized during the reported raid.

In an apparent related development, four large blasts were reported this morning in Awbari following sightings of unidentified reconnaissance sorties over the area, according to local sources.   

Accounts of several eyewitnesses reviewed by this website spoke of at least “four airstrikes” between 5:50am and 6:55am today (local time) targeting residential locations in and around the town thought to be linked to Islamist militants. The targeted locations included al-Sharib neighbourhood as well as the suburbs of Tinda and Barjouj.

One eyewitness shared a photo of an unidentified aircraft (below) which he said was taken today in Awbari following the reported strikes. Other local sources reported increased jihadi footprint in al-Sharib neighbourhood by ‘al-Talqin group’ and other al-Qaeda affiliates operating out of Northern Mali. This comes after similar reports yesterday said that an unidentified aircraft had conducted airstrikes and reconnaissance sorties over the neighbouring village of Germa.

“Jihadi pawns to be mobilised to justify grab of Libya’s oil”  

A retired Libyan security official who spoke to our website on condition of anonymity warned that some international actors had been recently increasing their footprints across Libya’s southern neighbouring states in a bid to establish a gateway to access Libya’s southern oil and mineral resources “under the pretext of fighting terrorism”. The official said that certain international actors with long track record of arming al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria had established clandestine contact with al-Qaeda affiliates operating underground in Libya’s border triangle with Algeria and Niger. The aim, claimed the same source, would be instigating terrorist attacks against commercial, government and oil targets in Libya’s southwestern region to justify an international military intervention across Libya’s oil rich region. The source cited what he described as reports accusing “old imperialist powers” of destabilising Bolivia to gain access to its massive reserve of lithium, an increasingly important ingredient for electric car industry, as example of economic gains pursued under the cover of political and security justifications. “In addition to oil,” said the source “Libya is also an important gateway to the Sahel region which has been turned into an arena for undeclared international war to control Africa's natural resources with China and Russia on one side against the EU, Nato and Anglo-Saxon powers”.

Earlier this month, The New York Times said that the CIA had substantially expanded its drone air base in the Niger town of Dirkou with its main area of focus being “southwestern Libya, a notorious haven for Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other extremist groups that operate in the Sahel region of Niger, Chad and Mali.” In June 2020, western media reports said that clandestine armed Russian operatives had been sighted  at al-Sharara oil field, the largest oil installation in southwestern Libya.  

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