Over 100 Toyota trucks carrying Islamic State militants were deployed in the early hours of today to al-Wadi a-Ahmar, a desert to the East of Sirte serving as a buffer zone between Hifter’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and forces from the western city of Misrata.
It was understood that the Islamic State captured an area stretching 70 km and set up two checkpoints in the villages of Um al-Qindil and Um al-Khenfes before the terror group was forced to flee after its forces were targeted by LNA airstrikes.
Eyewitness accounts said the militants seized fuel and food supplies before retreating toward a desert to the south of Sirte. This indicates that Islamic State forces are still scattered in the desert with no regular access to fuel nor food, as opposed to recent reports claiming that they had access to supplies from Bani Walid.
During the brief raid, an Islamic State imam is said to have delivered an Eid sermon in Um al-Khenfes and that at least three members of the ‘quietest Salafism’ sect were taken as hostages.
Today’s attack on al-Wadi al-Ahmar proves what we concluded recently that the Islamic State is still alive for its ability to exploit the existing political divisions between Libya’s rival factions.
Although the LNA regained control of the entire area, the Islamic State is expected to launch further attacks in the near future because it would be very difficult for its forces to survive the winter in the desert. The most likely targets for such attacks will continue to be the Oil Crescent region as well as the villages in Libya’s central region.
Meanwhile, the LNA deployed reinforcement to its positions in the Oil Crescent and al-Jufrah as similar measures were made by Misrata’s Bunyan Marsous forces in Sirte.