Mohammed Saeed Ghaith al-Drissi (aka al-Niss)
The current leader of the so-called ‘Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council’ began his jihadi career with a part in a daring al-Qaeda plot to blow up Jordan’s main airport for which he was sentenced to life in prison.
Mohammed al-Niss, 35, was born into a well-known jihadi family from Benghazi’s Laithi district. Two of his brothers served life sentences in Tripoli’s Abu Saleem prison for terror charges.
He was sentenced in 2007 spending 7 years in Jordan’s maximum-security prison of al-Mowaqqar, until 13 May 2014 when he was freed in exchange for the Jordanian Ambassador to Libya, Fawaz al-Aitan, who had been kidnapped in Tripoli a month earlier by Libyan jihadis.
A private plane flew him to Tripoli from which he was transferred to Benghazi to reunite with his family. The Jordanian authorities hoped that he would serve the rest of his sentence in Libya, but as soon as he arrived in Benghazi, he assumed a leadership position within the city’s jihadi circles.
On 16 May 2014, just three days after his release, the Libyan National Army (LNA) launched a military offensive dubbed Operation Dignity to rid Benghazi of Islamist militias blamed for hundreds of assassinations and terrorist attacks including the murder of former U.S. Ambassador.
On 20 June 2014, Ansar al-Sharia and other Islamist militias from the city joined forces under a new umbrella organization called the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council (BRSC) with Drissi as its first leader.
While fighting the LNA in Benghazi’s Hawwari district in late 2015, he sustained a critical injury and subsequently had his foot amputated. He then boarded a BRSC boat to Misrata where he spent two months some at hospital and the rest awaiting his new passport which he received in February 2016. Later that month he flew from Misrata to Istanbul, Turkey where he is still based to this day. And while in Turkey he continued to act as BRSC leader during talks with international organizations who tried to mediate a ceasefire agreement in Benghazi.
In November 2016, he gave an interview to al-Masra, an online publication affiliated with a Palestinian al-Qaeda offshoot, where he voiced his objection to the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State in Sirte, and called on jihadis from across the globe to join jihad [holy war] against the LNA in Benghazi. In the same interview, he said that BRSC and Islamic State militants were “fighting alongside each other” against the LNA in Benghazi.