The Libyan judiciary made a giant leap towards its recovery by sentencing a jihadi to death for fighting government forces in Benghazi.
In a ruling issued on 2 February 2021, Tripoli’s Court of Appeals has sentenced to death a jihadi from the so-called Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC), the umbrella jihadi group that comprised the defunct Ansar al-Sharia, for fighting against government forces in Benghazi.
The leaked ten-page court ruling identified the militant as Muhammed al-Tawati al-Naffar (pictured) whom it quoted as confessing to fighting alongside Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi with the intent to overthrow the government, abolish the constitution [transitional constitutional declaration] and establish a Sharia-based government starting with Libya’s second largest city. The court document detailed al-Naffar’s extremist background and how he joined the Islamic State’s terrorist group in Sirte where he was based in Abu Hadi until 2015 and his participation in terrorist attacks against oil facilities in the Oil Crescent region.
Al-Naffar was featured in a video from 2014 in which a BRSC commander was heard saying that a suicide-car bombing was “about to hit” a position of government forces in Benghazi’s Benina suburb and showed on camera the car’s prospected route before the actual attack. The video has been reportedly recovered from a mobile phone of a dead BRSC jihadi. The car-bombing did take place on 14 October 2014 (photo below) killing 7 Libyan soldiers and wounding many others.
The ruling was widely hailed on social media as a symbolic statement of intent from the Libyan judiciary which suffered years of systematic terrorist attacks that led to the destruction of courts across the country and the death of dozens of judges, prosecutors, and security officials.
Prominent jihadi advocates linked to the defunct Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) have strongly condemned the ruling, defending al-Naffar as a “revolutionary freedom fighter”. Among them LIFG’s Turkey-based former ideologue, Sami al-Saadi, who took to Facebook to vent his anger, demanding clarification from the court for labelling the Libyan National Army (LNA) as government forces. Marwan Dirqash branded the ruling a “shameful stain on the forehead of Libyan judiciary”.
Libyan security reports reviewed by this website have confirmed that both the BRSC and Ansar al-Sharia were established and led by known LIFG veterans. The United States – among many countries- designated the Libyan branch of Ansar al-Sharia a terrorist organisation and blamed it for the deadly terrorist attack against its diplomatic compound in Benghazi on 11 September 2012.
Al-Naffar was arrested in January 2019 in Tripoli’s western suburb of Janzour where he was working as a car mechanic. A counter terrorism expert who spoke to this website believes that Janzour, Tajoura, and Zawia had “the largest concentration of Eastern jihadis who fled to the western region after the LNA liberated Benghazi and Darna from the BRSC and the Islamic State”. The documents showed that he received medical treatment in Turkey for injuries sustained during the war against government forces in Benghazi.