ISIS’ Weekly Magazine Spotlights Libya, Introduces New Leader

The terror group boasts about its Libya branch and presents the man leading it

An armed motorcade in Libya. — REUTERS
Mar 09, 2016 at 8:50 AM ET

The Islamic State has dedicated a quarter of its weekly magazine to what it says is the terror group’s growing presence in Libya—the latest sign that ISIS is boosting its focus on the North African nation as it faces the possibility of western military intervention and suffers setbacks in Iraq and Syria.

Two full pages introduce the man ISIS says now heads its Libya affiliate. Identified as Abdel Baqer el-Najdi, the new leader seemingly replaced Abu Nabil, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in mid-November. In an “interview” with the magazine, called Naba, el-Najdi boasts about the Islamic State’s Libya branch, claims that the number of foreign fighters in the country has doubled and offers details on the terror group’s operations in the North African nation, Vocativ’s deep web analysts have discovered.

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“The Libyan provinces of the Islamic State are still newborn but have (already) managed to implement the rule of Allah in the areas under its control, in the same way that provinces did in Iraq and Syria,”el-Najdi says in the magazine, uncovered on the messaging app Telegram. He says the Islamic State’s Libya branch maintains “constant contact” with ISIS’ “central offices” in Syria and Iraq.

El-Najdi also urges all Muslims to migrate to “the center of the Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, or to rest of the terror group’s other provinces, such as those in Libya. The country, he says, has become a “haven for the oppressed” and a “destination” for jihadi fighters. The number of foreign fighters who joined the terror group in Libya has doubled “despite the tireless western efforts to stop their migration,” he says. El-Najdi, however, doesn’t offer a specific figure or note the period of alleged growth. Pentagon officials said last month that as many as 6,500 militants are fighting with the group in Libya.

Unsurprisingly, el-Najdi also offers fighting words: “We ask Allah to let the vanguards of the Caliphate in Rome, to conquer Rome,” he says.

The interview is the magazine’s main feature of the week, published not long after the Pentagon presented the White House with details on possible military operations that could significantly minimize the ISIS threat emanating from Libya, the New York Times reported. It also follows a string of recent setbacks in Syria and Iraq.

ISIS declared an affiliate in Libya in 2014, feeding off a state of disarray as rivaling factions fought for power and as weapons unlocked in the 2011 fight to topple a longtime leader proved easily accessible. Alongside the interview, ISIS released figures on its recent activity in the country’s eastern city of Derna, where it first sought to establish a power base in the country. ISIS was ultimately kicked out of the city by Libyan security forces and a militia, backed by locals who opposed the terror group, but it maintains presence in an area south of it.

From there, the group says it has conducted a string of attacks on Derna. Using 32 bombs and carrying out half a dozen suicide attacks over the last three months, ISIS claims it killed and injured 250 militia members and Libyan army soldiers. The group also says is set five military bases alight, confiscated six military vehicles, and destroyed 18 military vehicles as well as four tanks.