Libya: Fears Of ISIS Return Amidst Political Instability


The town of Sirte is known to be one of the most prominent ISIS strongholds in Libya. There are fears that the terrorist group is making a resurgence there.

Libya has for a number of years been one of the most prominent hotbeds for ISIS recruitment outside of Syria and Iraq. The country’s political system has been fractured since the death of Colonel Ghaddafi in 2011, and a civil war has been raging since 2014.

The political divide between the east and west of the country as well as the ongoing military conflict, involving a multitude of actors, has allowed for ISIS to take advantage of the situation and recruit from marginalised sectors of Libyan society.

The town of Sirte, where Colonel Ghaddafi was born and killed, had long been a hotbed of ISIS activity, before counter-terrorism operations reduced the group’s influence there. Nevertheless, in recent weeks, eight ISIS militants are known to have been arrested, while there are also reports that the terrorist group has erected signposts around the city displaying their presence in the area.

The groups is also known to have a presence in the south of the country, in the cities of Sabha, Fuqaha, Zillah, Murzuq and the villages of Zamzam, Qaddhiah, and Boungim.

It is estimated that there are around 100 ISIS militants currently active in Libya. Although this represents a significant drop from the number of ISIS militants present at the group’s height in Libya – estimated to be 5,000 by the Washington Post – there is nevertheless a risk that the group may continue to take advantage of the political chaos in the country.

The military offensive launched on Tripoli by the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar, has been the main source of instability in Libya over the past few months. There are finally signs that the military conflict around Tripoli may begin to die down.

The political and military instability has been detrimental to counter-terrorism efforts in Libya. An improvement in the political situation will likely allow for time and resources to be allocated to the dismantlement of ISIS, otherwise the group is likely to remain in a country that it has used as a battleground for years.