The anti-terrorism units operating in Libya are continuing to detect and arrest ISIS suspects across the country, especially in the south and west.
Libyans in the country’s south and west have expressed fears that ISIS militants would make a major comeback after scores of fighters were seen in several areas.
Spokesman of Sirte’s protection unit Salim al-Amil said an ISIS militant, who had left town after its liberation from ISIS in 2016, was recently arrested in an ambush after security forces received a tip that he had returned to Sirte.
Amil told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS members are present in big numbers in mountainous areas in southern Libya after they reorganized by taking advantage of a lax security.
“There are dozens of small groups. Their impact would be disastrous if they were able to form large groupings,” he said.
US Africa Command has conducted several airstrikes in the past month on ISIS militants in the south, leaving several of their commanders dead.
Ayas Abdul Moncef who hails from the southern town of Murzuq told Asharq Al-Awsat that residents have monitored armed men in cars firing in the air to terrorize them.
Many militants have threatened the residents to kidnap and kill them, he said.
The local fears on the comeback of ISIS in Libya have been coupled by warnings from officials from abroad like Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has stated that Libya could turn into the main bastion for terrorists in North Africa.
Lavrov told Russia’s Interfax this week that the ongoing fighting in northeastern Syria after Turkey launched its offensive against Kurdish forces there allowed ISIS militants to infiltrate different countries around the world.
A Libyan security official in the east, who refused to be identified, agreed with Lavrov, saying the Libyan National Army leadership is aware of attempts by ISIS extremists to reinvente themselves.
But the official stressed that militants have been crushed in eastern Libya.
UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame told the United Nations Security Council last May that the black flags of ISIS are appearing in the south of Libya.