Libya: Misrata Operations Command find and arrest high level ISIS militant

North Africa

Four years after ISIS' defeat in Sirte, Libya, the Government of National Accord (GNA) continues to engage in military confrontations with the militant group, having recently captured in Faris Belhadj one of its top targets.

ISIS may have been defeated in Sirte four years ago, but the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya continues to be engaged in a fight against the group and its remaining sleeper cells.

The most recent effort against ISIS has been led from Misrata’s Joint Operations Command, which last week announced the arrest of the militant, Faris Belhadj, who was believed to belong to the group.

Known as al-Khattab, Belhadj had long been on the radar of the Attorney General’s office in the Abu Grein region south of Misrata, which issued an arrest warrant against him. Other militants were also arrested during this operation, and weaponry and ammunition in their possession were seized. 

This comes after the arrest of an ISIS militant responsible for the group’s hisbah or morality police last week, according to the Interior Ministry.

According to the Joint Operations Command (JOC), the raid that culminated in the capture and arrest of al-Khattab was carried out jointly with the Department of Investigation and Criminal Inquiries-Central Branch.

The JOC also said that the militants arrested will have legal proceedings opened against them imminently.

Given that the raid has taken place so soon after Khalifa Haftar’s attack on Tripoli, it is feared that ISIS may organise reprisal attacks, further compromising the frail security situation in Libya.

In recent months, Khalifa Haftar has been leading attacks on the Libyan capital Tripoli, which is held by the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), on groups and individuals that he has labelled as “terrorists”.

Critics argue that the word “terrorism” has become the customary label for all forms of opposition to Haftar, despite the fact that some of his opponents have themselves suffered greatly in their own struggles to fight terrorist groups.