Saturday, April 23, 2016

Islamic State forces driven from their positions on the outskirts of city of Derna

Quite different accounts are emerging of recent fighting on the outskirts of Derna. According to the Libya Observer, fighters from the Shura Council drove the Islamic State fighters out of their base in the nearby Fatayah mountains.

Media reports claim the militants retreated under heavy fire from the fighters with many being killed. The Shura forces were hunting down any remaining Islamic State fighters in the area. The Senior commander of the Derna Shura Council forces, Mohammed Dango claimed that the entire Fatayah region was under their full control. Derna has long been under the control of the council with the Islamic State still on the outskirts and nearby mountain areas. There is no mention of the Libyan National Army (LNA) that was also attacking the Islamic State in the area.
The Libya Herald gives a quite different account. It reports that the LNA has finally cleared the Islamic State out of the Derna area. Abdulkarim Sabra, spokesperson for the LNA Operations Room covering the Derna area said the army had taken control of Derna's south eastern suburb of Fatayah or District 400 at the far east end of Derna. The area was taken after a ground and air offensive codenamed "Death Pledge."
Sabra claimed the Islamic State fighters managed to escape and had retreated on express orders of Abu Al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State caliph. He said they retreated towards Sirte in 32 vehicles. He said they had fueled up at a petrol station before destroying it. GIven that there is all this knowledge of the IS movements how is it that air action was not taken to destroy the convoy? Apparently it was left to continue to Sirte. Sabra claimed two soldiers had been killed and one injured in fighting. The Herald mentions that there have been local clashes between Derna jihadists and the IS. The Herald says that there is unofficial collaboration between the LNA and the Derna Council.
Within Derna, the Herald says anti-Haftar critics claimed that IS was forced out solely by the Council fighters, not the LNA. The Herald reports LNA helicopters were still targeting Fatayah in the afternoon and evening. Given that the area is now claimed to be controlled by the 102 brigade of the LNA it is strange that there would still be helicopter attacks. On Twitter there are numerous exchanges about what is happening with some claiming that Haftar forces are now attacking areas controlled by the Shura council. One tweet said: Col. Manfur, commander of #Benina airbase confirmed they carried the air raid on #Derna, after #ISIS was defeated.
#Libya @UNSMILibya
Here is a short sample of tweets showing the divergent views on what is happening: Mohamed Eljarh ‏@Eljarh
@W_Lacher Without cutting supply lines, restricting movement by taking up positions around Derna,Airstrikes it would not have been possible.
Wolfram Lacher ‏@W_Lacher 12h12 hours ago
@Eljarh "LNA" cut off supply lines to those fighting IS in Darna over the past weeks. According to army officers leading forces in Darna.
@W_Lacher @Eljarh Did you listen to Hiftar forces in Ain Marrah leaked audios threatening people of Derna? Lol what an National Army
In Derna itself, people took to the streets to celebrate the defeat of IS. The Shura Council of Revolutionaries contains groups said to have links to Al Qaeda. Those in control of Derna oppose the House of Representatives government and even more the commander in chief of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar.

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