Islamic State looks to regroup in Libya after losing Sirte

Fighter of Libyan forces waving a Libyan flag flashes victory sign as he stands atop the ruins of a house after forces finished clearing Ghiza Bahriya, the final district of the former Islamic State stronghold of Sirte

From Reuters:

“Islamic State has lost senior figures in an unsuccessful seven-month battle to defend its coastal stronghold in Libya, but there are already signs it will try to fight back through sleeper cells and desert brigades.

Libyan officials say hundreds of Islamic State militants may have escaped before the start of the battle for Sirte in May or during its early stages.

That has prompted fears of a counter-attack or insurgent campaign that could enable the militants to show they are still in business despite the rout, a heavy blow for a group that is also under intense military pressure in its core territory of Iraq and Syria.

Some cells have already been active. Islamic State is thought to be behind at least two dozen attacks or attempted attacks to the south and west of Sirte since August, said Heni Nsaibia of Menastream, a risk consultancy that monitors jihadist activity in the region.

Before May, IS was thought to have several thousand fighters stationed in Sirte – estimates of the exact number varied widely. Both leadership and rank and file had a heavy foreign presence, drawing on recruits from north and sub-Saharan Africa, according to Sirte residents and security officials in Misrata, the city that led the campaign to retake the jihadist stronghold.”

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