The Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council [BRSC] hit back at accusations made by Libya’s Islamic State affiliate, after their logo appeared in an IS propaganda video denouncing so-called apostates.
In a written statement released on social media Monday, the armed coalition vehemently denied IS’s claims they were allied with the West and worshiped idols.
“We wrote this statement after many efforts to contact people from the Islamic State that has released lies about us,” the fiery communique read.
“We have been labeled part of the global infidels such as the US and Russia, in addition to being labelled the ‘al-Lāt Party’,” they added referencing pre-Islamic Arabian goddess al–Lāt, that originated in the Mecca area and was denounced by the Prophet Mohammed.
“Accusing the mujahideen of the BRSC in Benghazi of this is delegitimizing them. And the timing indicates a hidden plan,” they told.
Their Monday statement came after IS released a four-minute video on 21 December denouncing its enemies, including other rival jihadi groups it claimed wasworking for the West.
One minute into the clip – which also outlines IS’s reasons for launching a global war and building its so-called caliphate – it shows the American flag unfurling in front of the insignia of various groups including those in the BRSC’s coalition.
The BRSC was initially formed in June 2014 a month after General Khalifa Hiftar – then a rogue officer but later appointed head of the Libyan Armed Forces – launched his self-declared Operation Dignity to flush armed groups out of the eastern city.
Among the coalition was jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia- later declared a terror organization by the UN – and Libya Shield 1, part of the government sanctioned militias tasked with securing different parts of the country but whose mandate has expired.
Since then the two sides have fought a bitter war for territory in Benghazi. After Libya Dawn – BRSC’s allies in the west – swept control of Tripoli last summer appointing a rival parliament and government – the battle for Benghazi became part of the ongoing civil war.
Amid the chaos IS has thrived, expanding its territory in the centre of the country and convincing different hardliners to pledge allegiance, including individual members of the groups that make up the BRSC.
In Monday’s statement the BRSC made a reference to their war against Hiftar’s forces – now the official Libyan army- after IS accused them of also being Hiftar sympathizers.
“We have taken the lead in fighting the criminals, and declaring the fight against the collaborators of the infidel West in our country, like Khalifa Hiftar and his followers,” they added.
The BRSC’s statement came as a newly-declared jihadi group anchored in the western city of Misrata declared its allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The recently formed “Misrata Mujahideen Shura Council” – which is believed to be behind several attacks on Dawn positions around the city – issued the statement in a short video clip.
The fighters called on other groups to join IS and form armed factions across the country.
Nonetheless a similarly-named group the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council anchored in the eastern city leant their conditional support to the newly- declared National Government of Accord in a carefully worded but surprising statement.
The DMSC said it would support “any” government that places Islamic Sharia as the basis of the law.
“We fully support any dialogue and any government on the condition that the Islamic Sharia is the only source of legislation and that any law that contravenes it is rejected,” read the statement released last wednesday.
The DMSC – though hardline jihadis – staged a successful uprising alongside Derna’s residents to oust IS from their town last June. IS has been forced to now operate from the rural areas surrounding the city after losing its first foothold in Libya, established when it first appeared in the country at the end of last year.
IS militants have since moved the headquarters to the central city of Sirte, from where the have recently launched attacks east towards Ajdabiya and west towards Misrata.