IS in Libya growing “stronger every day”, Tunisia next: IS commander

Libya Channel with wires

A senior Islamic State militant in Libya said the group is growing “stronger every day” and warned neighboring countries like Tunisia would not be able to defend themselves against the expanding militant empire.

Abdul Qadr al-Najdi, described in an interview released by the SITE monitoring group on Thursday as “the emir tasked with administering the Libyan provinces”, said he was praying for Libya to be made the “vanguard of the Caliphate”.

He also warned neighbouring countries that they would not be able to hold out against the global terror group.

“You are protecting yourself from the detonators with shields of bamboo, and from the flood with a ring of wood,” he said, in the interview in the Islamic State publication al-Naba.

Tunisia, where more than 55 people died in an assault by Islamists on the border town of Ben Gardane this week, has just completed a trench and barrier on its southern frontier in an effort to stop militants crossing.

Dozens of IS gunman at Dawn monday attacked police and military bases in Ben Gardane, located just 30km from the border with Libya and a known smuggling hotspot and jihadi crossing point.

Clashes with security forces continued until Thursday, when Tunisian officials, who instigated a curfew on the town, said the final death toll of militants was 49 dead.

On Wednesday forces in the west of the country linked to the Libyan army  flew reconnaissance flights along the Libyan-Tunisian border in reaction to what the Tunisian Prime Minister called the “unprecedented” attack.

IS has taken advantage of the political chaos and security vacuum following the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi to establish a presence in several cities. Western officials have expressed alarm over the expansion and estimates the number of its fighters to be as high as 6,000.

Last year it took full control of the central Libyan city of Sirte and the surrounding coastline. That had proved easier than expanding elsewhere in Libya, where “the number of factions and their disputes” was one reason for failure, Nadji said.

Najdi described Islamic State in Libya as “still young” but said it was making progress in imposing religious law in areas under its control, in line with its actions in Iraq and Syria.

“The provinces of Libya have become the destination of the mujahideen and a sanctuary for the oppressed,” he said.

“The numbers of immigrants multiplied from all areas despite the ardent attempts by the West to prevent their immigration.”

Najdi said the Libyan province was “in constant communication” with central offices in Iraq and Syria, where the group took swathes of territory in 2014 but has since come under increasing pressure from air strikes and local forces.

A U.S. air strike in a suburb of Derna in November killed Islamic State’s previous leader in Libya, known as Abu Nabil.

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