June 17, 2015 | Quote

Islamic State Suffering Setbacks in Libya

A few days ago fighters with Islamic State’s affiliate in Libya were gloating about recent battlefield successes and appeared poised to launch an offensive on oil fields near Sirte, the coastal city they overran last month. But in recent days they suffered two serious reversals.

A US airstrike mounted in the early hours of Sunday morning seems likely to have taken out a significant jihadi ally – veteran jihadist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the instigator of the deadly storming of a natural gas plant in Algeria in 2013 that left 39 hostages dead.

And in Derna, which Islamists and jihadists have been battling for control of for weeks, local reports – which are difficult to verify – point to Islamic State being pushed out of most of the city, although locals contacted by phone say there is still fighting in the center.

An Egyptian IS commander is reported to have been killed in Derna. The jihadists, according to Mohamed Eljarh, an analyst for the Rafik Hariri Center of the Atlantic Council “have lost control of most of their sites within the city of Derna.”

According to Thomas Joscelyn, an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a US think tank, the fighting in Derna is not going the Islamic State’s way. “It is a battle Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men risk losing.”  He added, “a few of the Islamic State’s key leaders in Derna have been reportedly killed or captured, but the details remain murky.”

But he warns, “It is too early to declare a victor. There is an ebb and flow to such battles, and the group has struck back by unleashing its signature suicide bombers in the heart of the city.”

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