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"Islamic State" militants training in Syria
Image: picture-alliance/Zuma Press

'IS' fighter numbers double in Libya

April 8, 2016

The US military has reported that the "Islamic State" grew its base of fighters in the span of a year. But the group lacks the know-how to expand the way it did in Iraq and Syria.


On Thursday, US Army General David Rodriguez, who heads Africa Command, said the "Islamic State" (IS) had seen the number of its fighters in Libya double in the past year, reaching up to 6,000.

The top commander of US forces in Africa said local militias had tried to curb the militant group's presence, but political infighting has contributed to a security void across the country.

"In Benghazi and Derna, (groups) have fought back against the Islamic State and made it much tougher for them to operate, as well as in Sabratha," Rodriguez said, referring to cities where the group's presence is growing outside of its stronghold, in Sirte.

"They are contesting the growth of ISIS in several areas," Rodriguez said, using a common acronym for the group.

Map showing areas controlled by various militant groups and government forces

Libya descended into chaos following the ouster of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, with several warring factions vying for power.

In February 2015, IS shocked the world when it released a video showing the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, marking its first major action in the North African country.

The challenge

General Rodriguez said one of the challenges the new UN-backed unity government faces is uprooting the militant group. But he downplayed IS' ability to occupy large portions of Libya like it did in Syria and Iraq.

"They don't have the homegrown people that know as much about Libya like they did in Iraq and Syria," the General noted.

"The Libyan people are also different in the way they treat and respond to foreigners, so all that has an impact," Rodriguez said.

ls/jm (Reuters, AP)

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