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Op-Ed: Unidentified planes bomb city of Derna in eastern Libya

The bombings targeted Shura Council locations and civilian areas. The Council confirmed two of their fighters who were besieging IS militants in the Al-Hilah district were killed. Another strike in the Bab Tobruk killed a woman and her child. A mosque and some civilian houses were also hit in the same area causing damage. As well, Derna’s Kidney and Disease Center was damaged. The IS are now attempting to advance towards the city. The Shura Council has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of an IS attempt to advance into the city.

Reports of the bombings come from the Libya Observer an outlet that supports the General National Council (GNC) government in Tripoli and is very much opposed to General Khalifa Haftar, the commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army, of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk, eastern Libya. Although Derna is in eastern Libya, it is not controlled by the HoR. The Islamic State lost most of Derna last June to the Council fighters. However, there are still pockets of Islamic State fighters in nearby areas.

A recent battle involved a mountainous area overlooking the east coast known as Al-Hajjaj. IS fighters were spotted by a surveillance unit of the Council and bombarded the area with artillery fire. In another area of contention Al-Fatyeh, the Council and IS fighters were exchanging heavy gunfire but with neither side gaining significant ground. The Shura Council complained that it received no air support from the Air Force of the HoR. This is not surprising. The Derna Shura Council, while fighting the Islamic State, is itself composed of various groups of jihadists, at least one, Ansar al-Sharia, associated with Al Qaeda. The Derna Council has good relations with the GNC but is an opponent of Haftar and the HoR. It would not be too surprising if the planes that bombed Derna were associated with the Libyan Air Force allied with Khalifa Haftar. However, the fact that the Libya Observer does not claim this means that they have no idea where they were from.

Just this Wednesday, a Derna court sentenced a senior IS commander Ayman Al-Misman to death. He was captured while hiding in a house in Derna after he fled from the fighting in Al-Fatayah area where remnants of the IS fighters who used to occupy Derna are holed up. Al-Mismari had been made Wali or Governor or the Ras Al-Hilal region of eastern Libya.

Derna is known as a hot bed of jihadists. Even Gadaffi had continuing troubles trying to control the city. Here is an interesting factoid about Derna: In 2007, American troops in Iraq uncovered a list of foreign fighters for the Iraqi insurgency and of the 112 Libyans on the list, 52 had come from Derna.[35] Derna contributed more foreign fighters per capita to al-Qaeda in Iraq than any other city in the Middle East and the city has also been a major source of fighters in the Syrian Civil War and escalation of the Iraqi insurgency, with 800 fighters from Derna joining ISIL.[6]

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