By Tim Nanns
The ‘Islamic State’ affiliate in Libya is about to take over the town of Harawa in the Sirte district, the Libya Herald reported on Sunday. Earlier that day, the radical Islamists targeted a checkpoint near Misrata with a suicide bomb, killing at least four.
It had already taken over the airport and military airbase of Sirte on Friday according to various sources. The militant group now controls most of the key city in central Libya, sparking fears of further expansion from that strategic position.
The Libyan National Army (LNA), controlled by the internationally recognised government in Tobruk, as well as Libya Dawn militias are hampered by a weapons embargo against the war-torn country.
Yet a report by IHS Jane’s, a British defence policy publication, suggests that Egypt and the UAE are still delivering weapons to Libya. The publication claims that APCs, fighter jets and helicopters have shown up that were acquired after the arms embargo had been put in place and that are in service with – or produced by – the UAE and Egypt.
On Saturday, the Tobruk government published a statement on its Facebook page calling for arms deliveries to its military, in light of the recent gains of the “Islamic State”. It had already in February called for a lifting of the imposed embargo to face the group.
Amongst ongoing hostilities, the last of the Tunisian nationals captured by a Libya Dawn-affiliated militia have been released, according to a statement released by the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
According to the ministry statement, the Tunisians were detained to “check their documents”, despite comments after their arrest suggesting they were held as bargaining chips for a Libyan militia leader arrested in Tunis.
The Libyan conflict, since 2014 dominated by the rival between the Tobruk government and the Tripoli government of Libya Dawn, has hampered the country’s vital oil production. It has also triggered a severe economic crisis, causing the country to descend into chaos with the “Islamic State” being amongst the top profiteers of the crisis.