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As terrorist groups in Derna try to create an Islamist emirate, citizens are calling on Libya and the word to rescue their hijacked city from repression and terrorism.
Some youths have taken to the streets of the eastern port city to support the army in its fight against extremists.
“Our city has all of a sudden turned into a ghold for terrorists,” said local resident Omran Abdul Halim. “They parade at streets and squares across town, urging residents to repent and join the new caliphate state.”
And this kind of recruitment under way in Derna is taking a toll on other Libyan cities, scout leader Eman al-Mansouri noted.
“In the last few days, three boys from al-Battar brigade, aged between 11 and 14, travelled from Derna to Benghazi to execute suicide operations, but were arrested,” she told Magharebia. “Many young people – even young boys – are recruited by these groups that ruin their futures and lives.”
“I hope the army will pay a bit of attention to Derna, intensify its efforts and besiege the town with aircraft until those terrorists who came from all over the world have been taken out,” she added.
According to Derna attorney Mohammed al-Farjani, “A local militant group has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), but ISIS itself doesn’t have direct presence in the town.”
“The Shura Council of Islamic Youth swore allegiance to ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This took place in broad daylight without any objection from the government, parliament or any other entity,” he said.
Al-Farjani appealed to the Libyan army and the world to intervene “as soon as possible, to rescue Derna from the extremists who have wreaked havoc in town”.
With all the many groups in the town, there are various turf wars that pose yet another threat to citizens’ security.
“If ISIS officially declares Derna an emirate, the group will engage in confrontations with some other jihadist groups,” said 23-year-old university student Lamar al-Nayli.
“The Shura Council of Islamic Youth has a lot of power, but doesn’t control other extremist groups, such as the Ansar al-Sharia branch in Derna, al-Battar Brigade, Nusra or other groups,” she added.
Al-Nayli also urged the army to intervene as soon as possible “to rescue the people from the injustice and oppression of terrorists who have nothing to do with Islam”.
Derna militants vie for control
The Islamic State’s ally in Derna – the Shura Council of Islamic Youth – uses the al-Shorta Secondary School at the western gate of the town as its headquarters. Residents say the group has between 150 and 250 members, mostly Syria returnees between 18 and 21 years of age.
They created a “Sharia courthouse” and a “Sharia institute” for recruitment. They appear from time to time at Derna checkpoints.
Another group is the Abu Salim Brigade. It is based at youth hostels at the western gate of Derna, near the municipal stadium. It is the gest group in terms of armament, locals say.
But the group’s ideology is different from that of ISIS. Islamic State members have already accused it of kufr something that led to clashes in which Abu Salim Brigade leaders were killed.
“Today ISIS flatters the Abu Salim Brigade out of fear, and nothing else,” a Derna source told Magharebia.
There is also the Al-Nour Brigade, led by Mohammed al-Sol, and a few al-Qaeda members allied with local criminals, locals say.
As to Libya’s Ansar al-Sharia branch in Derna, its leader Sofian Ben Qumu (aka Abou Fares), has already sworn allegiance to ISIS. His key aide, Hassan Boudeheb, leads the most important assassination squads in Derna.
Meanwhile, the Libyan air force is flying sorties, ahead of a future operation to liberate the town from these various militants.
Residents observe these developments and wonder when safety and security will be restored to their city.
Source : Magharebia