Country Report Libya
- ID: 2101513
- August 2015
- Region: Libya
- 25 Pages
- The Economist Intelligence Unit
Islamic State (IS), an extreme jihadi group, has brutally put down a rebellion against its control of the crucial central oil town of Sirte on the Libyan coast, prompting an appeal by the official government in the remote eastern city of Bayda for armed intervention by the Arab League. The Arab League in turn has stated that it supports intervention, but has stopped short of committing to an aerial campaign against the town, while Western governments remain cautious about military involvement in the country. The IS threat, while limited in many ways, is likely to continue to hamper oil production in the region.
Extreme brutality by the jihadi group is partly a reflection of its lack of popularity in the areas under its control. IS has been accused of beheading at least 12 people, exhuming and setting alight the body of an imam and publicly crucifying three other preachers in Sirte. Fighting in recent days led to the deaths of up to 200 people, according to Libyan government officials. (Other reports state that up to 50 people were killed by IS, most of them civilians.) The town lies north of Libya's richest oil territory, the Sirte basin, although most of the oilfields in the region have been shut down because of insecurity and the closure of two major oil export terminals, Sidra and Ras Lanuf, which gave them a route to market.
The brutal killings by IS were a reaction to a refusal among local factions to pledge allegiance to the organisation. Opposition to IS has been particularly strong among members of the Ferghani tribe, which has a significant presence in the region, and was stoked further by the killing of a popular local preacher.