United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has helped capture a suspected leading member of the Islamic State, Khalifa Al-Barq. The arrest took place in the former Islamic State stronghold city of Sirte, Libya on the 30th of January, 2019.
Residents in the city have taken to social media claiming U.S. troops took part in the operation. A city official confirmed the capture but denied foreign troops were involved in the operation.
Libyan security forces arrested Al-Barq during a raid at his home on Wednesday evening. He was alone in the compound, and there have been no details suggesting anyone was injured during the arrest. The Libyan National Army, supported by U.S. forces, expelled Islamic State militants from the seaside city of Sirte in December 2016, which had been captured by the terrorist organization in 2015. But what was the former IS leader doing in Sirte and why was he alone?
After IS was driven from Sirte in 2016, it’s assumed the group sought shelter in southern Libya, a mostly lawless region out of reach of the central government. Lawless and out of reach, that is, until Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army, and his men began clearing out the remaining radical groups in the region last week. That recent campaign could be the reason Al-Barq returned home to Sirte.
Libyan security forces have involved U.S. troops in several operations in the past to capture senior IS leaders in Libya. In the case of this operation, U.S. forces may have provided intelligence and surveillance services to aid the Libyan forces. Members of a U.S. Special Forces team may have been there to oversee the capture and to assess Libyan security forces during the raid.
This comes a week after a prominent al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leader was killed by Khalifa Haftar’s forces. Their latest military campaign has targeted not only radical groups but criminal organizations that assist these groups in the region.
Since the downfall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya had become infested with radical terror groups. These latest reports confirm one thing: southern Libya will no longer serve as an asylum for such organizations.