- The takeover of four eastern Libyan oil ports by a militia coalition may ignite armed conflict between Libya’s rival governments. The Libyan National Army (LNA), a militia coalition led by General Khalifa Haftar, seized four oil ports in eastern Libya from militias allied with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) on September 11. The seizure scuttled the GNA’s efforts to resume oil exports from eastern Libya, undermining a major effort to secure legitimacy for the fragile unity government. The LNA’s advance threatens the interests of western Libyan militias aligned with the GNA. These militias fought against the LNA in central Libya in the past and may resume hostilities in response to LNA aggression in the oil crescent. Libyan actors will prioritize the unresolved civil war over the fight against the Islamist State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and other Salafi-jihadi groups operating in Libya. [See Frederick W. Kagan and Emily Estelle’s “ISIS Loses Headquarters in Sirte, Libya.” Keep up with CTP’s Libya work here.]
- Escalating economic protests in Tunisia may incite a government crackdown and draw limited security resources away from counter-terrorism operations. Protests broke out in Fernana, northwestern Tunisia on September 7 after a café worker named Wisam Nisrah set himself on fire. Nisrah’s self-immolation and the subsequent protests mirror the event s that sparked Tunisia’s Arab Spring uprising in December 2010. Similar protests began in Ben Guerdane, eastern Tunisia on September 5. Growing protests could destabilize Tunisia’s new unity government. Civil unrest strains limited security resources and provides opportunities for Salafi-jihadi groups, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s Tunisian affiliate and the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), to conduct attacks. [See Jaclyn Stutz’s “AQIM and ISIS in Tunisia: Competing Campaigns.”]
- Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri called for Muslims to continue the fight against the U.S. and to reject ISIS’s ideology in a video commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Zawahiri emphasized al Qaeda’s role as a defender of the oppressed. He urged black Americans to turn to shari’a and al Qaeda for justice. Zawahiri also emphasized al Qaeda’s power as a unifying “message” rather than a physical group, like ISIS, that imposes its will on Muslim populations. Zawahiri’s address continues a series of statements intended to reinforce al Qaeda’s position as the leader of the global Salafi-jihadi movement.