Bomb Explodes At Spanish Embassy In Libyan Capital
NEW DELHI: A bomb exploded in front of the Spanish embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, on Tuesday. Although there were no casualties, the attack is the latest in a string of attacks on foreign missions in the troubled North African country. A week ago, a bomb exploded at the gate of the Moroccan embassy hours after two people were shot dead outside the South Korean embassy.
The attacks have all been claimed by the Islamic State, which seems to be making inroads into the conflict-torn country. A day earlier, the group released a video purportedly showing the killing of up to 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya. The video is similar to previous videos released by the group, including the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya in February.
The latest video is 29 minutes long and bears the the official logo of the media arm of the Islamic State, although its authenticity has not been independently verified. It shows a group of men -- believed to be members of the Ethiopian Church seized in Libya by IS-linked militants -- beheaded on a beach and another group being shot in the head in a desert.
The video has drawn international condemnation, with Ethiopia referring to the killings as a crime against humanity. The United States also condemned the "brutal mass murder.”
The Islamic State’s presence in Libya first shot to international headlines with the video showing the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. The video was released by the Islamic State’s media arm and was carried out by militants who say they are associated with the Tripoli Province of Islamic State -- a Libyan group that pledged allegiance to IS last year.
The beheading followed an attack on the luxurious Corinthia hotel in central Tripoli that killed nine people three weeks earlier that was claimed by the Islamic State. The militant group have also claimed other attacks -- including a series of attacks targeting empty embassies and local security buildings in Tripoli.
However, despite these attacks, it is not clear how much influence the group holds. For one, the Islamic State has seen success by capitalizing on the Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq and Syria, and sectarian tensions of this scale do not exist in Libya. The crisis in Libya is more directly concerned with the local power vacuum, and this context has led to many on social media wondering whether the group is really responsible for all the attacks it has claimed.
Nevertheless, the string of attacks have changed the already fraught political landscape. The execution of Egyptian Christians drew a response from Egypt in the form of bombings targetting Islamic State camps, training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya. This response could escalate Egypt’s role in Libya. In a nationally televised speech, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said, “ Egypt “reserves the right to respond in the way and timing it sees fit for retribution from these killers.” Al Sisi has also previously said that Libya’s internal struggle poses a security risk to Egypt, and has thrown his political support behind Libya’s internationally recognized government, which has unsuccessfully tried to overthrow a rival Islamist government that controls the capital, Tripoli.
(Libya’s fraught political landscape. Source: BBC).
Egypt is already engaged in a fight against Islamic militants in the Sinai peninsula -- with Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), that has carried out a series of attacks on security forces in the region, having pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. “After entrusting God we decided to swear allegiance to the emir of the faithful Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, caliph of the Muslims in Syria and Iraq and in other countries,” the statement by the group said. The statement went on to ask Egyptians to rebel against "the tyrant," President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, declaring that “we will continue to fight the army until the day of judgment.”
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis are not the only group to pledge support to the Islamic State. IS’ followers includes the city of Derna in Eastern Libya, a Jordanian Salafi group, a handful of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or the Pakistani Taliban) leaders, a mosque in Denmark, a man in Texas, and even Boko Haram in Nigeria.
However, the Islamic State’s growing influence in Libya is of significance because it could prove to be a model for expansion for the militant group -- one that is based on taking advantage of political contexts characterised by infighting and paralysed governments.