Militants Claiming ISIS Ties Say They Carried Out Libya Bombings
Militants pledging allegiance to the Islamic State claimed responsibility for three car bombs that killed at least 38 people in a town in eastern Libya on Friday in the latest escalation in a surge of violence linked to the group.

The attacks, in the town of Qubbah, appeared to be one more turn in a cycle of retaliation that began when the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, released a video last week showing its fighters in western Libya beheading more than a dozen kidnapped Egyptian Christians. The government of Egypt responded with airstrikes on the city of Derna, a hub of Islamist militancy in eastern Libya where another group of fighters has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State.
On Friday, the Islamic State branch in Derna claimed responsibility for the latest bombings “in revenge for the bloodshed of Muslims” in the city, according to a Twitter message linked to the group and reported by Reuters. Other Twitter messages from the group claimed to identify two of its “martyrs” who died in the bombings.


Eight of those killed in Qubbah were Egyptians who had come to Libya for work, according to Mohamed Tumi, a Libyan government spokesman in Bayda. Officials initially said that at least 42 people had been killed, but later amended that number to 38. News reports said that three or four Egyptians had been killed. More than 40 others were injured.

The Islamic State and other militants groups have sought to take advantage of the chaos that followed the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011 to plant their flags and stake out new bases of operations.

The broader Libya bedlam has now degenerated into a stalemated battle between two coalitions of armed groups, each of which claims its own competing national government.

Qubbah is in an area under the nominal authority of Libya’s internationally recognized government, which has relocated to the nearby cities of Tobruk and Bayda. It is also the hometown of Aguila Saleh, the speaker of Parliament for the Tobruk–Bayda government, and some reports indicated that his home there might have been a target. He was not hurt.

The town is in territory considered to be under the de facto control of Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who last year announced a military takeover to end what he portrayed as the Islamist dominance of a previous Parliament. The internationally recognized government, formed by a newer Parliament, has sought to legitimize General Hifter and put itself under his protection.

Tripoli, the nominal capital, is under the control of the rival coalition, Libya Dawn, which includes moderate and extremist Islamists as well as ethnic Berbers and the powerful militia from the coastal city of Misurata.

Officials of that coalition’s provisional government, based in Tripoli, say they oppose the Islamic State. Jamal Naji Zubia, a Tripoli government spokesman, said this week that it had dispatched a brigade from Misurata to the city of Surt, where the Egyptians were kidnapped, to drive out the Islamic State fighters.

But officials of the Tripoli government have also appeared to deny or minimize the nature of the threat the Islamic State poses. Mr. Zubia said that the Libyans who appeared to be part of the Islamic State were Qaddafi loyalists who had “put on the mantle of the Islamic State.”

“These terrorists pretend that they are Daesh, but actually they are not,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

In their fight against General Hifter and the tribal militias allied with him, the Libya Dawn coalition has accepted the cooperation of other Islamist extremist groups, including Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, which has been linked to the assault on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi in 2012 and designated by Washington as a terrorist group.

But the Islamic State has now assumed a central role in domestic and international debate over Libya’s future, following the attacks carried out under its banner over the last three months. Those attacks not only threaten to draw more international intervention, but could also lead to conflict with the broadly Islamist-friendly Tripoli government.

In December, fighters calling themselves the Tripolitania Province of the Islamic State bombed a Foreign Ministry building in Tripoli because an official of the Libya Dawn government wished a “Merry Christmas” to the West. In January, the same group attacked a luxury hotel in the capital where the Libya Dawn prime minister lives and many Westerners gather.

This month the group filmed the beheadings of the Egyptian Christians and delivered a fiery message to “the Crusaders” of the world, threatening to bring war to Rome.

A group called Fezzan Province of the Islamic State, in the South, has claimed responsibility for killing Libyan soldiers. Another group, the Barqa Province, based in Derna, in the East, is believed to include militants who have returned from fighting alongside the Islamic State in Syria.

The military-backed government of Egypt has been backing General Hifter’s side in the conflict against Libya Dawn for many months. After the video-recorded beheadings, Egyptian leaders have threatened more unilateral military action, and they have also called for a new multinational coalition to fight the Islamic State in Libya.

So far, however, few if any Western countries have indicated much willingness to get any closer to the Libyan chaos.

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