The surprise appearance of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a video recording earlier this week has raised questions in Libya that it may be linked to the ongoing battle for Tripoli.
Baghdadi made his first purported appearance in five years in a propaganda video released Monday, acknowledging ISIS's defeat in the Syrian town of Baghouz while threatening "revenge" attacks.
He also acknowledged that ISIS supporters had attacked the al-Fuqaha town in southern Libya in October. The attack left civilians and Libyan National Army (LNA) members dead.
Libyan MP Ibrahim Abu Bakr told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ISIS leader’s appearance is “damning” evidence that the LNA operation against Tripoli was primarily a battle on terrorism.
The LNA, commanded by Khalifa Haftar, had launched its operation to liberate the capital of terrorist and criminal gangs on April 4. It has pitted his forces against militias loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA).
“Baghdadi’s remarks proved that terrorist groups are the main enemy of the LNA,” continued the MP.
A political official disagreed and said that the Tripoli operation was not linked to Baghdadi.
“The security agencies in Tripoli have been countering ISIS militants for years in both Sirte and the capital,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity.
He also noted that just this week an ISIS member was arrested in Tripoli.
Tripoli has been targeted by ISIS in the past, said the official who is close to the Tripoli-based Presidential Council. He referred to the bombing of the foreign minister and higher elections commission headquarters last year that were claimed by ISIS.
MP Saeed Amghib, however, remarked that ISIS has been in control of Tripoli under the guise of various militias.
“The group has taken advantage of the poor conditions there,” he added.
Moreover, he noted that Baghdadi’s appearance at this time reveals that the militias were nearing their demise, saying that he sought to offer them moral support by emerging in his video.
He called on the residents of Tripoli to rally around the LNA to help it quickly capture the capital and counter the terrorist threat.