Al Qaeda-linked jihadists claim to have detained Islamic State operative in Derna, Libya

The Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) in Derna, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist alliance, claims to have captured a top Islamic State operative. On Oct. 13, Twitter feeds associated with the MSC posted pictures of the man, Murad al Sabaa (seen below), claiming that he is one of the most important Islamic State leaders in Libya. It is not entirely clear if the MSC believes al Sabaa ran the Islamic State’s operations throughout all of Libya, or just locally in Derna, where he was captured. But the MSC says he is now in its “hands.”

The Islamic State’s hierarchy inside Libya is murky. In September, the “caliphate’s” English-language magazine, Dabiq, identified the head of the so-called Libyan “province” as Abul Mughirah al Qahtani. The magazine carried a lengthy interview with Qahtani, who blasted the MSC and other jihadist groups in Libya that have refused to swear allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s self-declared caliphate. [See LWJ report, In Dabiq magazine, Islamic State complains about jihadist rivals in Libya.]

The Islamic State’s Libyan “province” declared war on the MSC in June, killing some of the organization’s veteran leaders. One of the slain MSC figures was Nasir Atiyah al Akar, who fought in Afghanistan. But the MSC struck back, forcing the Islamic State out of some of its strongholds in the eastern Libyan city. The fighting has continued sporadically since then, with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) backing the MSC. The Islamic State has responded by continuing to target MSC members and leaders. The “caliphate’s” supporters also launched a “Wanted Dead” campaign online, revealing some formerly secret details about al Qaeda’s network in Libya.

The MSC’s capture of al Sabaa is, therefore, the latest twist in the fight between the Islamic State and its jihadist rivals in Libya.

Pictures of Murad al Sabaa posted on MSC-affiliated Twitter accounts:

15-10-13 Murad al Sabaa 2

15-10-13 Murad al Sabaa 1

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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