A helicopter carrying three French soldiers crashed near Benghazi, Libya on July 17, killing the Frenchmen and their Libyan counterparts on board. A new jihadist front called the Benghazi Defense Brigades quickly claimed credit, saying its fighters downed the helo with a shoulder-fired missile. French President Hollande said it was an “accident.” Either way, jihadists and Islamists are now rattling their sabres at France.
The Pentagon said today that Ali Awni al Harzi, the first suspect publicly identified in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, was killed in a US airstrike in Mosul, Iraq. Al Harzi and his brother have been working for the Islamic State as facilitators.
Ansar al Sharia Libya now operates a radio station in Benghazi and several Twitter feeds. The group is at war with General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, but is promoting its governance efforts even while in the thick of battle. While a senior sharia official has defected to the Islamic State, there is no indication the group as a whole has followed suit.
Ansar al Sharia Libya released a set of propaganda photos in late January that are intended to demonstrate the group’s authority over areas in and around Benghazi. The photos purportedly show a police station and a convoy of security vehicles under the group’s control. However, forces loyal to General Haftar also claim to control much of the city.
Jihadists have posted a photo on Twitter that allegedly shows Mohamed al Zahawi, the leader of Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi, after his death. Earlier, Zahawi’s family had told the press that he passed away from wounds he received during fighting last year.
Mohamed al Zahawi’s family members have told the press that he has died due to wounds suffered in fighting last year. Zahawi has been the leader of Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi. Unconfirmed rumors of his death have circulated for months.
Abd al Baset Azzouz, an al Qaeda operative who served as Ayman al Zawahiri’s representative in Libya, was captured in Turkey in mid-November. Azzouz is reportedly being investigated for his possible ties to the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi.
The United Nations has added the Ansar al Sharia chapters in Benghazi and Derna to its al Qaeda sanctions list, explicitly recognizing their ties to each other, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and other al Qaeda-linked groups.