Libyan ISIS Aims to Replicate Iraq, Syria Success

Sirte-Based Faction Has Big Ambitions

In the wake of the NATO-imposed regime change in Libya, there are myriad Islamist groups across the nation controlling various towns or parts of towns. One of those fledgling groups in Derna pledged allegiance to ISIS, and became the official affiliate of the group, though at the time it was just one of many.

ISIS of Libya has grown, however, dominating the important central coastal city of Sirte and the surrounding area. They were expelled from Derna by rival Islamists, but have much bigger ambitions, trying to replicate the growth of the parent group in Iraq and Syria.

Sirte isn’t a huge city like ISIS has under its command in other countries, but its central location, and proximity to lucrative parts of Libya’s oil industry, could make it a cash cow in the model of other ISIS holdings, which have bankrolled the parent group and allowed it to grow dramatically.

With advisers in the country from Syria, Libya’s ISIS has sought to govern the city directly, taxing the residents and imposing their harsh version of Sharia law. Though the group is seen struggling financial compared to its parent, Libya’s various would-be governments are neither particularly strong nor influential, meaning ISIS likely has plenty of time to slowly grow.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.