As has been noted previously, in his new speech put out by al-Furqan Media, the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi explicitly acknowledged the recent series of pledges of allegiance to him from Sinai, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Algeria, with the creation of new ‘wilayat’ (‘provinces’) therein. I had also noted that the most realistic prospects of this declaration translating to tangible results on the ground- that is, in terms of actually building the trappings of a state on the precedent in Syria and Iraq- exist in Libya and Sinai. In Libya, the concept of ‘Wilayat al-Barqa’ (‘Cyrenaica Province’, referring to eastern Libya) had already come to light in the city of Derna, where jihadis had some weeks ago declared their allegiance to the Islamic State. Here were some early signs of this ‘Wilayat al-Barqa’ (October time).
Following on just now from these unofficial photos has been the emergence of high-quality photo series, in the style of the Islamic State’s production and format, and put out in the name of the “Media Office for Wilayat al-Barqa,” advertising content similar to Islamic State productions on ‘martyrs’ in recent operations or activities to consolidate control.
“Martyrdom operatives of the Caliphate in the Epic Battles of Benghazi”- a new Wilayat al-Barqa series regarding the fighting between Heftar’s forces (aligned with the regular Libyan army) and jihadists for Benghazi.
Three of the above suicide bombers carried out attacks on the Katiba al-Sa’iqa 36 base used by the Libyan army’s ‘special forces’. Another attacked Benina military airport which is controlled by Heftar’s men, and another hit 2 March military camp in the Masakin district of Benghazi. One may also wonder why Tunisians seem to feature disproportionately in this ‘martyrdom’ series: a plausible explanation is that this reflects the influx of Tunisian jihadis of the Ansar al-Shari’a movement, which was banned in Tunisia last year. These Tunisians, who came at a time when Ansar al-Shari’a was strongly pro-ISIS [prior incarnation of the Islamic State], found refuge and protection among like-minded Libyans.
Other familiar aspects of Islamic State propaganda photo series are pledges of allegiance and military parades. Witness the below.
Thus it can be seen how ‘Wilayat al-Barqa’ material copies the Islamic State’s Iraq and Syria provincial media production photos so closely. The apparent impressiveness of these displays of Islamic State affiliation in eastern Libya may further help to consolidate a long-standing apparent trend of sympathy for the Islamic State among Libyan jihadis, transforming it into a greater number of formal pledges of allegiance. Indeed, it was not for nothing that pro-IS[IS] Twitter feeds and the like have tended to show no hesitation on prior occasions of support for jihadis in Libya, despite the Islamic State’s spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani’sdecrying lack of unity among them. Whether any further displays of actual alignment emerge in the next few months should be watched closely.