On 9 June, unity government force surrounded the so-called Islamic State (IS) group’s Libyan bastion Sirte, where clashes have erupted as the Unity Government attempts to oust the militant group. The jihadist group, which moved into the North African country in 2014 amidst chaos that followed the ouster of Moamer Kadhafi, has become yet another player in the lawless country, where rival authorities and militas are battling for control of territory and major oil reserves.
- 19 November – The United States indicates that it is “concerned” by reports that radical extrmeists with avowed ties to IS are destabilizing eastern Libya, after having already seized vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. News reports emerge indicated that the eastern coastal city of Derna is emerging as an IS stronghold.
- 27 December – A car bomb explodes outside the diplomatic security building in the capital city Tripoli. The attack, which is claimed by IS, causes no casualties.
- 27 January – IS claims responsibility for an attack on Tripoli’s luxury Corinthia Hotel that kills nine people.
- 15 February – IS releases a video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, all but one Egyptians, that the jihadist say they filmed in January. Egypt carries out air strikes on IS in Derna
- 20 February – IS claims responsibility for suicide car bombings in Al-Qoba, which is located near Derna. Those attacks kill 44 people, with IS stating that the attacks are to avenge losses in the air strikes.
- 19 April – A new video depicts the execution-style killing of 28 Christians originally from Ethiopia.
- 9 June – IS announces that it has captured the city of Sirte, which is located east of Tripoli.
- 12 July – The group acknowledges that it has been pushed out of Derna after weeks of fierce fighting with members of the town’s Mujahedeen Council.
- 13 November – The US bombs IS leaders in Libya for the first time and states that it has killed Abu Nabil, an Iraqi also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi. Libyan officials later identify him as the head of IS in Derna.
- 7 January – A suicide truck bombing at a police school in Zliten, east of Tripoli, kills more than fifty people in what is the worst attack to take place in Libya since the 2011 revolution. IS claims responsibility for the attack.
- 5 February – US officials disclose that the number of jihadists has almost doubled in Libya to about 5,000.
- 19 February – A US air strike on a jihadist training camp located near Sabratha, west of Tripoli, kills about fifty people.
- 24 February – Some 200 jihadists briefly occupy the centre of Sabratha, however they are later ousted by militas.
- 30 March – The head of Libya’s United Nations-backed unity government, Fayez al-Sarraj, arrives at a naval base in Tripoli, despite the hostility of rival authorities.
- 31 May – UN special envoy Martin Kobler calls on all of Libya’s armed groups to untie against IS.
- 4 June – Unity government forces say that they have retaken a jihadist air base, Al-Gordabyia, which is located south of Sirte.
- 5 June – Sarraj rules out an international military intervention on the ground.
- 9 June – Unity government forces enter the centre of Sirte where clashes continue with IS.
According to the United States State Department, there was a marked fall in the number of terror attacks that occurred around the world in 2015.
In a newly released report this month, the State Department attributed the 13% decline from 2014 to fewer attacks in Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan, which are three of the five countries that have been the worst affected by terrorism. The other two are Afghanistan and India. Together, more than half of the 11,000 attacks that occurred last year happened within the borders of these five countries.
Data compiled by the University of Maryland indicates that more than 28,300 people died – a 14% decline – and about 35,300 others were wounded in 11,774 terrorist attacks that occurred worldwide last year. State Department Acting Co-ordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell notes that attacks and deaths increased in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Syria and Turkey. The State Department also reported that figures indicate that the terror threat “continued to evolve rapidly in 2015, becoming increasingly decentralized and diffused,” adding that extremists were exploiting frustration in countries “where avenues for free and peaceful expression of opinion were blocked.” The State Department highlighted that the so-called Islamic State (IS) group is the biggest single threat, adding that the group has attracted affiliates and supporters in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It noted that while IS was losing territory in Iraq and Syria, it was gaining strength in Libya and Egypt. The United Nations has also warned that IS is increasingly focusing on international civilian targets. The UN has reported that over the past six months, IS had carried out attacks in eleven countries. This does not include the militant group’s ongoing activity in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
The State Department report also disclosed that Iran was the biggest state sponsor of terrorism, stating that it supported conflicts in Syria and Iraq and that it was also implicated in violent Shia opposition raids in Bahrain. Bahrain has accused Iran of supplying weapons to Shia militants behind bomb attacks on security forces however Iran has denied this.
The Egyptian army has reported that Egypt and France began Sunday joint manoeuvres in the Mediterranean in which French Rafale warplanes, purchased by Cairo last year, are taking part.
According to the Egyptian army, the “Ramses 2016” military and naval exercise is being held off the coast of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and are expected to last for several days. Paris announced the manoeuvres on Tuesday, stating that the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is being used to launch airstrikes on the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq, would also take part. At the time, the French Defense Ministry indicated that the drill is aimed at “sharing our expertise with the Egyptian military…one of our main Middle East partners.” Meanwhile the Egyptian army has disclosed that a French multi-mission frigate, which was purchased by Cairo last year, would also take part in the drill along with Rafale combat jets and F-16 warplanes.
In 2015, Cairo signed a multi-billion euro deal in order to purchase from France 24 Rafale fighters, of which six have already been delivered. On 19 December 2015, the Charles de Gaulle carrier took command in the Gulf of the naval continent operating as part of the international coalition fighting IS.
The French-Egyptian manoeuvres are taking place amidst Western concerns over the growing influence of IS in Libya, which borders Egypt.
On Monday, 14 December, Egyptian officials reported that so far, they have found no evidence of terrorism or other illegal action linked to the 31 October crash of a Russian passenger plane in Sinai, which killed all 224 people on board. The plane came down en route to Russia from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
While Russian and Western governments have previously reported that the Airbus A321, which was operated by Metrojet, was likely brought down by a bomb, with a group linked to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group claiming responsibility and stating that it had managed to smuggle an explosive on board, Egypt’s civil aviation ministry has indicated that it has completed a preliminary report on the crash, adding that it had so far found no evidence of a criminal act. In a statement, the ministry disclosed that “the technical investigative committee has so far not found anything indicating any illegal intervention or terrorist action.” Russia had previously reported that a bomb brought down the Metrojet Airbus, after finding what it said were “traces of foreign explosives” on the debris. It has vowed to “find and punish” the perpetrators.”
In response to Monday’s findings, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov re-iterated that “our experts concluded this was a terrorist attack.”
What is known is that the plane crash has affected Egypt’s tourism industry, which is a cornerstone of the economy. According to the country’s tourism minister, tourism revenues for 2015 will be at least 10% below last year’s. The plane took off from Sharm el-Sheikh, a Red Sea resort that is popular with British and Russian holidaymakers. Furthermore, the incident has raised serious questions about airport security, which has prompted both Britain and Russia to suspend flights into Sharm el-Sheikh. Egypt is now also facing a two-year Islamist insurgency in the Sinai, which has killed hundreds of soldiers and police. Shortly after the 31 October plane crash, IS stated that the bombing was in response to Russian airstrikes in Syria. Last month, IS’ magazine published a photo of what it claimed was the improvised bomb that brought down the airliner. The picture in Dabiqu showed a Schweppes Gold soda can and what appears to be a detonator and a switch.
In its annual report, which was published on 15 December, media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) disclosed that while fewer journalists were imprisoned this year, the number held hostage increased, noting that China and Egypt were named the worst nations for jailing media workers.
According to the RSF, the number of journalists put in prison fell fourteen percent in 2015 from last year. Furthermore, fifty-four professional journalists were held hostage in 2015, an increase of 35 percent from the last year. The reports points to Syria as the country with the highest number of reporters in the hands of extremist or criminal groups at 26. The report also indicates that the so-called Islamic State (IS) group alone holds eighteen journalists, largely in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.
The report also described China as “the world’s biggest prison for journalists,” followed by Egypt, adding that Iran and Eritrea were also condemned for jailing members of the press.
RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire noted that “a full-blown hostage industry has developed in certain conflict zones.” He highlighted Yemen as being the newest problem country for reporters, with thirty-three journalists kidnapped by Houthi militias and al-Qaeda militants in 2015, compared with just two in the previous year. According to Deloire, “we are very alarmed by the increase in the number of reporters held hostage in 2015. The phenomenon is above all linked to the big surge in abductions of journalists in Yemen.”
Meanwhile lawless Libya had the largest number of journalists reported missing this year. With eight members of the press unaccounted for, the RSF noted that the political climate “makes it harder to conduct investigations to locate missing journalists.”