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IS kills dozens in Libya's Sirte, putting down uprising by local tribe

IS has pledged to execute captured members of the Ferjani tribe who led an uprising against the group in Sirte
Islamic State group fighters running towards a power plant in the southern Libyan city of Sirte (AFP)

Libya’s Islamic State branch on Thursday brutally put down a rebellion against the group in the town of Sirte, halfway between the capital Tripoli and the eastern port of Benghazi.

IS killed 38 members of the Ferjani tribe and shelled a residential area of Sirte, which has become the IS stronghold in Libya, according to a report by local daily Libya Herald.

Two children and four elderly civilians were killed in the IS shelling, the herald reported. The other 32 casualties comprised Ferjani fighters, including local leader Marbouk al-Ferjani.

Fighting broke out in Sirte on Tuesday after IS allegedly killed a local conservative cleric, Khalid bin Rajab Ferjani, who was imam at the town’s Cordoba Mosque. The group is said to have killed the cleric because he had refused to allow IS control of his mosque.

Ferjani fighters responded to the cleric’s assassination by urging locals to rise up against IS and on Thursday killed two of the group’s commanders – Saudi Abu Huzaifa Ansari and Egyptian Abu Hammam Masri.

Sirte was the birthplace of Libya’s long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was ousted and subsequently killed in a 2011 NATO-backed revolution. Since then the North African country, which is home to Africa’s largest oil reserves, has been plunged into a civil war pitting rival tribes, cities and even governments against each other.

The House of Representatives, which was elected in June 2014, is based in the eastern town of Tobruk after having fled the capital Tripoli, which has been under the control of the militia coalition Libya Dawn since September 2014. In the midst of a political vacuum IS seized control of most of Sirte and has carried out mass executions, including the February massacre of 21 Coptic Christians.

Fears were growing on Friday morning that IS will now execute a swathe of captured Ferjani fighters in Sirte, after the group promised “spectacular” retribution against the tribe.

Two representatives from the HoR, Zaid Hadia from Sirte and Saleh Fhaima from nearby Sidra, have pleaded for the international community to intervene and stop the Ferjani tribe being “wiped out” by IS. The HoR representatives have also called on Khalifa Hafter, head of the HoR backed Libya National Army, to help the Ferjanis.

However, neither the Libya Dawn-backed General National Congress government in Tripoli, nor the HoR have helped the uprising against IS in Sirte, a source in Tripoli told Middle East Eye on condition of anonymity.

The international community recently raised the prospect of a fresh military intervention in Libya, which would be aimed at rebuilding state institutions and curbing the rise of IS. The potential intervention, according to diplomats, will take place once, or if, a UN-brokered unity government is in place.