Abdul Qadr al-Najdi

Abdul Qadr al-Najdi was the alleged emir (leader) of ISIS in Libya, as identified by an ISIS newsletter released in March 2016.“New Islamic State leader in Libya says group ‘stronger every day,’” Reuters, March 10, 2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-libya-security-islamic-state-idUKKCN0WC1DN. Al-Najdi was reportedly killed in September 2020.“Eastern Libyan forces say they killed Islamic State leader,” Reuters, September 23, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security/eastern-libyan-forces-say-they-killed-islamic-state-leader-idUSKCN26E3BW?il=0.

Al-Najdi’s main responsibility, according to ISIS’s al-Nabaa magazine, was to oversee the group’s wilayat (provinces) throughout the country.“New Islamic State leader in Libya says group ‘stronger every day,’” Reuters, March 10, 2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-libya-security-islamic-state-idUKKCN0WC1DN. These include the northern port city of Sirte—ISIS’s stronghold in Libya—and the northern coastal city of Sabratha. ISIS also has a contested presence in other cities scattered throughout northern Libya, including Derna, Tripoli, Al Khums, and Benghazi.“New Islamic State leader in Libya says group ‘stronger every day,’” Reuters, March 10, 2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-libya-security-islamic-state-idUKKCN0WC1DN;
Matthew M. Reed, “Libya’s Oil In ISIS’ Crosshairs,” FUSE, January 20, 2016, http://energyfuse.org/libyas-oil-wealth-in-isis-crosshairs/.

Al-Najdi reportedly entered Libya in September 2014 with Abul-Mughirah al-Qahtani via Turkey using forged Libyan passports. Then-ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi then named Qahtani as ISIS’s leader in Libya in 2015.“Eastern Libyan forces say they killed Islamic State leader,” Reuters, September 23, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security/eastern-libyan-forces-say-they-killed-islamic-state-leader-idUSKCN26E3BW?il=0; “Libyan army announces killing of ISIS leader in North Africa,” ANHA Hawer News Agency, September 23, 2020, http://hawarnews.com/en/haber/libyan-army-announces-killing-of-isis-leader-in-north-africa-h19445.html. Al-Najdi’s debut as emir of ISIS in Libya came several months after Qahtani was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Derna in November 2015. Despite having no named leader, ISIS’s Libyan affiliate continued to launch major attacks during that time against two of the country's oil sites in northern Libya: Ras Lanuf and Es Sider. Together, these two oil sites have the capacity to export 600,000 barrels per day, although both have been closed since December 2014.Ayman al-Warfalli and Ahmed Elumami, “Islamic State attack sets storage tanks ablaze at Libyan oil terminal,” Reuters, January 21, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-idUSKCN0UZ0P0. ISIS in Libya has also launched attacks in neighboring Tunisia, killing dozens of soldiers and civilians in the Tunisian border town of Ben Gardane in an attack on March 7, 2016.Schams Elwazer, Jomana Karadsheh and Susannah Cullinane, “Tunisia: 43 militants killed after attack on barracks,” CNN, March 9, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/07/africa/tunisia-militants-killed-ben-guerdane/.

Since al-Najdi’s ascendancy to the leadership post—and due to the frequency of attacks—alarm mounted in the West over the growing threat posed by ISIS in Libya. In March 2016, the U.N. and the U.S. Defense Department placed the number of ISIS fighters at 6,500, up from an estimated 3,000 only three months prior.Callum Paton, “New Isis leader in Libya – Abdel Qader al-Najdi threatens Daesh invasion of Rome through Africa,” International Business Times, March 10, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/new-isis-leader-abdel-qader-al-najdi-threatens-daesh-invasion-rome-through-north-africa-1548697;
Ayman al-Warfalli and Ahmed Elumami, “Islamic State attack sets storage tanks ablaze at Libyan oil terminal,” Reuters, January 21, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-idUSKCN0UZ0P0..
Al-Najdi also boasted of the group’s burgeoning membership in Libya, telling al-Nabaa: “The provinces of Libya have become the destination of the mujahideen and a sanctuary for the oppressed. The numbers of immigrants multiplied from all areas despite the ardent attempts by the West to prevent their immigration.”“New Islamic State leader in Libya says group ‘stronger every day,’” Reuters, March 10, 2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-libya-security-islamic-state-idUKKCN0WC1DN.

Al-Najdi also sought to stoke regional and intercontinental alarm, claiming that ISIS’s Libyan branch would invade Rome, and warning Libya’s neighbors that they were incapable of defending themselves against ISIS: “You are protecting yourself from the detonators with shields of bamboo,” he warned in the newsletter, “and from the flood with a ring of wood.”“New Islamic State leader in Libya says group ‘stronger every day,’” Reuters, March 10, 2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-libya-security-islamic-state-idUKKCN0WC1DN;
Callum Paton, “New Isis leader in Libya – Abdel Qader al-Najdi threatens Daesh invasion of Rome through Africa,” International Business Times, March 10, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/new-isis-leader-abdel-qader-al-najdi-threatens-daesh-invasion-rome-through-north-africa-1548697.
Al-Najdi boasted that he was in constant communication with ISIS's central command in Iraq and Syria and said that he hopes Libya will become the “vanguard of the Caliphate.”“New Islamic State leader in Libya says group ‘stronger every day,’” Reuters, March 10, 2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-libya-security-islamic-state-idUKKCN0WC1DN.

A combination of Libyan forces and U.S. airstrikes have driven many ISIS fighters from its former stronghold in Sirte. Despite losing ground in Sirte, the group has a presence in other parts of the country.Lamine Chikhi, “U.S. on watch for Islamic State dispersing in Libya: official,” Reuters, December 1, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-usa-idUSKBN13Q4PT; “Islamic State forced Philippine nurses to give medical training in Libya,” Reuters, February 27, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-prisoners-idUSKBN1662KR. On September 23, 2020, the Libyan National Army claimed it had killed al-Najdi earlier in the month during a raid in the Libyan city of Sebha.“Eastern Libyan forces say they killed Islamic State leader,” Reuters, September 23, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security/eastern-libyan-forces-say-they-killed-islamic-state-leader-idUSKCN26E3BW?il=0. ISIS’s Libya province suffered another setback in March 2021 when forces loyal to Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar arrested the “most prominent leader” of ISIS in Libya, Mohamed Miloud Mohamed, a.k.a. Abu Omar.“Eastern Libya Forces Say Arrested ‘Prominent IS Leader’ Abu Omar,” Defense Post, March 15, 2021, https://www.thedefensepost.com/2021/03/15/eastern-libya-forces-arrest-abu-omar/. Mohamed had participated in ISIS’s 2015 takeover of Sirte and reportedly had close ties with al-Najdi.Agence France-Presse, “Eastern Libya Forces Say Arrested Top Islamic State Figure,” Barron’s, March 14, 2021, https://www.barrons.com/news/eastern-libya-forces-say-arrested-top-islamic-state-figure-01615757404.

 
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