Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) affiliates in Libya briefly took over the security headquarters in the western city of Sabratha, killing and beheading 12 security officers before being driven out early Wednesday morning, two city security officials said. The incident highlighted the enduring presence and unpredictable striking power of the local ISIS militants in this strategic city which serves as a hub for migrants heading to Europe.
Taher al-Gharabili, head of Sabratha Military Council, told The Associated Press that the gunmen “exploited a security vacuum” by deploying in the city center as the military was occupied conducting raids elsewhere.
A second security official said that the militants used the headless bodies of the officers they killed to block the roads leading to the security headquarters – which they occupied for about three hours. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the total number of officers killed in the occupation and ensuing clashes reached 19.
Sabratha has become the latest Libyan power center for the local ISIS affiliate. Last week, U.S. airstrikes killed dozens of suspected militants in the city along with two Serbian hostages kidnapped last year.