Libyan residents of Bin Jawad, the latest city taken over by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), described the terrifying sights of the brutal jihadists parading severed heads from the back of their signature pick-up trucks.
Shouting “Allah akbar [God is great],” the Islamic State fighters travelled in a convoy. While many residents fled the city before the jihadis arrive, the unfortunate ones who stayed behind were rounded into a sports stadium, their fate unknown.
Bin Jawad lies 20 miles from Sidra and 36 miles from Ras Lanuf. Through an assault that involved heavy weapons and suicide bombers, including a 15-year old boy, the town was taken over earlier this month. Homes were confiscated and government workers were detained, including 200 citizens who had worked for security forces or in government ministries.
Shops were raided, cigarettes were burned in a bonfire and those caught violating the Islamic State’s strict interpretation of sharia law were punished. One Egyptian man was reportedly publicly lashed 80 times for smoking on the street.
Bin Jawad is the fourth Libyan city to fall to the Islamic State. The group has been making a big push in Libya, encouraging its fighters to travel to its so-called “Libyan Province.” More than a response to coalition bombings of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, analysts say the drive to conquer Libya is strategic.
“The key thing to understand here is that this is not about fighters flowing out of Syria and Iraq because they’re under pressure from the U.S. coalition or other forces,” said one official, speaking to the Washington Times on the condition of anonymity. “What’s actually happening is ISIL leadership is telling jihadist recruits from around the world to go join the franchise in Libya.”
Another official explained, “Libya is the next ISIS hot spot in terms of trying to control a serious amount of territory, as well as oil fields.”