- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Libyan city of Derna has a population of 100,000, and it’s now under the Islamic State group’s control.

Expanding political chaos coupled with returning fighters from Syria and Iraq have allowed the radical Sunni terror group to take control of numerous government buildings, security vehicles, and local landmarks. A soccer stadium is now used for public executions.

“Derna today looks identical to Raqqa, the ISIS headquarters town in Syria,” Noman Benotman, a former Libyan jihadi now working in counterterrorism for the Quilliam Foundation, told CNN on Tuesday.

Libyan sources told the network that the terror group is quickly gobbling up territory along the Mediterranean coastline, and it is doing so with roughly 800 fighters who control camps along the outskirts of the city. The organization says it has chapters in al Bayda, Benghazi, Sirte, al-Khums and Tripoli.

“ISIS pose a serious threat in Libya. They are well on the way to creating an Islamic emirate in eastern Libya. […] Most of the local population in Derna are opposed to the takeover by the Islamic State, but, with the complete absence of any central government presence, they are not in a position to do much for now,” Mr. Benotman told CNN.

The Islamic State chapter in Derna is known as “Barqa,” which was the name of the eastern region of Libya when the Roman Empire was replaced with Islamic rule, CNN reported.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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