By Emily Balan
On February 15, Wilayat al-Barqa, the Islamic State’s Libyan branch, beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian immigrant workers on a Libyan beach in a propaganda video for the radical Islamist group. Egypt responded the next day with airstrikes over ISIS camps in Libya, according to CNN. On the same day, Derna, a town on the Libyan coast of the Mediterranean Sea near the Egyptian border, was taken as the first ISIS stronghold in the north African country.
Within the week, three simultaneous suicide car bombs killed at least 30 people and injured more than 40 others in Gobba, Libya, according to CNN. The instability of the Libyan state affords the highly organized Islamic State an advantage. Most recently in mid-March, the northern Nigerian terrorist group of Boko Haram officially allied themselves with ISIS.
As ISIS spreads internationally, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for an “international intervention,” urging “capable countries” to fight the extremist threat, and specified that Muslim countries should “stand up” to spearhead the fight, according to BBC and Fox News.
“We have to admit that terrorism is now a major threat not only to Egypt or even the immediate region, but it is a threat to the stability and security of the whole world,” President Sisi said in an interview with Fox News. “We can also see that the map of terrorism and extremism is expanding, it is not recessing.”
Egypt’s position on ISIS could prove to be a major blow to the spread of ISIS in Africa.
Although getting their foot firmly placed in the door of Libya, Egypt’s military capabilities, alleged cooperation with the Libyan government, and attitude toward the conflict is such that it will take more than a couple car bombs and beheadings to take Libya, though the possibility is alarming.
Egypt is the major African country spear-heading the fight against ISIS forces, but they are not alone. Other states in the region have denounced the group and seek to dismantle their jihadist operation in favor of non-violence.
Some European goverments are backing the fight against ISIS, with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi expressing support for Egypt’s call for “international intervention.” Egypt has engaged France in a 5.2 billion-euro military defense deal to fight ISIS, according to Reuters.
“Our two countries are pursuing a common struggle against terrorism,” said French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian.
The CIA estimates the Islamic State to have around 31,500 members. However, according to a senior Iraqi Kurdish leader, as reported in The Independent, their forces should be closer to 200,000 members due to simultaneous attacks in Syria and Iraq. The group continues to extend its influence and recruit more jihadists every day, even from non-Islamic countries. ISIS recruits students from Western countries, like the British executioner ‘Jihadi John,’ and has accepted pledges of allegiance from other extremist groups, such as Boko Haram.
King Abdullah II of Jordan called on Muslim countries to lead the fight against ISIS, according to NBC. After the execution of a Jordanian pilot, Jordan citizens took to the streets in support of the government’s decision to declare war on ISIS, starting with air strikes over Syria in early February, according to CNN.
The Iraqi and Syrian governments, along with Kurdish peshmerga forces, have also contributed military forces. U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Congress for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. Currently, the U.S. government is involved in the conflict by supplying arms to ISIS opposition forces, including $1.5 billion in military assistance to Egypt, according to Fox News.