Old loyalties, religious cohesion may frustrate Islamic State in Libya

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By Ulf Laessing

CAIRO, – Islamic State’ executions Christians show the group is exploiting Libya’ lawlessness but tribal and loyalties and the absence a sectarian divide mean it is unlikely grow as rapidly there as in Iraq or .

On Sunday, the militant group published a video purportedly showing the execution 30 Ethiopian Christians in two locations in eastern and southern Libya, two after it beheaded 21 Egyptian Copts there.

The video suggests Islamic State, which controls much of and Iraq, has managed further expand in the North African country after establishing a limited presence in the eastern town of Derna as well as in western and central Libya.

It is benefiting chaos in oil-producing Libya, where two governments allied armed factions are fighting each other on several fronts four years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. With neither side able dominate, a exists.

But Islamic State may struggle to expand as it has in and Iraq because Libya has no Sunni-Shi’ite divide the group could exploit to draw in . Libyans are Sunni .

The militant group also lacks strong ties to large Libyan tribes, and must compete with anti-Gaddafi rebel groups that have carved out their own fiefdoms based on regional, tribal, ethnic and ties.

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“These groups are ultimately self-serving and self-interested,” said Geoffrey Howard, and North analyst at Control Risks.

“IS’ advances are likely to pose a threat to their own and economic agendas, as well as their control over territory and strategic assets.”