On October 22, 2018, the Libyan National Army (LNA) 128 Infantry Battalion revealed that its troops together with Tariq Ibn Ziyad Battalion uncovered a mountain cave, which Islamic State (IS) militants used as a hideout for living, lodging, preparing vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) and launching terrorist attacks. The forces dismantled at least one Jeep-type VBIED filled with artillery rounds as a main explosive charge that was found in the camp south of Harawa. Islamic State militants also stocked weapons and medical drugs in the camp, which also served as a field hospital along with other similar caves.
The camp was discovered following the confession of IS militant Mas’oud Belhassen al-Nawfali (aka Juma’a Mas’oud Al-Hassan Al-Qarqa’i), who was arrested by the Battalion on October 15. Al-Qaraq’i admitted that the VBIEDs were readied to be used in attacks against LNA checkpoints in the Southern Region.
Al-Qarqa’i is one of several IS commanders who took part in most of the attacks on Nawfaliya Gate, Gate 60, Gate 90, al-Ogaila (al-Oqaila), al-Qinan, and Awjlah. Al-Qarqa’i also led the attack against the Turkish road construction company in Marada in January 2016 that resulted in the death of three Petroleum Facility Guard members. Al-Qarqa’i became the commander of the Nawfaliya IS group after its leader Ali Eqa’im was killed in Sirte.
Mas’oud Belhassen al-Nawfali and another militant arrested
The documented VBIED was a Jeep vehicle covered with tarpaulin and dirt – possibly so as to avoid aerial detection. The VBIED’s main charge consisted of military ordnance, including at least thirteen 155mm high explosive (HE) M107 howitzer artillery rounds that were daisy-chained by detonation cord. The initiation system is not clearly visible, but part of a mobile phone and wire are seen on the car dashboard, indicating that it probably included a remote-initiation trigger.
VBIED covered in tarpaulin
Jeep VBIED with mobile phone and wire, possibly part of the initiation system and daisy-chained artillery rounds.
Back seat of the VBIED with more daisy-chained artillery rounds
Controlled detonation of the artillery rounds