Libya's Terrorism Challenge: Assessing the Salafi-Jihadi Threat

By Lydia Sizer | Senior Consultant - Menas Associates | Oct 4, 2017
Libya's Terrorism Challenge: Assessing the Salafi-Jihadi Threat


Salafi-jihadis have maintained an active presence in Libya due to a mix of push and pull factors. Historic participation in such groups, declining standards of living, the historical marginalization of minorities, and a pervasive sense of victimhood have all made Libya a ripe jihadi recruiting ground. Many Salafi-jihadis offer the status, salary, and services that the fractured state cannot provide. These movements can be diminished through investments like educational programs, aid to war-torn regions, demilitarization programs, and improved intelligence sharing by border officials in Libya’s neighboring states. However, until the political crisis that has plagued Libya for over three years ends, there is little Libya’s international partners can do to help confront these movements. And as long as the crisis continues, civil unrest will persist and institutions will remain weak. Such a scenario would provide the requisite chaos for the present Salahi-jihadi movements to flourish.

Key Points

  • While most Salafi-jihadi groups hold differing objectives, they compete for similar recruits and occasionally collaborate.
  • Libya’s security vacuum is the single largest enabler of Salafi-jihadi activity.
  • Groups that focus on territorial control, such as Ansar al-Shariah and ISIS, deliberately disrupt state infrastructure in order to peddle their own goods and services.
  • Khalifa Hifter’s rhetoric and tactics give Salafi-jihadis an existential threat to rally around and could make such groups attractive to disaffected members of more moderate Islamist groups.
  • The optimal scenario for curbing the influence of Salafi-jihadi threats in Libya is the establishment of a unified state with growing, legitimate institutions.

Read the full Policy Paper here.