Al-Qaeda-linked militia declares holy war on Isis in Libya

An al-Qaeda-linked militia in the eastern Libyan city of Derna has declared a holy war on the Isis affiliate who control the majority of the coastal city, after the death of one of their senior leaders threatened to spark a violent conflict between the two groups.

In clashes between Isis and the Mujahideen Shura Council of Derna on Wednesday, at least 20 fighters from both sides were killed, sources confirmed to Reuters. The fighting came after a leader in an allied group, Majlis al-Shura, was killed by Isis for refusing to pledge allegiance to the group's caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Shura Council released a statement after the death of Nasser al-Aker, a senior leader in the Abu-slim Martyr's Brigade, the armed faction of the Shura Council, which said that a "holy war" would be waged against Isis "until none of them are left".

An activist within Derna, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Newsweek that Derna is "on fire" after the biggest-ever clashes between the two rival groups.

"Abu-slim [Martyr's Brigade] is fighting outside the city. They are trying to seize Isis' one or two places in the city, that's what is happening now," the activist reveals.

"[Abu-slim] want to have a normal life but they want to do it with Sharia, in a more Islamic way, not an extremist one," the anonymous source says of the rival militia.

The activist adds that some within the city are attempting to mediate a truce between the two groups but that Isis are virtually impossible to negotiate with.

"If [the Shura Council] has any kind of agreement to end the war, Isis will target them and kill them in some way," the activist says. "So, there is no chance to have an agreement with those people."

The Shura Council has approximately 3,000 fighters while Isis is believed to have between 1,500 and 2,000 members in the city.

A member of the Shura Council's brigade, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said that the militia are "searching for the Wali", in reference to the Yemeni member of Isis, Abu al-Baraa el-Azdia, who has been sent to eastern Libya to oversee the creation and growth of the affiliate.

In April, it was revealed that the terror group were to force residents of the city to pledge allegiance to them or face death. In the same month, three members of the same family were crucifixed near Isis's Islamic court while earlier this month a man with alleged links to the Libyan army was beheaded outside the city's oldest mosque as the group seeks to tighten its grip on the coastal city.

Derna, situated between the coastal cities of Tobruk and Benghazi, has become the terror group's operational hub, with foreign fighters flocking to a number of training camps on its outskirts.

Last year, Isis created its affiliate in eastern Libya when the radical Islamic Youth Shura Council declared the city an "Islamic emirate" called Wilyat Barqa (the ancient province of Barqa), an extension of the group's caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

The city has a population of 100,000 and has a reputation within Libya as a conservative bosom of Islamism with hundreds of its residents fighting for al-Qaeda during the US occupation of Iraq from 2003 onwards. Out of 112 Libyan fighters named and 606 documented overall in 2007, 52 emanated from Derna.