In a photo report posted online today, Libyan Islamic State militants can be seen setting fire to confiscated musical instruments in the Libyan region of Cyrenaica. In recent months Islamist extremist groups affiliated with IS have seized swathes of territory across the country implementing their radical interpretation of Islamic doctrine in areas under their control. Some of these interpretations include bans on smoking and musical instruments. The burning of seized musical instruments comes just days after Libyan Islamic State militants released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts that had been kidnapped by the group.
The images come as a stark contrast to a notable picture from the Libyan conflict that came to light in 2011. It showed a man in combat fatigues playing guitar and apparently singing, while his colleagues not yards away were engaged in a ferocious gun battle for the control of Sirte, the last stronghold in Libya held by forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi.
Tuesday marked the fourth anniversary of the Libyan revolution and as Islamic State militants gain further ground the hope that first drove Libyans to the streets to protest against former president Muammar Gaddafi has all but evaporated.
Libya is split into three regions, Tripoli in the north-west, Fazzan in the south and Cyrenaica or Barqa to the east. Before the revolution the people of Cyrenaica had long felt neglected by the Gaddafi led government and is home to the coastal city of Benghazi, often described as the ideological heart of the uprising which eventually ousted the former dictator.
Today the region of Cyrenaica is deeply divided, two rival governments in Libya have locked the country in a brutal civil war since the last year with rival gangs of Islamist militias vying for power and regional control. As the power-vacuum spread across Libya following the NATO-backed war to oust Gaddafi, local Islamic militant groups started pledging allegiance to Islamic State following its gains in Iraq and Syria.
Nearly one third of Libya’s population has now fled to Tunisia to escape the fighting, this has led political commentators such as the UK government’s special envoy Jonathan Powell to warn that Libya could become a failed state, a “Somalia on the Mediterranean.”
With the increasing destabilisation of surrounding North African states and the international community’s reluctance to intervene Libya looks set to continue burning for a long time to come.