Ansar al-Sharia (AAS) groups in Libya emerged following the 2011 Libyan revolution. Their goal is to establish sharia and to remove US and Western influence from Libya. Ansar al-Sharia is most active in the Libyan cities of Benghazi, Darnah, Sirte, and Ajdabiya, but most likely operates elsewhere around the country as well. AAS works with regional extremist groups to train, conduct attacks, and amass weapons, and actively fights Libyan security services’ efforts to assert control throughout the country. The term Ansar al-Sharia means “Partisans of Islamic Law.”
On 18 June 2015, AAS released an audio statement naming Abu Khalid al-Madani as the group’s new amir. The group’s previous leader, Muhammad al-Zawahi, was killed while fighting in Benghazi in September 2014. Following Zawahi’s death, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Libya benefited from the defection of multiple AAS members.
Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi (AAS-B) and Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah (AAS-D) were most likely involved in the 11 September 2012 attacks against US facilities in Benghazi that resulted in the death of J. Christopher Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya, and three other US citizens. The United States designated AAS-B and AAS-D as Foreign Terrorist Organizations in January 2014. The groups are also suspected of involvement in attacks and kidnappings targeting foreigners, including an assassination of an American teacher in Benghazi in December 2013.
Ansar Al-Sharia flag
Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AAS-T) was founded in 2011 by Saifallah Ben Hassine, also known as Abu Iyad al-Tunisi, after he was released from prison during the Tunisian revolution. In mid-2015, Bin Hassine was tried, found guilty, and sentenced in absentia by a Tunisian criminal court to 50 years in prison for his role in terrorist activities. AAS-T was blamed for inciting the storming of the US Embassy in Tunis on 14 September 2012, and has since been designated by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. AAS-T remains intent on conducting attacks against Western interests in spite of increasing Tunisian security capability and counterterrorism operations. AAS-T attempted suicide attacks against two tourist sites in October 2013 and in 2014 probably was plotting against Jewish targets and Western diplomatic missions in Tunisia.