Ansar al Sharia Libya, an al Qaeda-affiliated group, has released a video showing them using what appears to be an anti-tank missile against a tank. The tank, which more than likely belonged to the forces of Khalifa Hiftar, was then subsequently destroyed. The video, which has been uploaded previously, was taken down last week and then reuploaded a few days ago. Ansar al Sharia and their allies in the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council have been fighting Khalifa Hiftar since May when the former Libyan general launched an operation to rid Benghazi of Islamists.
This is one of just a few videos released by the group showing the use of such a weapon. Last week, the group released a very similar video. It is important to note that such weapons, like the BGM-71 TOW system, is being sent to Syria to a select group of rebel groups via the United States. It is unsure what weapons system the group is using in the two videos, but it is likely the weapons were taken after capturing several Hiftar bases in Benghazi. The Libyan National Army was and is known to operate the French MILAN anti-tank system.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are two states that are known to support Hiftar's forces in their fight against Ansar al Sharia and their allies. In August, the two Middle Eastern countries launched airstrikes against Libyan rebels in Tripoli. It is very possible that one or both countries could be supplying Hiftar with various weapons. If they actually do, this could be another way that the group has gotten their hands on anti-tank missiles.
New pictures showing artillery-mounted technicals (armed pickup trucks)
The photos, which are similar to those that have been released before by the group, show heavy artillery being fired at Hiftar positions. The weapons, mounted on the back of pickup trucks, are very common for Ansar al Sharia and have been used quite effectively for the group. In this promo video here, one can see various artillery-mounted technicals being used. As well as technicals, the group also operates various tanks, BMP's (Russian-made infantry fighting vehicles), and armored personnel carriers--also seen in the linked video.
While while everyone is quick to note the Islamic State's use of such weapons and vehicles, it should definitely be noted that al Qaeda groups do too--they also control territory much like the Islamic State, but I digress. It should be equally as worrying that groups like Ansar al Sharia, the group behind the 2012 terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, operates these vehicles and weapons. It should also be just as worrying that Ansar al Sharia runs training camps for fighters going to Syria, Iraq and Mali. As I noted here, fighters from Mokhtar Belmokhtar's forces involved in the In Amenas attack in Algeria trained in Ansar al Sharia camps in Libya. It is likely Belmokhtar has also helped train Ansar al Sharia fighters and based on the In Amenas attack, he has probably sent more fighters to Ansar al Sharia camps in Libya than what has been previously mentioned.
Ansar al Sharia's Al Qaeda connections
I have previously outlined the groups al Qaeda connections in very thorough report broken down into two parts. Please read my reports, Ansar al Sharia and al Qaeda and More Proof of Ansar al Sharia's al Qaeda Connections. Moreover, my colleague Thomas Joscelyn over at The Long War Journal has written a plethora of reports on their al Qaeda connections. Please read his most recent report here. In this post, one can also click on a small sliver of his other reports on their al Qaeda connections.
It should also be noted that Ansar al Sharia has not sworn allegiance to the Islamic State unlike some people have said. It is very unlikely that the group would swear allegiance based on a few factors. One, the group shares many personal ties and connections to various al Qaeda figures, like Belmokhtar or Muhammad Jamal. Secondly, the group has sent fighters to support al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has sent fighters to support Ansar al Sharia. It would appear unlikely that the group would risk losing these connections and ties by switching over to the Islamic State.
Moreover, @MaliWitness has conducted an interview with a member of Majlis Shura Shabab al Islam, a group operating in Dernah that has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. In the interview, the member openly states that the only group that has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State in Dernah is the Majlis Shura Shabab al Islam. not Ansar al Sharia or the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade. Any claims of Ansar al Sharia swearing allegiance to the Islamic State should be treated with skepticism until an official confirmation or denial from the group.