Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized a university in the Libyan city of Sirte, a faculty member and residents said, days after a video showed them staging a convoy parade.
Islamist militants have made inroads into parts of the North African oil-producing country, exploiting a power vacuum created by a violent struggle for control between two competing governments.
The incident came after the coalition of Islamist militias in control of the capital Tripoli known as Fajr Libya (Dawn of Libya) said they were sending armed units to “restore security in the city.”
Social media showed photos of hooded gunmen in pick-up trucks and 4X4 vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft guns, brandishing the black flag of ISIS, which has seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq and is believed to have extended its presence to the North African country.
Witnesses said the gunmen had also taken over the once grandiose Ouagadougou Centre in what is the hometown of the late Muammar Qaddafi, where the then dictator once organized extravagant African and Arab summits.
An AFP photographer who managed to visit the city briefly, said the Fajr Libya and ISIS forces were keeping their distance from each other and that there had been no hostilities between them.
Last week, militants seized state-run Radio Sirte and several government buildings in the city, hometown of Qaddafi, which has become a bastion of Islamist extremism since the dictator’s overthrow and death in 2011.
On Monday Egyptian planes struck suspected ISIS targets in eastern Libya, after the group released a video showing the execution of 21 Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Sirte.
On Wednesday Egypt and the official Libyan government asked the United Nations Security Council to lift an arms embargo and help build up the army to tackle the jihadists.