A Daily Mail journalist given exclusive access to a huge ISIS bomb making factory in Libya has described what he found there.
Troops raided the plant, near Sirte, during an anti-Daesh offensive in June, finding the corpses of 25 jihadis inside – but suspecting that at least 160 had been living there.
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They also discovered it was home to a makeshift explosives factory – finding metal bolts – due to be used in suicide vests – and discarded gas canisters among other bomb making equipment.
On the floor of another room, piles of thick hair and beard trimmings lay strewn among discarded ammunitions boxes and bottles of water.
Libyan commander Ahmed Negro told MailOnline:
We think most of them went to Sirte, but some of them may be posing as ordinary citizens, because they shaved off their beards and cut their long hair before they ran away.
However, they left the ground riddled with mines and booby-traps – a tell-tale reminder of that being a bloodstained perimeter wall where the commander of a bomb disposal unit had been killed.
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Commander Negro said:
He successfully dismantled one mine but didn’t realise it was attached to another, which exploded when he tried to move the first one.
As well as the remains of explosives, troops also discovered large amounts of graffiti glorifying Daesh ideologies.
“ISIS follows the path of the Prophet,” can be seen scrawled, while another reads: “We will never give up. We will apply Sharia Law.”
The compound was also used to prepare suicide bomb cars or ‘Dogma’ – the name Libya’s branch of Daesh gives to them – along with an abandoned water-tanker which was being customised into another large scale suicide vehicle.
According to Westcott, Libyan soldiers inspecting the vehicle said the truck would have probably been used to target a military checkpoint – a similar truck was detonated at a police academy earlier this year, killing 60 police and wounding several hundred.
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Roughly-cut sheets of bullet-proof metal lay abandoned and empty gas bottles which soldiers said were packed into vehicles with explosives to create lethal blasts that would send shrapnel flying.
Scattered on the ground around the hangar were bumpers ripped from ordinary cars, which were replaced with sheets of thick metal, used as bullet-proofing to prevent troops blowing them up before reaching their targets.
Westcott also spoke to a man named Mehdi – who lived under the IS reign of terror in Sirte for a year.
— Tom Westcott (@WestcottTom) July 28, 2016
He told him a lot of Daesh members in the region are foreign fighters, with many coming from English-speaking sub-Saharan African countries.
Thankfully, the premises has now been made safe and the power plant has even restarted – providing electricity to areas that had been blacked out for months.
The power station’s chief engineer, Hassan Forjani said that although the premises had been made safe, and power restored to areas that had been blacked out for months, supplies had not been restored to central Sirte where IS are penned into around 11 square miles of the town still under their control.