As of Tuesday, Islamic State fighters seized control of a power plant west of the Libyan city of Sirte after a brief battle with loyalist troops that left three of the loyalist defenders dead. The power plant is responsible for providing much of western and central Libya with power. Islamic State has used the chaos in Libya to their advantage as Libya Dawn battles the legitimate Libyan government. Already the city of Derna is controlled by Islamic State, and Islamic State moved on to besiege and seize part of Sirte in February. Islamic State would later claim to have control of the entire city of Sirte in late May. This unfortunate event comes as the UN tries fruitlessly to convince the legitimate Libyan government and Libya Dawn to come to a cease fire agreement.
It should come without further explanation on how critical control of the power plant is to Libya. It’s possible that Islamic State is taking a page from Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Last year, Al Qaeda militants sabotaged power lines in the Yemeni province of Marib, leaving the entire nation without power for over a day. Attacking power lines is a common strategy used by Yemeni tribesmen as a means to fulfill their demands. It is safe to assume that Islamic State is planning to deny electricity to regions of Libya in order to effectively control regions of the country. Another attack on Pakistan’s overtaxed power grid back in January left most of the south Asian country without electricity. The guerrilla attack was just the most effective of multiple bombings on Pakistani electrical infrastructure. Attacks on soft targets like power lines or power plants are easy to carry out, especially in nations such as Pakistan or Libya, and are economically crippling to an entire region, if not an entire nation.