Islamic State affiliates in Libya briefly took over the security headquarters in the western city of Sabratha, killing and beheading 12 security officers before being driven out early Wednesday, two city security officials said. The incident highlighted the enduring presence and unpredictable striking power of the ISIS militants in the strategic city, which serves as a hub for migrants heading to Europe. The gunmen "exploited a security vacuum" by deploying in the city center as the military was occupied conducting raids elsewhere, the head of the Sabratha Military Council tells the AP.
A second security official said the militants used the headless bodies of the officers they killed to block the roads leading to the security headquarters—which they occupied for about three hours. The official said the total number of officers killed in the occupation and ensuing clashes reached 19. Sabratha has become the latest Libyan power center for the local ISIS affiliate. Last week, US airstrikes killed dozens of suspected militants in the city along with two Serbian hostages kidnapped last year. Libya's chaos, five years after the uprising that led to the ouster and killing of Moammar Gadhafi, has paved the way for ISIS to take control of several cities. (Read more Islamic State stories.)