Five years on. What Happened When a Libyan Family in Derna Decided to Stand up to ISIS?


At 6pm on Monday, April 20, 2015, the Islamic State in Libya led by Hassan Bou Dahab attacked the household of Essa Ahrir Al-Mansouri and his family in Derna, resulting in one of Libya’s most tragic and fabled nights.

Rather than choosing to give in and allow ISIS to raid their home and arrest whomever they pleased, the family chose to stand up for themselves and face the assailants directly. Clashes soon broke out and the family of Essa Ahrir Al-Mansouri held off against the thirty-armed men of ISIS for 12 hours. From the evening until dawn, the two sides exchanged fire but ISIS gained the upper hand as it gathered reinforcements from across Derna to face the stranded family.

The fighting came to an end when ISIS launched an improvised explosive device (IED) into the house, leaving it wrecked.

Following the fight, six members of the Al-Mansouri family, including two women were killed and the mother injured. Ten members of the terrorist organisation were killed during the clashes and more than 20 others were wounded, causing extremists to deliberately mutilate the bodies of members of the Al-Mansouri family and crucify three of them at the western entrance of Derna, in eastern Libya.

“The tragedy of Al-Harir family is too great for anyone to write about” a person commented on a social media platform regarding this hideous crime that was carried out by the Libyan branch of the Islamic State, an international terror group that was in control of Derna at the time.

Since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has become a hub for terrorist organisations, with Derna acting as their de facto capital.

The Derna Valley is one of the largest valleys in Libya, and has become a recruitment and training centre for fighters who have participated in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.

5 years after the tragedy, Derna still suffers from ISIS sleeper cells as demonstrated in November 2019 when a group of cars drove through the city waving ISIS flag and chanting “the Islamic State remains”.