The facade of the building that was once Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s pride and joy is now painted with the distinctive black and white jihadist flag.
In streets nearby, mannequins in women’s clothes shops are covered in demure, shapeless black. Ladies’ hairdressers have been closed down.
The Libyan dictator’s home city and pet project, later the scene of his capture and death, Sirte is now the first major foothold for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) on the Mediterranean coast.
A visit by The Telegraph revealed how a small group of foreign fighters has developed into a force to be reckoned with, 300 miles from Italy’s shores.
“When they arrived they were just a small number,” said Milad, a resident, who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals. “But then many locals joined them. They see them as the only way to have power in post-Gaddafi Libya.”
Backed by his tribe and allies, it was in Sirte that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi made his last stand in the 2011 war.
The sprawling Ouagadougou conference centre, which he built as a venue to play host to world leaders, is now Isil’s headquarters.
Snipers stationed on the complex’s rooftops looked down on the Toyota Hilux screeching past. “They won’t shoot because they are afraid of us,” claimed the commander of the rival Libyan Dawn militia, as he put his foot on the accelerator and sped past the conference building…
(Video at link)