Militants aim to launch assaults from Libya
ISLAMIC State militants are planning a takeover of Libya as a “gateway” to wage war across the whole of southern Europe, letters by the group’s supporters have revealed. The jihadists hope to flood the North African state with militiamen from Syria and Iraq, who will then sail across the Mediterranean posing as migrants on people trafficking vessels, according to plans seen by Quilliam, the British anti-extremist group.
The fighters would then run amok in southern European cities and also try to attack maritime shipping.
The document is written by an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) propagandist who is believed to be an important online recruiter for the terror in Libya, where security has collapsed in the wake of the revolution that unseated Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.
The group has already established Libyan-based cells, which on Sunday released a video showing a mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Christian guest workers.
The video, which prompted Egypt to launch retaliatory bombing raids on IS positions in Libya, included footage of a khaki-clad militant pointing a bloodstained finger northwards, declaring: “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.”
The IS propagandist, who uses the alias Abu Arhim al-Libim, describes Libya as having “immense potential” for IS.
He points out with relish that it is awash with weapons from the Libyan civil war, when large quantities of Gaddafi’s arsenals were appropriated by rebels.
Some of those weapons came from Britain, which supplied the Gaddafi regime with machine guns, sniper rifles and ammunition during his final years in power, when he was seen as an ally against Islamist terrorism.
Libim also points out that Libya is less than 480km from parts of the nearest European mainland.
He writes: “It has a long coast and looks upon the southern Crusader states, which can be reached with ease by even a rudimentary boat.”
He also cites “the number of trips known as ‘illegal immigration’ from this coast, which are huge in number . . . if this was even partially exploited and developed strategically, pandemonium could be wrought in the southern European states and it is even possible that there could be a closure of shipping lines and targeting of Crusader ships and tankers.” The propagandist’s comments come amid growing concerns in the West about the collapse of security in Libya, which has a large diaspora population in the UK.
On Monday, former MI6 head Sir John Sawers said Britain should consider putting ground troops there to stop the country “being exploited by fanatics”.
Security officials also share the IS view about the possibility of using people trafficking boats to smuggle fighters into Europe.
Thanks to its vast, porous desert borders with sub-Saharan Africa, Libya has long been a key operating hub for trafficking boats heading into Europe, but numbers have escalated dramatically since the collapse of the Gaddafi regime.
Italy’s interior ministry estimates that at least 200 000 refugees and immigrants are poised to make the crossing from Libya to Sicily or the tiny island of Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost territory.
Last year more than 170 000 arrived in Italy by boat, including tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country.
This week an Italian coast guard vessel rescuing migrants off the Libyan coast was threatened by smugglers armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles.
– The Telegraph