ISIS sees Libya as ‘gateway’ to Europe, says think tank
ISIS militants could use migrant boats to reach Italy
A Britain-based think tank that focuses on “counter extremism” said Wednesday that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) plans to use Libya as a “gateway” to Europe.
The Quilliam Foundation referred to documents it said were released by ISIS supporters, including letters uploaded by an ISIS propagandist on the internet.
In the letters, the group expressed plans to sail across the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach the shores of “the southern Crusader states,” according to the documents released by the think tank.
The plans explain the significance of Libya as a new “province” of the self-proclaimed caliphate, which already covers large swathes of Syria and Iraq.
In an ISIS video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptians in Libya last week, a militant speaker pointed northward and said: “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.”
The purported ISIS letters said if Libya was exploited well, it could help relieve “pressure” on ISIS-held territories in Syria and Iraq, which are subject to airstrikes.
The jihadist group could also start making use of the heavy weaponry that fell into the hands of Libyan rebels after the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in 2011. It also expressed its desire for Libya’s oil revenues.
“Showing a very well-produced video of incredible brutality is certain to get attention from international media, and it certainly projects and exaggerates the level of menace that ISIS presents in the region,” Charlie Winter, a researcher at Quilliam, told Al Arabiya News.
“We know that ISIS has large and significant support in Libya, but it tries to portray itself as the dominant actor there.”
However, the video “isn’t indicative necessarily of its level of strength” in Libya, Winter added.
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Wednesday that ISIS posed an “evident risk” in Libya, and there had to be a “change of pace” in global efforts to restore stability to the country.
Hundreds of African migrants sail each month from Libya to the southern coast of Italy, and there are fears that ISIS militants could mix with them to reach Europe.
Egypt’s ambassador to the UK was quoted Tuesday as saying: “Those boat people who go for immigration purposes and try to cross the Mediterranean... in the next few weeks, if we do not act together, they will be boats full of terrorists also.”
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