U.N. experts: Up to 3,000 ISIS fighters in Libya
The group’s central command views Libya ‘as the ‘best’ opportunity to expand its so-called caliphate’ from Syria and Iraq
ISIS has between 2,000 and 3,000 fighters in Libya and has demonstrated its intention to control more territory in the strategically located North African country — but it is only one player among multiple warring factions, United Nations experts has said in a report.
The experts monitoring U.N. sanctions against al-Qaida and spinoff groups said in the report to the U.N. Security Council that the Islamic State group is benefiting from its “appeal” and notoriety in Iraq and Syria and poses “an evident short and long-term threat in Libya.”
The group’s central command views Libya “as the ‘best’ opportunity to expand its so-called caliphate” from Syria and Iraq, the experts said.
The 24-page report cautioned, however, that the group “faces strong resistance from the population, as well as difficulties in building and maintaining local alliances” — and stressed that its threat “needs to be realistically assessed.”
Nonetheless, the experts said there is concern at the spread of the ISIS in Libya, given the country’s strategic location on the Mediterranean Sea and its use as a transit point in North Africa.
More territory would not only enable ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked groups to further influence ongoing conflicts in North Africa and the Sahel but give the extremists a new hub outside the Middle East, they said.
Eight independent experts were appointed by the Secretary-General to write the report, with expertise in counter-terrorism, financing of terrorism, arms embargoes, travel bans and related legal issues.
Oil-rich Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi. It is divided between an elected parliament and government based in the eastern port city of Tobruk and an Islamist militia-backed government in the capital Tripoli — with militants from ISIS and al-Qaeda also exploiting the chaos.