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UN experts: up to 3000 Islamic State (IS) fighters in #Libya

By Tajuddin
Dec 5th, 2015
Islamic State in Libya

Islamic State in Libya

Tripoli, Libya ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – Also as it did when it started seizing territory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS might also have its sights set on expansion in Libya.

Michael O’Hanlon, a defense policy expert at the Brookings Institute, told VOA accessing Europe from Libya was “disturbingly easy”. “Sirte looks like a real stronghold – and one with little prospect of being taken away from ISIL anytime soon”.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has as many as 3000 fighters in Libya and sees the country as a retreat zone and strategic hub for recruits unable to reach its Syrian heartland, according to a new United Nations report.

There is also concern more hardened Libyan fighters could return home in the future, as around 3,500 Libyans are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq, according to the U.N. (It says the numbers setting off for those countries from Libya have slowed).

“We are clearly watching them”, Col. Chris Garver, a USA military spokesman, said of the ISIS militants in Libya.

For instance, in Sirte, Libya, ISIS has about 2,000 fighters, up from just 200 in February.

The report said the current political and security challenges in Libya have provided an opportunity for IS and al-Qaida-linked groups including Ansar al-Sharia, which took part in the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb known as AQIM, “to opportunistically exploit and complicate an already hard situation on the ground”.

Last month, nine al-Shabab members, including the allegedly pro-IS commander Sheikh Bashir Abu Numan, died in a factional clash near the town of Saakow.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the museum attacks on a museum and beach in Tunisia, killing dozens of tourists.

Boko Haram, the East Africa terror group, has also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, according to media reports.

“We know there have been some Boko Haram fighters that went north and joined [Islamic State]”. Western intelligence agencies say it is devoting more resources to them as well.

Franken added, however, that IS has likely shared tactics and techniques with the sub-Saharan group, leading to a spike in suicide bombings across Nigeria and surrounding nations, such as Chad and Cameroon, throughout the year. One example of this is the increased use of suicide bombers, which has raised Boko Haram’s lethality.

“Libya is probably right now the most significant threat to becoming a full-blown sanctuary” for the Islamic State, said Patrick Johnston, a counterterrorism analyst at RAND Corp.

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