[The Islamic State’s momentum is waning. ISIS is a movement that was, in part, created by Empire. If IS is defeated in Syria and Iraq, IS will retreat mostly to Libya, where the West helped create a safe haven for Frakenstein extremism by toppling Gaddafi. By removing Gaddafi, the West laid the basis for the rise of ISIS and also laid the basis for ISIS’ ultimate escape and return. — NP]
Islamic State is building a ‘retreat zone’ in Libya with 3000 fighters, say UN experts
by Rob Crilly
As British MPs prepare to vote on bombing Syria, fresh evidence is emerging of chaos in Libya where Isil is establishing a new stronghold for recruits unable to reach the Middle East
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.
It said the group’s rapid growth was fuelled by its notoriety in Iraq and Syria, as well as weak security structures in Libya, and risked bringing more sophisticated bombmaking techniques to Africa.
The findings are a reminder of the turmoil that followed the death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 under a Western-lead bombing campaign, at a time when British MPs are debating whether to send the RAF on bombing raids over Syria.
At the same time, a number of senior Isil leaders are believed to have arrived in the country during the past year.
The dangers are already apparent. The gunman who shot dead 30 British tourists in Tunisia in June is known to have received training in Libya.
The 24-page report, presented to the UN Security council by a committee charged with monitoring sanctions against al-Qaeda and other groups, concluded: “The Isil central command in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic views Libya as the ‘best’ opportunity to expand its so-called caliphate.”
At present it numbers some 2000-3000 fighters, said the report, with about 1500 now based in Sirte, Gadaffi’s birthplace and the last major city to fall to rebels in 2011.
“Isil is an evident short and long-term threat in Libya,” said the report. “The group is benefiting from the ‘appeal’ and notoriety of Isil in Iraq and in the Syrian Arab Republic. However, the group’s threat should be realistically assessed.”
Its numbers grew rapidly with fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, it continued, although it is viewed by many Libyans as a foreign force hindering its recruitment of locals.
“Nevertheless, Isil has clearly demonstrated its intention to control additional territory in Libya. “This is a concern, given the country’s strategic location as a transit point within the region, control of which would enable groups associated with al-Qaeda, including Isil, to further influence various ongoing conflicts in North Africa and the Sahel, in addition to offering a new hub outside Isil-controlled territories in the Middle East.”
Libya has lurched from crisis to crisis for the past four years. It is currently divided between rival governments. One in the eastern city of Tobruk has international backing while a second, in the capital Tripoli to the west, is backed by Islamist militias.