ISIS wants to use Libya as gateway for attacks on Europe, report reveals


Islamic State terrorists plan to use Libya as a strategic gateway for attacks on Europe, according to a report today.

It shows for the first time the extend to which Libya is seen as critical to countering the "crusader coalition".

One aim is to create "pandemonium" in Europe through hijacking migrant boats that are crossing the Mediterranean sea.

Given the latest mass beheading video, it is not too difficult to imagine the fate of any migrants captured in this way.

The revelations are made in essay by an IS supporter, translated and analysed by Charlie Winter of the Quilliam Foundation.

It details the "opportunities" that lie in the exploitation of human trafficking rings that make Libya "unparalleled as a launching platform for attacking European states and shipping lines."

The short essay in Arabic, "Libya: The Strategic Gateway for the Islamic State", explains why IS's "jihad" must expand to Libya.

Not intended for a Western audience and therefore not intended to intimidate, it is instead aimed at other jihadists in an attempt to persuade them of the importance of Libya to IS.

"It does present a window onto the mind-set of the IS jihadist in Libya," writes Winter. "Hence, it sheds light on some of the primary considerations, motivations and intentions of IS's Libyan franchise."

The author says Libya is of critical significance as a new "province" of the caliphate and regrets that this is not better understood in IS.

If Libya was properly exploited, "pressure on the land of the Caliphate in ash-Sham and Iraq" could be significantly relieved, he writes. Libya could then become the key to IS's defence against the "Crusader coalition".

The author notes that Libya "has a long coast and looks upon the southern crusader states, which can be reached with ease by even a rudimentary boat".

It gives insight into the motives behind the recent execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya.

Winter writes: "This was IS announcing, unambiguously and internationally, its existence in Libya. As such, the time when its presence could be swept under the political carpet has passed."

Jihadists operating under the IS banner now control a sizeable amount of support in Derna, the base of operations, along with Sirte and an-Nawfaliyah, the first of which is its current base of operations..

Winter says that the recent release of the mass execution video is the strongest proof yet that IS in Libya is more closely aligned with the group's central command than was thought.

"In light of the above, it is imperative that we seek to understand the motivations of IS in Libya," he says. 

"Why expend so much time and effort establishing a presence there? Why not focus all resources – financial, military and logistical – in the environs of the seat of the caliphate, Syria and Iraq?

"It has been long suspected that the IS bureaucracy has looked upon Libya as a source of great potential due to its asset wealth, strategic location and the immense amount of weaponry still present there following the overthrow of al-Qadhafi. Now, thanks to a document circulated among IS supporters last month, it appears that those suspicions are well-founded."

Quilliam recommends increased international cooperation to improve border security, crack down on arms smuggling and coordinate military responses to jihadist organisations, and that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office takes a long-term view to the causes of violent extremism in the Middle East and North Africa region and invest in new counter-extremism measures.