Islamic State ‘planning to use Libya as gateway to Europe’

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From the Telegraph. Exclusive: Jihadists hoping to use Libya as a “gateway” to wage war across the whole of southern Europe, plans by Isil supporters reveal. The jihadists hope to flood the north African state with militiamen from Syria and Iraq, who will then sail across the Mediterranean posing as migrants on people trafficking vessels, according to plans seen by Quilliam, the British anti-extremist group.

The fighters would then run amok in southern European cities and also try to attack maritime shipping.

The document is written by an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) propagandist who is believed to be an important online recruiter for the terror in Libya, where security has collapsed in the wake of the revolution that unseated Colonel Gaddafi in 2011. 

The group has already established Libyan-based cells, who on Sunday released a video showing a mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Christian guest workers. The video, which prompted Egypt to launch retaliatory bombing raids on Isil positions in Libya, included footage of a khaki-clad militant pointing a bloodstained finger northwards, declaring: “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” 

The Isil propagandist, who uses the alias Abu Arhim al-Libim, describes Libya as having “immense potential” for Isil. He points out with relish that it is awash with weapons from the Libyan civil war …

Mr Libim also points out that Libya is less than around 300 miles from parts of the nearest European mainland. He writes: “It has a long coast and looks upon the southern Crusader states, which can be reached with ease by even a rudimentary boat.”

He also cites “the number of trips known as ‘illegal immigration’ from this coast, which are huge in number … if this was even partially exploited and developed strategically, pandemonium could be wrought in the southern European states and it is even possible that there could be a closure of shipping lines and targeting of Crusader ships and tankers.”

The propagandist’s comments come amid growing concerns in the West about the collapse of security in Libya, which has a large diaspora population in the UK. 

Thanks to its vast, porous desert borders with Sub-Saharan Africa, Libya has long been a key operating hub for trafficking boats heading into Europe, but numbers have escalated dramatically since the collapse of the Gaddafi regime. Italy’s interior ministry estimates that at least 200,000 refugees and immigrants are poised to make the crossing from Libya to Sicily or the tiny island of Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost territory. 

Search and rescue efforts entered a dangerous new phase this week when an Italian coast guard vessel rescuing migrants 50 miles off the Libyan coast was threatened by smugglers armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles. While the gang were concerned only with retrieving their boat for another smuggling trip, the incident demonstrated the potential threat were Isil to adopt similar smuggling tactics. 

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