Plans detailed in a letter written by an ISIS supporter and propagandist reveals that the jihadists are considering launching an invasion of southern Europe through Libya. The letter reveals a plan by ISIS to ferry militants disguised as illegal immigrants from the North African country across the Mediterranean.
The jihadist propagandist who wrote the letter uses the alias, Abu Arhim al-Libim. He is believed to be an influential propagandist and online recruiter for ISIS in Libya.
The jihadists hope to take advantage of the state of collapse of security in Libya in the wake of the insurgency that led to the ouster of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, to flood the country with fighters from Syria and Iraq. The fighters, disguised as illegal immigrants, would then be ferried across the Mediterranean to southern Europe on vessels trafficking immigrants into Europe.
Once the fighters land in southern Europe, they would carry out mass attacks in cities and also attack shipping.
Already, ISIS has established a cell in Libya which released a video Sunday, showing the beheading of more than 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. The video included a footage showing a militant raising a bloodstained finger in the direction of Europe, and saying, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.”
Egypt avenged the murder of its citizens with a series of airstrikes against ISIS positions in Libya.
According to Quilliam, the ISIS propagandist wrote in the letter that Libya has “immense potential” for ISIS agenda. He wrote that apart from the fact that the country is awash with weapons that rebels obtained from Col. Gadaffi’s arsenals, it has the advantage of being close to the European mainland.
“It has a long coast and looks upon the southern Crusader states, which can be reached with ease by even a rudimentary boat.”
He wrote that ISIS could take advantage of the ongoing massive influx of “illegal immigrants” into Europe from across the Mediterranean by smuggling its militants, disguised as immigrants, into southern Europe.
“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.”
Although, the Telegraph said it could not confirm his identity independently, al-Libim is believed to be an influential online propagandist and recruiter for ISIS whose writing is widely read. A researcher with Quilliam Foundation told the Telegraph that Twitter had on several occasions in the past shut down al-Libim’s accounts, but he starts a new one which quickly gains hundreds of followers.
“Twitter has shut down Libim’s accounts several times and each time he starts a new one he gets thousands of followers very quickly, which is typical of an influential Isil affiliate. In terms of the demographics of Isil support in Libya, we see a lot in common with its base of support in Iraq and Syria – many of its fighters are young, disfranchised men who have only bought into Isil’s brand of Islamist zealotry because they are looking to forcibly empower themselves in the penetrating absence of the state.The risks Europe faces from Isil pre-eminence in Libya are substantial.”
Release of the video showing the beheading and the message that ISIS was poised to “conquer Rome” caused disquiet in Italy. Even before the video was released, there had been growing concern about the security situation in Libya and nervousness that the tumult in the country could spill over to Europe. Fears had been expressed that ISIS could take advantage of the confusion in the country to establish a threatening presence. The instability in Libya is being fueled by ongoing struggle between militant factions for control of the oil-rich country after the ouster of Col. Gaddafi.
Recently, the Egypt’s ambassador in London raised alarm that ISIS could smuggle militants disguised as immigrants into the Europe. The ongoing influx of immigrants from North Africa to Europe is massive. The Italian interior ministry said that last year more than 170,000 immigrants arrived in Italy on boats. Among them were thousands fleeing the war in Syria.
According to the Daily Beast, Italy, the country closest to the source of the threats is unprepared to deploy its military to Libya to contain the threat. But the country has deployed about 4,800 troops across the country as part of security measures to forestall attacks. About 500 soldiers were deployed in Rome alone.
Libya is barely 300 miles from the southernmost part of Italy.
Reports say that parts of Libya are now under the control of ISIS and ISIS-affiliated militants. The ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, recently announced that Libya was part of his “caliphate.”
Libya has been the source of hundreds of militants recruited to fight in Syria.