Britain is to provide military training to “Syrian moderate opposition forces”, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.
The Islamic State terrorist group likely will launch an attack on Italy within weeks, not months, according to a senior Libyan government official.
Aref Ali Nayed, Libya’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, said in an interview that one likely method of attack would be to use stolen Libyan airliners now believed to be in the hands of Islamists in Libya.
“The horrific video showing 21 Coptic Christians beheaded in Libya contained a direct threat from ISIS to Rome,” said Mr. Nayed, using an acronym for the terrorist group. “The threat of ISIS to Italy could become a reality in a matter of weeks rather than months.”
The Islamic State could use two attack methods, the ambassador said. The first would be for Libya-based terrorists to infiltrate Italy by using one of the many boats carrying undocumented Libyans to Italy. Once in Italy, the terrorists could regroup and carry out an attack.
“Second, ISIS could weaponize a civilian airliner or small military aircraft in Libya, loading it with explosives and/or chemical weapons.” Mr. Nayed said. “Rome is one hour from the ISIS-controlled airport in Sirte.”
U.S. intelligence agencies warned in September that Islamist militias in Libya have taken control of nearly a dozen commercial jetliners that remain unaccounted for.
“Their attacks are increasing in both frequency and scope, and we must take their threat against Italy and Southern Europe very seriously,” the ambassador said.
Mr. Nayed, a senior adviser to Libya’s prime minister for national security, also said the terrorist group appears to be part of a continuum of ever-more radical Islamists ravaging the oil-rich North African country since the ouster of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
“Libya is in very real danger of becoming an ISIS garrison and an ATM for ISIS operations in Syria and Iraq,” he said in a December speech. “There is a good chance that Libya’s oil wealth was siphoned off by Islamists and provided oxygen for the growth of ISIS during the recent Islamist regime. It certainly has not been used to make our country a better place for Libyans.”
Two key Libyan cities appear to be in the Islamic State’s hands, including the coastal cities of Derna, long an outpost of Islamist terrorists, and Sirte.
Algeria and Italy share the same positions on the need to find a political solution to the crisis in Libya and to strengthen the fight against terrorism, said Wednesday in Rome Minister for Maghreb and African Affairs Abdelkader Messahel.
“Algeria and Italy share the same positions (as regards the crisis in Libya). They are both for the preservation of the territorial unity and sovereignty of Libya and cohesion of its people, as well as for the promotion of a political solution to the crisis,” Messahel explained to APS at the end of long discussions with the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Paolo Gentiloni.
Messahel said that his discussions with the Italian ministers were an opportunity for the two countries to reiterate their full support to the efforts of the United Nations and the UN special envoy Bernardino Leon for a political solution to the crisis shaking this neighbouring country.
The two sides also reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the fight against terrorism, this transnational scourge that is threatening the security of all countries, he added.
“I am satisfied with this visit, which shows the great importance attached by Algeria and Italy to the resolution, the soonest possible, of the crisis in Libya and for the restoration of peace and security in the neighbouring country,” said Messahel.
He also underlined the importance of coordination between the neighbouring countries of Libya to “help this brotherly country to overcome the challenges it is facing,” he said, adding that these challenges are also threatening the security and stability of the whole region.
In this regard, Messahel announced the holding of the 6th session of Libya’s neighbouring countries in Ndjamena in the next few days.
Messahel arrived in Rome on Wednesday morning to meet with the Italian Foreign minister as part of the constant consultations between the two countries on issues of high interest.
A trilateral meeting over developments in Libya, which was due on Wednesday between the foreign ministers of Italy, Algeria and Egypt was rescheduled at “the nearest possible convenience,” the Italian foreign ministry announced.
The Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the meeting was postponed as “result of a pressing engagement that has detained” Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri.
Egypt’s state-run television cited Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman as saying that Shukri “apologised for his inability to travel to Rome due to urgent commitments that emerged in his schedule in the last minute, requiring him to stay in Cairo.”
Shukri said in remarks to journalists yesterday that talks will address efforts of the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya Bernardino León, who is pushing for a political solution and sponsoring dialogue among different Libyan parties.
Egypt supports the UN political solution in Libya and has been rallying the international community behind lifting an arms embargo, enforced on the Libyan government since 2011.
The Libya crisis has affected several Egyptians, who have been caught up in violence in Egypt’s restive neighbour.
On February 16, Egypt struck militant targets in Libya after the beheading of 21 men, 20 of whom were Egyptians at the hands of men believed to belong to a Libyan division of the Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.
Around 40,000 Egyptians have since fled Libya by crossing back into Egypt by land and by air flights carrying evacuees to Egypt from Tunisia and sometimes, Algeria.