United Nations experts say the Daesh (Islamic State) group has “significantly” strengthened its foothold in Libya, which is still grappling with the consequences of a NATO military intervention in 2011.
In a report to the Security Council, a panel of six UN experts said Daesh is taking advantage of the “political and security vacuum,” which was created in Libya after the NATO-backed ouster of former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011.
The report notes that Daesh has successfully recruited young men from local tribes and also enlisted military officers from the former regime of Gaddafi in recent years.
The experts further said Libya has become an attractive destination for foreign militants who mainly transit through Sudan, Tunisia and Turkey, adding that significant numbers of foreign terrorists have arrived in the Daesh-held coastal city of Sirte.
The panel also voiced alarm over Daesh attacks against Libyan oil installations as well as massacre of people.
While Daesh “does not currently generate direct revenue from the exploitation of oil in Libya, its attacks against oil installations seriously compromise the country’s economic stability,” the report said, adding, “Libyans have increasingly fallen victim to the group’s brutalities, culminating in several mass killings.”
The group has also made inroads in the capital Tripoli, the western city of Sabrata and eastern city of Benghazi over the past months.
The rise of Daesh in Libya “is likely to increase the level of international and regional interference, which could provoke further polarization if not coordinated,” said the report.
This comes as the US is currently weighing military options, including air raids, in Libya.
The New York Times has said in a recent report that Pentagon and the highly secretive Joint Special Operations Command have provided the White House with “the most detailed set of military options yet” in Libya.
France’s Le Monde newspaper also reported last month that the country’s special forces and members of the DGSE external security service were in Libya for “clandestine operations” in cooperation with the US and Britain.
The UN panel is investigating claims that Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Sudan have violated an existing arms embargo by providing weapons to warring groups operating in Libya.
In mid-February, Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni accused Ankara of interference in his country’s internal affairs.
Libya has been grappling with violence and political uncertainty since Gaddafi was deposed and later killed in 2011 amid NATO airstrikes.
Daesh took advantage of the chaos and captured Libya’s northern port city of Sirte in June 2015, almost four months after it announced its presence in the city, and made it the first city to be ruled by the militant group outside of Iraq and Syria.