Islamic State (ISIS) forces raided the civilian airbase Al-Qardabiya, near the northern city of Sirte Libya, Thursday, May 28, 2015. The 166 Battalion militia was forced to withdraw after a request to Tripoli for backup was not answered. Fajr Libya or “Libyan Dawn”, an alliance of Muslim Brotherhood-linked militias and other jihadist groups (including Al Qaeda-linked Ansar Al-Sharia), had originally seized control of the air base in August of 2014, and had maintained control until recently ousted.
Al-Qardabiya was not the only source of aviation that Libyan Dawn controlled. In August of 2014, Libyan Dawn seized Tripoli International Airport. The airport, previously controlled by two anti-Islamist militias, had actually been closed up until Libyan Dawn took over. One of the primary concerns of the Tripoli airport incident revolved around 11 commercial airplanes that were reported missing after the group took over. Considering Libyan Dawn took over the airport in August, many became worried that these missing aircraft could be used in some sort of plan or attack on September 11th. Back in March 2015, Libyan Ambassador to the UAE Aref Ali Nayed warned of just such an attack scenario.
The Islamic State’s seizure of the Al-Qardabiya airbase will further raise concern among many regarding ISIS’s increasing presence in Libya and especially about what that presence means for neighboring countries. Italy, a country approximately 1100 miles from Libya, is particularly concerned. Islamic State’s rhetoric targeting Italy has only increased with its increasing strength in Libya. As previously discussed here on the Free Fire Blog, Italy’s proximity to Libya poses a number of issues as the North Africa state has descended into chaos.
Any refugee that reaches Europe is almost automatically granted asylum based on the European Commission’s refugee system. This means that undetected IS terrorists that find the means to reach Italy’s borders will be allowed into the country, and are able to freely travel throughout Europe.
The time for serious and revolutionary reform of this system was yesterday. Islamic State sympathizers threatened to target Italian tourist sites and monuments in April of this year; this threat has become more concerning considering that two airbases are in the control of jihadists.
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