Italy may be preparing for military action in Libya following reports that the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) may use the coastal North African country to stage attacks.
“The Italian Navy is resuming exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, including near the coast of Libya, amid concerns about rapidly deteriorating security in the North African nation,” reports The Associated Press (AP).
“Italy will begin annual naval exercises this week near the coast of Libya, where a breakdown in order has allowed tens of thousands of migrants to try to reach Europe by boat and increased fears of attacks by Islamist militants,” adds Reuters.
In a statement, the Italian Navy said it would begin its exercises, dubbed Mare Aperto (Open Sea), on Monday.
“At this point it is not yet clear whether this is just a training expedition but it would seem Italy may be preparing for a direct action in Libya,” notes The Malta Independent, citing the Italian media.
Libyan Diplomat Dr. Aref Nayed, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News Contributor David Webb last week, warned that ISIS could use territory it controls in northern Libya as a platform for attacks against Europe.
Italian Adm. Pierpaolo Ribuffo, the officer in command of naval exercises, said the operation is not directly linked with the crisis in Libya, but added that the presence of the Italian Navy in the area could potentially improve security.
“We’re training our ships and our men, that’s all. Our activity has nothing to do with other scenarios,” said Adm. Ribuffo, according to Reuters.
“Obviously the presence of ships at sea also means security, deterrence and dissuasion,” he added. “But that’s normal; it’s like police patrolling the streets.”
Breitbart News’ John Xenakis explains that “although Italy claims that it will be a regular [naval] exercise, there are many more vessels taking part in this year’s exercise than have in the past, which Italy explains by saying that they are testing out sophisticated new technologies.”
The Italian energy group ENI owns significant offshore oil platforms and other valuable assets in Libya.
“It would seem, from speculation in the Italian media, that the intended action will take place near Misurata where there is the Libyan end of the ENI oil pipeline which till today has been defended by an Islamic militia which it seems can no longer do so,” reports The Malta Independent. “Some Italian media are saying the Italian troopers will land near Misurata to defend the oil pipeline instead of the Libyan Islamic militia.”
Italy’s southern islands are an estimated 186 miles away from the Libyan coast.
“Italy is ready to do its part in Libya,” but only after the United Nations (UN) takes the initiative, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, said on Friday.
In briefing the lower house of the Italian parliament about Middle East and global issues, he added, “Right now, the game is international.”
“Italy will do everything to defend its security, counteracting this barbarism,” he also said in comments about fighting terrorism in Libya.
Two rival governments are competing for control in Libya, where Muslim terrorists such as ISIS have established a growing presence.
Security conditions in Libya have been deteriorating since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011 with the support of the Obama administration.
Various tribes, militias, and political factions are fighting for power. Italy has offered to train a regular Libyan force, but has dismissed any peacekeeping mission for now.
“Concern over attacks on targets in Italy has been heightened by video messages from groups associating themselves with the Islamic State movement, stating that Rome was a target and by press reports that militants could reach Italy on migrant boats,” notes Reuters.
“Officials have said that Italy, like other Western countries, faces a general risk but there has been no indication of any concrete threat and no evidence of violent militants among migrants, most of whom are from Africa or Syria,” it adds.
In a recently released video, ISIS beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians.
“Today, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya… We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet, peace be upon him,” ISIS vowed in the video.
Egypt launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya following the release of the video.
According to Breitbart News, various unconfirmed reports indicate that Egypt, Italy, and Russia are planning military action in Libya.
Italy had suspended its naval exercises near the coat of Libya “for a year because of the heavy deployment of Italian Coast Guard, Navy and other Italian vessels during intensive rescue and surveillance operations to combat migrant smuggling from Libyan shores,” explains AP. “That mission was stopped when a European Union maritime operation recently started anti-smuggling patrols.”