Libyan authorities have reportedly detained a Tunisian man identified as a senior Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) recruiter linked to a terror cell in Italy.
Prior to joining ISIS, the man was held in U.S. military custody in the infamous Bagram prison in Afghanistan, from 2001 until the Obama administration approved his transfer in 2009 to Italy, from where he eventually fled to reengage in terrorist activities.
Last week, the Tunisian man was arrested by armed groups loyal to the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) as he was trying to flee the coastal Libyan city of Sirte for neighboring Tunisia along with 20 other ISIS jihadists.
His apprehension comes as ISIS struggles to maintain control over Sirte, which was once considered the terrorist group’s largest stronghold outside Iraq and Libya. The city is just across the Mediterranean Sea from southern Italy.
“News of his purported arrest comes just days after Libyan authorities warned their Italian counterparts about the possibility of an Islamic State cell in Milan with connections to the wanted [Tunisian] militant,” reports The Foreign Desk.
Libyan officials reportedly discovered a cache of documents showing a link between the Italian cell and the Tunisian jihadist who has been identified as 47-year-old Moez Ben Abdulgader Ben Ahmed Fezzani. He is known by his nom de guerre as Abu Nassim.
The Foreign Desk reports:
A commander of ISIS militants in Libya since 2014, Fezzani had been sought by Tunisian authorities in connection with the March 2015 Bardo Museum attack in Tunis [claimed by ISIS]…
The Libyan National Army is linked to a government based in eastern Libya that is competing for legitimacy against the United Nations-backed Government of National Unity (GNA) in Tripoli. Both rival governments have been described as internationally recognized.
The Foreign Desk points out:
Fezzani, who arrived in Italy in the late 80’s, disappeared in 1997 after authorities suspected him of involvement in jihadi activities, later resurfacing in Pakistan before joining Osama Bin Laden’s war in Afghanistan.
Arrested by the U.S. in 2001, Fezzani was held at Bagram’s detention facility [in Afghanistan] before the Obama administration approved his transfer to Italy in 2009.
Fezzani stood trial in Italy for his earlier terror offenses, cooperating in terror activities in Bosnia in 1995, but was acquitted.
Although he was sentenced to six years in prison on appeal, he had already fled Italy when his sentencing came up, first to Tunisia where he joined the al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al Sharia and then to Syria where he linked up with the terror group’s former offshoot, al Nusra Front.
The Foreign Desk reports:
In 2014, he transferred allegiances to ISIS’ Caliph Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, before moving to Libya where he was reportedly appointed a leader of Katibat al-Battar, described as ISIS’ special operations unit in the volatile country… There has been no confirmation of his arrest from Tunisian authorities…
Backed by the United States and other Western forces, troops loyal to the GNA have been fighting to push ISIS out of Sirte.