UN Report: Islamic State, Al Qaeda Cement Hold on Libya

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Washington, DC

The United Nations Security Council released a report on Tuesday warning that the Islamic State (IS) terror group continues to make unimpeded gains in Libya, locking down territory in the nation plagued by civil war and sectarian strife.

Libya’s destabilization continues to present a unique “opportunity” for groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State “to opportunistically exploit and complicate an already difficult situation on the ground.”

The Islamic State controls the Libyan coastal city of Sirte and its surrounding area. Controlling Sirte gives the jihadis access to the Mediterranean Sea, which allows for them to be within a close proximity to southern European nations such as Greece and Italy.

Islamic State could continue to “seek local alliances to expand its territorial control,” the report warns. IS’s presence also entails “the risk of motivating additional foreign terrorist fighters to join the group in Libya.”

Al Qaeda is also thriving on the ground in Libya as the power vacuum there continues to expand.

“Groups associated with Al Qaeda procure arms and ammunitions from the thriving domestic illicit arms trade and are not yet strategically dependent on outside supplies,” the report states. “The increase in the use of improvised explosive devices and the increasing number of suicide attacks are areas of concern.”

Libya, which was once led by dictator Moammar Qaddafi, was destabilized following a NATO-led air assault that deposed his regime. Now, secular forces and Islamist entities battle throughout the country in hopes to control Tripoli, while Al Qaeda and Islamic State continue to grow relatively unchecked.

The UN report says IS has not been able to find a massive stream of revenue in Libya, but has so far succeeded in funding its jihad.

“[UN] Member states indicated that [Islamic State] was preparing to launch a more organized ‘taxation’ system in Sirte, and that it even envisaged establishing a state-like system in Libya, inspired by its quasi-bureaucratic organization in the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq,” the report stated.

Luckily, “[Islamic State] currently lacks the capacity to secure, hold and manage oil fields and related oil infrastructure in Libya. In addition, Libya has no established domestic black market for smuggled crude, and the location of ISIL in Libya would make it difficult to access potential markets in the region,” the UN inquiry reveals.

For now, Islamic State does not control any of the five refineries in Libya, hindering the group’s ability to find a steady income stream. IS has not yet “developed crude refining capability in Libya, including mobile refineries, as it managed to do in the Syrian Arab Republic,” the report concludes.