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Are Top IS Commanders Taking Shelter in Libya?


Top Islamic State commanders have taken shelter in Libya, from Iraq and Syria in past months, according to the intelligence officials. The fighters have moved to the city of Sirte.

In a meeting in Rome on Tuesday, US and UK along with representatives of 23 countries, discussed about the possible threats and how to counter their presence.

“In Libya, we’re on the brink of getting a government of national unity,” said U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.

IS hoisted their flag in Sirte last year, which was the home-ground of Former Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi. It is believed that IS received political support from the loyalists of Gaddafi’s regime.

There have been lack of consensus between the rival administrations in the country, which has caused hinderance to fight against IS.

Head of intelligence in Misrata, Ismail Shukri said several fighters have arrived in the last few months. The nexus is growing every month, due to increasing international airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, according  to a report by BBC.

“The majority [of IS fighters in Sirte] are foreigners, around 70%. Most of them are Tunisians, followed by Egyptians, Sudanese and a few Algerians. Add to that the Iraqis and the Syrians. Most of the Iraqis come from Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army.” said Shukri.

“Some of their members, especially those with long-term importance to IS, are taking refuge here. They view Libya as a safe haven.”

Misrata authorities said that they are buckling their efforts to break the nexus of extremism.  The nearby town, Abugrein, represents the last line of defence against IS. Further on, the east road is under IS control.

In a reprot by BBC, Abugrien commanders said that their forces in Tripoli are around 1,400 which is less than half of IS.  A Battalion 166 Commander, Mohammed al-Bayoudi said that without international support, it is hard to take over IS.

“Certainly we would welcome Nato support. But air strikes alone cannot defeat IS. What the army really needs is logistical support.” Mohammed said.

Italy’s Defence Minister, Roberta Pinotti also drew concerns about the thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in boats, where Libya is the starting point. It has conveyed its actions towards the peace-making mission in Libya. It wants United Nation to authorise such missions, according to a report by USA Today.

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