Major risk of ISIS crossing Mediterranean with refugees

ADRIFT. The handout picture made available by the Italian Navy Press Office shows a boat carrying some of the 290 migrants rescued by the crew of an Italian Navy ship in the Strait of Sicily, Italy, January 28, 2016. Italian Navy Press Office / Handout / EPA
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says there is an ‘urgent’ need for a political solution to the crisis in Libya to help combat the spread of ISIS

PARIS, France (Feb. 1, 2016) — Islamic State (ISIS) fighters hiding among refugees travelling from Libya to Italy pose a “major risk” to Europe, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Sunday, January 31.

Le Drian said there was an “urgent” need for a political solution to the crisis in Libya to help combat the spread of ISIS, which now has several thousand fighters in the North African country.

“Daesh is installing itself,” Le Drian told French TV, using the Arabic acronym for the group.

“I have been very worried about Libya since September 2014. They are there, nearly 300 kilometers from the coast, and they are spreading.”

He said that put ISIS only 350 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa, the arrival point for thousands of migrants and refugees leaving Libya for the European Union.

“When good weather comes to the Mediterranean, there is the risk that (ISIS fighters) could make the crossing, mixing in with refugees. It’s a major risk,” said Le Drian.

“Everyone is aware of the danger of transferring the conflict in the Levant (Syria and Iraq) where we are starting to see some positive elements, to a new conflict in Libya,” he said, adding that a political solution was the “only way to eradicate” the problem.

“There must be a government of national unity. There’s a serious political process under way, supported by the UN Security Council. I think it’s urgent.”

Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi. It now has two governments and parliaments, with the recognised authorities based in the eastern city of Tobruk and a militia-backed authority in Tripoli.

UN envoy Martin Kobler expressed concerns Wednesday that Libya’s political process is slower than ISIS’s expansion, after the Tobruk government rejected a proposed unity government.

rappler_64  by Agence France-Presse |