On 23 January 2015, a prominent supporter of Islamic State (IS) – the group that now controls much of Iraq and Syria – uploaded an essay, written in Arabic, entitled “Libya: The Strategic Gateway for the Islamic State”, on why jihadists needed to urgently flock to Libya to assist supporters of the so-called caliphate in their jihad.
In the document, the author outlines the immense “potential” Libya has, identifying four areas that render it indispensable to the IS political programme.
In light of the emergence of footage depicting IS militants committing a mass simultaneous beheading of Egyptian Coptic Christians on the shores of the Mediterranean, international media and political scrutiny upon Libya has redoubled. With this being the case, it is more important than ever that we understand what motivates jihadists to pursue their interests there.
Quilliam researcher Charlie Winter translated the document in full, providing with it an accompanying analysis. The document includes a number of maps and covers a number of issues. The most important aspects include:
• A window into the mind-set of a jihadist propagandist and recruiter in Libya, allowing us to better discern the aspects of Libyan geopolitics that are perceived as being of strategic value for IS.
• The author’s argument that Libya has the strategic potential to alleviate – militarily, economically and logistically – the pressure being felt by IS in Syria and Iraq in the face of coalition airstrikes and regional efforts to roll it back.
• Its drawing of attention to Libya’s proximity to southern Europe, and hints that exploitation of illegal immigration circuits from North Africa are of immense tactical value to IS that would allow it to a) infiltrate European cities and b) disrupt shipping lines.
• The author’s preoccupation with the proliferation of weaponry in Libya. Such is the scale of this abundance that the author claims it could allow IS to expand across the Maghreb and into West Africa with ease.
Haras Rafiq, Managing Director of Quilliam, says:
“We have been monitoring the situation in Libya for some time now. The video that emerged at the weekend, coupled with this essay, have highlighted the critical state at which Libya finds itself. The international community must act to help bring stability to the country before it becomes a new Syria, whether it is for al-Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate or any other jihadist organisation.”
Click here to read the full translation and accompanying analysis.