Report: ISIS in Libya training to fly planes

The terrorist group is using at least one flight simulator which may have been seized from the country’s airports.

December 3, 2015 11:00
2 minute read.
Flight simulator

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner Engineering flight deck simulator is shown during a media tour of Boeing Co. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Islamic State is training to fly planes in its stronghold in the northern coastal city of Sirte, an Arab newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The terrorist group is using at least one flight simulator, which may have been seized from the country’s airports, according to Libyan military sources quoted in the Asharq al-Awsat report.

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“It’s a modern simulator, which may have arrived from abroad,” other sources stated.

A senior unnamed official, whose job is to track Islamic State activity in the country, told the newspaper that there is intelligence about their fighters training to fly civilian planes. The source added that the Libyan air force unsuccessfully attempted to take out at least one base where this training is occurring.

The Islamic State in Libya has between 2,000 and 3,000 fighters and is the only affiliate known to have received support and guidance from the extremist group's stronghold in Syria and Iraq, said UN experts who monitor Islamic State and al Qaida-linked groups for the UN Security Council.

In a 24-page report circulated to reporters on Tuesday, they said most Islamic State fighters are in the city of Sirte and while the group has "clearly demonstrated" its intention to control more territory in Libya, it seems "limited in its ability" to expand quickly.

"According to several (UN) member states, while ISIL is able to perpetrate terror attacks in any part of Libya, its limited number of fighters does not allow for rapid territorial expansion," the report said.

"In contrast to Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, the relative sectarian homogeneity in Libya prevents ISIL from taking advantage of sectarian rifts and societal discord to quickly increase its domestic recruitment base," it said.

Libya is caught up in a conflict between rival governments and their armed factions, leaving a security vacuum that has allowed Islamic State to gain a foothold. The group controls swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq and sees Libya as its "best opportunity" to expands its caliphate, the UN experts said.

They said around 800 Libyans fighting with Islamic State in Libya had previously fought with the group in Syria and Iraq.

"ISIL in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic continues to send emissaries with instructions, albeit infrequently, to ISIL in Libya," the report said. "The travel of these emissaries distinguishes the ISIL affiliate in Libya from other ISIL affiliates where travel of emissaries has not been reported."

The group is viewed as an outsider in Libya and "is not embedded in local communities and has not succeeded in gaining the population's support," but it has attracted foreign fighters, mainly from elsewhere in North Africa.

"ISIL is only one player among multiple warring factions in Libya and faces strong resistance from the population, as well as difficulties in building and maintaining local alliances," the UN experts said.

Islamic State in Libya has massacred Christian Egyptians on a local beach, publicly flogged criminals in Sirte, stormed oilfields, and attacked a five-star hotel in Tripoli.

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