Tripoli: Top commanders of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group are increasingly moving from Syria and Iraq to Libya, making the crisis-stricken country their safe haven, says a Libyan intelligence official.
“Some of their members, especially those with long-term importance to ISIS, are taking refuge here. They view Libya as a safe haven,” said Ismail Shukri, the head of the rival government intelligence in the northwestern city of Misrata, on Wednesday.
He added that the ISIS-held city of Sirte has witnessed an influx of foreign militants of the terror group in recent months.
Libya has two rival governments vying for control of the country, with one faction controlling Tripoli, and the other, Libya’s internationally recognized government, governing the cities of Bayda and Tobruk. The government and elected parliament moved to the eastern city of Tobruk after Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) militia and some armed groups based in Misrata seized Tripoli and most government institutions in August 2014 and set up their own self-declared government and parliament.
The ISI Takfiri group took control of the northern port city of Sirte in June 2015, almost four months after it announced its presence in the city, and made it the first city to be ruled by the militant group outside of Iraq and Syria.
Since then, the group has been boosting its presence in the violence-wracked North African country, particularly after Iraqi and Syrian governments placed the militants under pressure by unabated airstrikes and ground attacks.