Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Islamic State militants ‘smuggled to Europe’

IS militants
Smugglers hide IS militants on boats filled with migrants

Fighters from the Islamic State are being smuggled into Europe by gangs in the Mediterranean who hide them on boats filled with migrants, a Libyan official has revealed.

Government adviser Abdul Basit Haroun told the BBC that IS militants were controlling boat owners and permitting them to continue their operations in exchange for 50 percent of their income.

Haroun said IS used “the boats for their people who they want to send to Europe as the European police don’t know who is from IS and who is a normal refugee or not.”

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The Libyan official suggested that the IS fighters were planning ahead for future attacks in Europe and that they were “for IS – 100%.”

With more than 1,800 dead this year alone, 2015 is shaping up as the deadliest ever for refugees seeking to reach Europe via the Mediterranean.

Backing up the claims made by Haroun, The Global Initiative released a report last week showing that terrorist groups including IS are benefiting from the human trafficking trade that illegally smuggles boatloads of people from the Libyan coast across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.

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According to the report, human trafficking trade generates between $255 million and $323 million each year.

“The value of this trade dwarfs any existing trafficking and smuggling businesses in the region, and has particularly strengthened groups with a terrorist agenda, including the Islamic State,” the report states.

“The brief concludes that given the level of illicit revenue it is currently possible to generate from the migrant flow, preventing Islamic State and coastal Libyan armed groups from becoming involved in or profiting from migrant smuggling should be of greater priority than attempting to cut off the long-established trans-Saharan trade routes passing through the Sahel toward Libya.”

Concerned over the issue. the EU is considering sending warships to the Libyan coast to combat oil and arms smugglers, but fears that could encourage more migrants to take to sea in the hope of being rescued and taken to Europe, according to an EU document seen by Reuters.

In a frank reference to EU concerns that saving more lives could mean trafficking gangs dispatch more people in unsafe craft, the paper warned of a “pull-factor risk” from a naval mission — the risk more migrants would head for Europe.

The naval mission is one of several options suggested by EU officials working for foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in the confidential paper on ways the 28-nation bloc could support a proposed national unity government if UN-brokered talks between Libya’s warring groups succeed.

One option suggested in the paper is that EU soldiers could secure oil installations in Libya to let international oil firms resume operations. Preventing Libyan factions obtaining arms funded by oil shipments from installations under the control of militias is a priority for international powers.

The EU, accused by rights groups of inaction over the migration crisis, is pinning its hopes on UN attempts to broker a political agreement between Libya’s two rival governments, trusting this will ease pressure behind migration.

Mogherini has suggested that the EU could send soldiers or civilian experts to monitor a ceasefire or to provide security if an agreement can be reached on a unity government.

Many EU governments have deep reservations however about sending European soldiers into an unstable and risky situation.

One option proposed in the EU document seen by Reuters is for a naval operation to prevent arms- smuggling and to monitor Islamic State activity in Libya. Such a mission could also check oil tankers going to and from Libyan refineries, it said.

The paper said however that careful consideration would have to be given to “the operation’s response to the inevitable presence of migration at sea and the ‘pull-factor’ risk.”

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