Libya facing growing Islamist threat, warn diplomats

London, Apr. 29 (ANI): Diplomats have warned of growing Islamist violence against western targets in Libya as blowback from the war in Mali, following last week’s attack on the French embassy in Tripoli.

The bomb blast that wrecked much of the embassy is seen as a reprisal by Libyan militants for the decision by Paris the day before to extend its military mission against fellow jihadists in Mali, reports the Guardian.

Jihadist groups ejected from their Timbuktu stronghold have moved north, crossing the Sahara through Algeria and Niger to Libya, fuelling a growing Islamist insurgency.

According to a western diplomat in Tripoli, there are established links between groups in both Mali and Libya. He said there is an anxiety among the political class here that Mali is blowing back on them.

Diplomats say jihadists cross the Sahara to join cadres in Libya’s eastern coastal cities of Benghazi and Derna.

Eastern Libya has long been a base for Islamists, who launched an unsuccessful uprising against Gaddafi in the 1990s. Their units reappeared in the uprising two years ago, and while many have integrated with government forces, others are campaigning for a state ruled by clerics rather than secular politicians.

Benghazi has become a virtual no-go area for foreigners following attacks on the British, Italian and Tunisian consulates, the fire-bombing of an Egyptian Coptic church and the killing of US ambassador Chris Stevens in September when militants overran the American consulate. The bombing in Tripoli indicates that terrorism has now spread to the capital.

Libya has already piled resources into cutting the jihadist flow of men and weapons over its southern border, declaring its entire desert region a “free fire zone” for patrolling jets.

Libya’s prime minister, Ali Zaidan, has vowed to launch a clear-out of militias in Benghazi, but many wonder if he has enough reliable units for the job. (ANI)

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