The Islamic State group has significantly expanded its control over Libya, fueling demand by the country’s warring parties for more arms to confront the threat, UN experts have told the Security Council.
IS has successfully recruited young men from local tribes, offering them protection and benefits but it has also enlisted military officers from the former regime of Muammar Gaddafi, said the report by the panel of experts who report to a UN sanctions committee.
IS terrorists have cemented their base on the coastal city of Sirte, wiping out opposition and the group is “currently the most significant political and military actor in the region,” said the report which was submitted to the council on Wednesday.
Three soldiers from the Central Shield Force were killed on Wednesday in an IS attack on Abu Grein checkpoint in east Misrata.
Guards at the checkpoint managed to repulse the surprise attack, which took place hours after the air force of the General Staff of GNC carried out airstrikes on some IS locations in Sirte.
It’s not the first attack on Abu Grein checkpoint. In June 2015, IS militants attacked the checkpoint killing three guards and wounding others.
The extremist group has also made inroads in Tripoli and in the western city of Sabrata, boosting its presence through local recruitment and foreign fighters who transit through Turkey and Tunisia.
Extremists from sub-Saharan Africa have traveled through Sudan to join IS ranks in Sirte and Benghazi, the report said, confirming fears that the Libyan IS branch is seeking to draw recruits from other parts of the continent.
“The political and security vacuum has been further exploited by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which has significantly expanded its control over territory,” the report said.
The report did not provide estimates of the number of IS fighters in Libya.
Libya was thrown into turmoil after a NATO-backed uprising that toppled longtime dictator Kadhafi in 2011.
The country has been under an arms embargo since then, but the report cited a recent transfer of MIG-21F jets to Tobruk, where the internationally recognized government is based.
The jets “appear to be consistent with those owned by Egypt,” the experts said. Cairo, however, told the panel its information on the transfer was “incorrect.”
The panel is continuing to investigate claims that Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan have also violated the embargo.
“The continuation of armed clashes and the expansion of ISIL have led to an increase in demand for military materiel,” said the report, which cited a “revival of external support” for the various factions.