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Middle East Amp North Africa
US confirms Isis fighter camps in Libya
From the Financial Times of Thu, 04 Dec 2014 14:47:34 GMT
epaselect epa04364577 Smoke fills the sky over Tripoli after fighting between militias of 'Libya Fajr' (Dawn of Libya) and 'Karama' (Dignity) in Tripoli, Libya, 23 August 2014. Rrival militias have been fighting since mid-July in the capital, Tripoli, for control of the city's main airport. The violence in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi has prompted several countries to evacuate their citizens, including diplomats, from Libya. EPA/STR©EPA

Insurgent groups have exploited the chaos caused by fighting in Tripoli, the capital

The commander of US armed forces in Africa has confirmed the presence of small groups of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters at what he described as training camps in eastern Libya.

In a rare briefing to reporters in Washington, Gen David Gonzalez said there were “a couple hundred” militants connected to the al-Qaeda offshoot group, known as Isis and Isil, in an unspecified number of camps. He added that the US had no immediate plans to attack the militants.

“Isil has begun its efforts over in the east out there to introduce some people over there,” he said on Wednesday, in some of the most extensive remarks so far by a western official about Isis’s presence in the lawless, fragmenting and oil-rich north African state.

“It’s mainly about people coming for training and logistics support right now. It’s for training sites, and that's what we see right now. As far as a huge command and control network, I’ve not seen that yet.”

Libyan leaders and outside experts have noted the emergence of Isis loyalists in the eastern city of Derna, now ruled by a confederation of jihadi groups, The UN Security Council last month blacklisted the Libyan group Ansar al-Sharia as a terrorist organisation and noted that its Derna branch had pledged allegiance to Isis.

An eastern Libyan tribal leader confirmed that Isis loyalists and associated jihadis have set up training camps in Derna both in the adjacent Green Mountain range and in the coastal city itself.

Libya map

“Training camps are seen and heard by everybody,” said Adel al-Faydi, a tribal leader from a town near Derna. “They include large numbers from many nationalities who reached Libya by sea. Now they are not hiding, they are out and about in the city.”

Gen Rodriguez said the US had detected no foreign jihadis arriving at the Isis camps but acknowledged the picture was murky. US intelligence had “mixed reports” about any presence of Isis in western Libya and described “a lot of confusion on the ground about who’s in charge”, with numerous militias and two governments claiming authority.

He said the Isis presence was rooted in established Islamist or jihadi militias. “It’s just small and very nascent,” he said. “I think it's just militias trying to make a name and trying to make a connection right now. What they're trying to do is, again, just work the label and get some kind of support.”

Libyans say Isis fighters and their jihadi allies have menaced supporters of Gen Khalifa Haftar, the army commander backed by the Tubruq government, which is locked in a civil war with remnants of the defunct Islamist-leaning parliament in Tripoli, the capital, and its allied militias.

“They have been conducting many actions, the most recent was a statement addressing many of the Libyan tribal leaders giving them a three-day ultimatum to withdraw their support to Haftar's operations and to the police, otherwise they'll assassinate them,” Mr Faydi said. “That’s why we expect the violence to escalate in the coming days. In the past three months there were many cases of kidnapping and killing, and it is not going to stop.”

Twitter: @borzou

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