UN experts point out extremist threat in Libya

The panel of experts said in a report to the UN Security Council that the presence of the Chadians and Sudanese “has become more marked” in 2019.

UN experts said the interference of Chadian and Sudanese fighters in Libya is “a direct threat” to the security and stability of the war-torn country, which a leader of the Islamic State has declared “one of the main axes” of its future operations.

The panel of experts said in a 376-page report to the UN Security Council, released December 10, that the presence of the Chadians and Sudanese “has become more marked” in 2019 as a result of the intensification of the conflict in Libya. It said their continued presence as organised groups or as mercenaries “may lead to further instability.”

Libya has been in turmoil since a civil war in 2011 toppled Muammar Qaddafi. In the chaos that followed, the country was divided, with a weak UN-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army (LAN) led by Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar, each supported by an array of militias and foreign governments.

Haftar launched a surprise military offensive April 4 aimed at capturing Tripoli and curbing the influence of militants who are backing the Fayez al-Sarraj-led government there. Fighting for Tripoli has stalled in recent months, with both sides dug in and shelling one another along the city’s southern reaches with increasingly sophisticated weapons.

While the LNA and the eastern government enjoy the support of France, Russia, Jordan and other key Arab countries, the Tripoli-based government is backed by Italy, Turkey and Qatar.

The experts said counterterrorism operations in Libya against the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda extremists by the government and Haftar’s forces as well as an increase in activity by the United States Africa Command continue to disrupt the structure of both groups and temporarily reduce their capacity to conduct operations.

However, the panel also reported the new focus on Libya by ISIS, quoting a video in July by an ISIS member.

“ISIL (another acronym for the Islamic State) in Libya finances its activities through robbery, kidnap for ransom, extortion of Libyan citizens and the cross-border smuggling of artefacts and other commodities,” the panel said. “Taxation of human trafficking networks continues to be a source of funding for ISIL in Libya.”

As for foreign fighters, the experts named five Sudanese armed groups operating in Libya — four in support of Haftar’s LNA and one backing the government’s forces. They named four Chadian armed groups — one supporting the LNA, two supporting the government and one with 100 fighters whose factions support both sides.

In one example, the panel estimated 1,000 Sudanese troops from Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces were deployed to Libya on July 25 by Sudanese General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, initially to guard critical infrastructure so Haftar’s troops could carry out offensive operations.

The panel said Sudan and Dagalo, who has command responsibility, both violated UN sanctions.