By Aaron Klein
ISIS may be on the road to fulfilling its stated plan to use Libya as a “gateway” to Europe.
KleinOnline previously reported a propagandist for ISIS threatened to storm southern European cities to cause “pandemonium” or close international shipping lines in the Mediterranean Sea.
Now on Monday, the European Union’s top prosecutor revealed to the Associated Press she received information ISIS may be hiding in smugglers’ boats bringing migrants across the Mediterranean and into Europe
Michele Coninsx, head of the EU’s judicial cooperation agency Eurojust, said she was provided with the information as part of her organization’s coordination with EU nations in the fight against terrorism, cyber crime and illegal immigration.
Conisx told the AP that ISIS is not only using proceeds from trafficking people to fund terrorism. The Islamic terrorist group is also using the immigration routes to smuggle fighters into Europe.
“We’re going after the criminals. We’re going after the money,” said Coninsx.
“It is an alarming situation because we see obviously that these smugglings are meant to sometimes finance terrorism, that these smugglings are used sometimes to have and ensure exfiltrations and infiltrations of members of Islamic State.”
Libya ‘fertile ground’
In February, KleinOnline reported ISIS’ stated plan to infiltrate Europe via the Libyan immigration route. This according to documents released by ISIS supporters and propagandists and obtained by the Quilliam Foundation, a Britain-based think tank that focuses on counter-extremism.
The purported ISIS documents, obtained and reviewed by KleinOnline, received widespread news coverage.
However, some of the more sensational possibilities described within the pages were largely overlooked.
The documents indicate ISIS views Libya as not just fertile ground for a headquarters but as a staging base to infiltrate Europe by boat along with the hundreds of migrants who daily attempt to flee to Italy.
One ISIS document recognized Libya has a “long coastline” that “looks upon the southern Crusader states, which can be reached with ease by even a rudimentary boat.”
The document noted “the number of ‘illegal immigration’ trips from this coast is massive, estimated to be as high as 500 people a day, as a low estimate.”
It states that “according to many [of these immigrants], it is easily possible to pass through Maritime Security Checkpoints and arrive in [European] cities.”
“If this was even partially exploited and developed strategically, pandemonium could be wrought in the southern Europe. It is even possible that there could be a closure of shipping lines because of the targeting of Crusader ships and tankers.”
The Quillium Foundation warns: “Therefore, the opportunities that lie in the exploitation of human trafficking rings make Libya unparalleled as a launching platform for attacking European states and shipping lines.”
The ISIS documents extensively discuss what is claimed to be massive caches of light, medium and heavy munitions in Libya. Jihadists are urged to make their way to Libya to help expand the caliphate.
“Not only will pressure on the land of the Caliphate in ash-Sham be relieved, but the territories of the Caliphate in ash-Sham, Iraq and Hijaz will be linked with those of their brothers in Libya and the Islamic Maghreb and the defeat of all regimes and tyrants in their way will be enabled.”
How real are ISIS’ claims of migrant boats flooding Europe?
Coninsx told the AP that an Italian official told her agency three weeks ago the flow of migrants has risen fivefold. This year alone, about 70,000 migrants have been rescued, many by an EU-led naval operation, the AP reported.
In just one instance in February, Italy rescued some 2,164 migrants coming from Libya on about a dozen boats. The incident took place the same day Italian coast guard members were threatened by four armed men who approached them by speedboat from the Libyan coast.
The U.N. refugee organization UNHCR estimates that at least 218,000 migrants from North Africa crossed the Mediterranean by boat last year, with some 3,500 dying on the way.
Italy’s defense minister, Roberta Pinotti, told the country’s Il Messaggero newspaper in February the potential for terrorists infiltrating Italy in boats carrying immigrants from Libya “could not be ruled out.”
With additional research by Joshua Klein.