A United Nations monitoring group has warned of the Islamic State grip on Libyan cities, especially the city of Sirte, where the group has a tighter grip than any other stronghold in Syria and Iraq.
The report issued on Tuesday by the UN member states, warned that the group leader Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi views Libya as the best opportunity to expand its so-called caliphate, CNN reported.
It was estimated that the group had nearly 3,000 fighters in Libya, half of whom are based in Sirte. As many as 800 fighters are Libyan IS fighters, who came back from fights in Syria and Iraq. Non-Libyans dominate the top leadership of the group.
The UN held a ministers’ meeting on Tuesday in New York, to discuss the results of the Libya talks. The participants are the foreign ministers of Libya, America, Italy, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, and Sweden attended, in addition to representatives of the Libyan rivals and representatives of other international organizations.
The report also raised concern about around 3,500 Libyans who are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq and might come back to join the group in Libya.
The group joins fighters from North Africa, Egypt, Yemen, Palestine, Mali, Tunisia, Sudan, and fighters form the Nigerian group Boko Haram.
But the report noted to the unquiet fertile environment Libya offers the group, as the group “is only one player among multiple warring factions in Libya and faces strong resistance from the population, as well as difficulties in building and maintaining local alliances.”
It is also more difficult for the group to exploit sectarian tensions because most Libyans are Sunnis and the fact that thus far it has only been able to muster a few thousand recruits, according to the report.
The report also highlighted the difficulties ahead of the group to control Libya’s oil resources. “the IS currently lacks the capacity to secure, hold and manage oil fields and related oil infrastructure in Libya.
In addition, Libya has no established domestic black market for smuggled crude, and the location of the IS in Libya would make it difficult to access potential markets in the region”, it said.
“Transportation of stolen crude would be problematic, as it would require a large number of tanker trucks given that ISIL does not control a pipeline or a port with an oil loading terminal”, as the groups’ strongholds in Libya aren’t close to borders as in Syria and Iraq.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that the IS has developed crude refining capability in Libya, as it managed to do in Syria, and it doesn’t control any of the five Libyan refineries.