The militant group has apparently found a new base where it can “generate oil revenue and plan terror attacks,” according to a Wall Street Journal report, based on estimates provided by Libyan intelligence officials, residents and activists in the area.
It now has roughly 5,000 men there, including administrators and financiers. The new stronghold is directly across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy.
Sirte is a gateway to several major oil fields and refineries farther east along the same coast and the Islamic State has targeted those installations in the past year, the newspaper says.
“They have made their intentions clear,” it quotes Ismail Shoukry, the head of military intelligence for the region that includes Sirte, as saying. “They want to take their fight to Rome.”
“Sirte will be no less than Raqqa,” is a mantra often repeated by Islamic State leaders in the Libyan city during sermons and radio broadcasts, the newspaper quotes several residents and an activist from the city as saying. Raqqa is the group’s self-declared capital in Syria.
About 85% of Libya’s crude oil production in 2014 went to Europe, with Italy being the largest recipient. About half of the natural gas it produces is exported to Italy.
“The control of Islamic State over this region will lead to economic breakdowns,” the leader of the Libyan operation said, “especially for Italy and the rest of the European states.”
The militants, as it turns, were able to successfully exploit deep existing divisions in Libya, which has two rival governments, which are entangled in a violent, nationwide power struggle.
Libya currently has two competing governments, two parliaments, two sets of rivaling claims to control over the central bank and the national oil company, no functioning national police or army.
The internationally recognized government has been forced to operate from Tobruk on the eastern border with Egypt and its rival self-styled government in Tripoli, which is run by Libya Dawn, a dominant group of Islamists forces.
What a difference 4 years makes in NYT headlines pic.twitter.com/Ipt0jQmsFZ— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) 29 ноября 2015
All the above apparently comes as a direct result of the US-orchestrated government change in the country four years ago.
Contrary to popular belief, Libya, which western media described as "Gaddafi's military dictatorship" was in actual fact, Africa's most prosperous democracy.
Prior to the US-led bombing campaign in 2011, Libya had the highest Human Development Index, the lowest infant mortality and the highest life expectancy in all of Africa.
October 20, marked the four-year anniversary of the US-backed assassination of Libya’s former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and the decline into chaos of one of Africa’s greatest nations.
Today, Libya is an apparently failed state, with Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia having all closed their borders with the country.