One of the suspects detained Tuesday for a plot to kill U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May took several steps towards preparing travel to Libya, which could indicate the country t the new point of destination for would-be jihadis.
The suspect Mohammed Aqib Imran reportedly had saved up money, tried to secure a fake passport, and had been extensively researching any travel options available to him. Imran’s apparent intent to travel to Libya over Iraq and Syria is particularly noteworthy in that it may point to a new phenomenon for would-be ISIS foreign fighters. Unlike Manchester bomber Salman Abedi, Imran maintained no ties to Libya and is said to be a British citizen of Pakistan descent.
ISIS has predominately lost its caliphate in Iraq and Syria and remains heavily confined in desert pockets, besieged form all sides by various hostile military forces. The U.S. similarly continues to conduct a relentless air campaign intent on destroying the group’s core presence as much as possible and much of its social media empire is degraded.
ISIS’s Libyan affiliate by contrast has received little attention in recent months after the terror group’s grip was loosened on the city of Sirte in December 2016. The group was thought to command approximately 7,000 fighters at one point and held significant territory in the country that continues to be racked by civil war.
The U.S., however, began some renewed airstrikes against ISIS in Libya in recent months, indicating the group may be re-forming. “We’re seeing some signs of their regrouping in Libya,” a Pentagon policy official responsible for overseeing U.S. actions in Libya told a think tank panel this summer.
ISIS’s Libyan affiliate draw towards Imran highlights the danger the group can continue to inspire globally despite its defeat in Iraq and Syria. ISIS also maintains affiliates in Egypt, Afghanistan, the Philippines, West Africa, and Yemen.
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