There is growing speculation on what Europe will do to shield itself against the infiltration of jihadists from Libya.
This is particularly true after the emergence of reports about the failure of talks between European states in reaching an agreement on reviving the EU’s naval mission “Sophia“, which was originally launched to stop human trafficking in the Mediterranean.
According to the new reports, an EU committee failed on January 24 in reaching unanimity during an extraordinary meeting on the mission which stopped in March 2019.
The same reports even expected efforts to revive the mission, with a focus on upholding the United Nations’ arms embargo agreement on Libya.
This comes at a time the dangers from the infiltration of terrorists from Libya into Europe are becoming real.
Dozens of jihadists sent by Turkey to Libya to prop up the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) have already left the Libyan coast and set sail for Europe, according to a number of agencies, including the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The jihadists sent by Turkish President Recep Tyyip Erdogn to the restive North African state are part of a security cooperation deal Turkey signed with the GNA in late November last year. Erdogan said the deal allows his country to send troops to Libya. On January 2, the Turkish Parliament approved a bill that allows Erdogan to deploy Turkish troops in Libya.
Nonetheless, instead of the regular Turkish troops, the Turkish President is sending the Syrian jihadists who backed his military offensive against the Kurds in northern Syrian late last year.
However, some of the jihadists are bamboozling the Turkish leader as well as GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, whose government is using Libyan oil money to bankroll the travel of these jihadists from Syria to Turkey and then to Libya.
They arrive in Libya, get involved in combat for a number of days, and then drop their arms and find a way to board boats from the Libyan coast to European shores.
On January 19, the spokesman of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Ahmed al-Mesmari, whose army is now trying to capture the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and kick the militias backing the GNA out of it, said about 41 Syrian militants sent to Libya by Turkey had already left the North African country on the road to Europe through ports in the northwestern part of Libya.
On January 22, al-Mesmari said that LNA intelligence had obtained information about the smuggling of Syrian militants into Libya from the southwestern part of the country.
“Turkey implements a very dangerous plan to transfer ex-fighters of the Islamic State group from Syria to Libya,” al-Mesmari said.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, nearly 2,400 Syrian mercenaries had already been relocated from northern Syria to Tripoli.
It added that about 1,700 other recruits had already arrived in Turkey to take training courses before they are transferred to Libya.
More to come
Observers expect, meanwhile, Turkey to step up the transfer of jihadists from Syria in the coming period with a Syrian-Russian onslaught on the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib gaining momentum.
Idlib is home to some of the largest Islamist factions, including al-Qaeda-leaning groups, sponsored by Turkey. The recapture of Idlib by the Syrian army will mean that the thousands of jihadists manning the groups backed by Turkey in the city have nowhere to go, except for Libya.
By relocating these jihadists to Libya, Turkey may be hitting several goals at the same time, including getting rid of them from their own borders, backing the GNA against the LNA, securing its economic interests in North Africa and in the Eastern Mediterranean and, most importantly, further besieging Europe, observers said.
This raises, however, questions on whether Europe will stay silent.