Islamic State 'hopes Libya will be gateway to invade Europe'
Jihadists want to cause 'pandemonium' in Europe according to letter by Islamic State propagandist
Islamic State militants from Syria and Iraq are planning to use the chaotic north African state of Libya as a "gateway" to Europe, according to a document seen by the British anti-extremist group Quilliam Foundation.
Jihadists hope to sail across the Mediterranean posing as migrants on people-trafficking vessels in a bid to cause "pandemonium" in southern European states, reports the Daily Telegraph.
The plans were said to be outlined in a document written by an IS propagandist in Libya, who goes under the name Abu Arhim al-Libim.
He wrote that Libya, which is around 300 miles from the nearest European mainland, has "immense potential", as well as large quantities of weapons from the civil war.
"It has a long coast and looks upon the southern Crusader states, which can be reached with ease by even a rudimentary boat," he said.
Libim added that "illegal immigration" trips are "huge in number" from the coast. "If this was even partially exploited and developed strategically, pandemonium could be wrought in the southern European states and it is even possible that there could be a closure of shipping lines and targeting of Crusader ships and tankers," he said.
More than 170,000 refugees and immigrants arrived in Italy by boat last year, including tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing the civil war.
Egypt's ambassador to London Nasser Kamel has warned Britain to brace itself for "boats full of terrorists" unless action is taken in Libya.
The Telegraph was unable to independently verify the identity of Libim, but Charlie Winter, a Quilliam researcher, said his writing is influential online.
"Twitter has shut down Libim's accounts several times and each time he starts a new one he gets thousands of followers very quickly, which is typical of an influential Isil affiliate," he said.
The document has emerged just days after IS-affiliated militants in Libya released a video of 21 Coptic Christians being beheaded.
Libya has suffered instability since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with various factions fighting for power. Leaders from IS travelled to the country last year and won support from several groups in control of Derna in north-east Libya.