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UN: Fighting in Libya Threatens Countries Nearby

A security officer stands with his weapon on a road leading to a police station in Benghazi, Dec. 4, 2014.
A security officer stands with his weapon on a road leading to a police station in Benghazi, Dec. 4, 2014.
UN: Fighting in Libya Threatens Countries Nearby
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The United Nations is calling for international action to help improve the security situation in Libya. The U.N. says the fighting in the country threatens its neighbors.

Militants supporting the Islamic State group are only one part of Libya’s security crisis. The United Nations is working to organize peace talks between opposing governments and militias. U.N. special diplomat Bernadino Leon says Islamic State militants will not be included.

“This of course has to be done through the involvement of all the armed groups, except the ones that have been declared terrorist groups.”

On December 13, fighting stopped operations at two of Libya’s largest oil ports. And, officials say Islamic State militants have set up training camps in the country.

Daniel Wagner leads the security company, Country Risk Solutions. He says fighting Islamist militants in Libya is critical to security in the area. But he says the Libyan militant group allied with Islamic State, Ansar al-Sharia, is part of a larger problem.

In the past ten years, he says, the number of violent jihadi groups in the world has almost doubled. He says there are now 41 such groups.

“That is the number of extremist groups that exist in the world today. The basic thesis is that, contrary to what we in the West would like to believe, my contention is that it is them who are setting the agenda for us, and we are reacting. Rather than us sort of saying to them: ‘This is how things are going to be.’”

He says voters in Western nations are tired of war. He says they do necessarily believe they are in immediate danger.

Mr. Wagner says it is almost impossible to guess what would happen if the groups gaining power across Africa and the Middle East join forces.

“If there is a coalescing of their objectives and their tactics and their operational methods, I would say we would look back and view where we are right now as the appetizer in a very large meal.”

Western nations are limited to airstrikes and providing support for Iraq’s army and for rebel groups in Syria. Islamic State supporters in other countries are resisting their governments’ efforts to fight the group.

Giorgio Cafiero is the founder of the research and policy group Gulf State Analytics.

“There appears to be a situation in some of the Gulf countries that is causing concern about ‘lone wolf’ attacks, essentially individuals who have not been to Iraq or Syria, but have sympathies with the organization.”

Mr. Cafiero says Islamic State supporters in the future could take orders from the group. He says religious tensions are already on the rise in Saudi Arabia.

“The real threat is that individuals in the Kingdom will start acting on behalf of the organization in a completely independent way. And the danger is that this kind of threat is very hard to deal with. There is almost nothing that the authorities can do to stop it.”

He says other countries fighting the Islamic State may face attacks from groups in Libya. Last month, car bombs in Libya exploded near the embassies of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

But Mr. Cafiero and other analysts say fighting militants in Libya is critical to containing, if not ending, the Islamic State.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Heather Murdock reported this story for VOA News. Jill Robbins wrote it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver edited it.

Words in This Story

jihadi - a person involved in a jihad, a war or struggle against unbelievers; an Islamic militant.

founder - n. a person who creates or establishes something that is meant to last for a long time (such as a business or school)

analyst - n. a person who studies or examines something