ISIL training camps in Libya closely monitored: US general

The West has been increasingly worried that Libya’s political turmoil could provide fertile ground for Islamic extremists, but General David Rodriguez ruled out military action on the 'nascent' camps in the immediate future.

WASHINGTON // ISIL has set up training camps in eastern Libya and the American military is closely monitoring the situation, a top US general said.

Western allies have been increasingly worried that Libya’s political turmoil could provide fertile ground for Islamic extremists, but General David Rodriguez ruled out military action on the “nascent” camps in the immediate future.

“They put training camps out there,” said the commander of US forces in Africa, Gen Rodriguez on Wednesday, referring to ISIL that has seized territory in Iraq and neighbouring Syria this year in a brutal and swift offensive of beheadings and forced religious conversions.

He described ISIL activity in eastern Libya as “very small and nascent”.

“It’s mainly about people coming for training and logistics support right now, for training sites, and that’s what we see right now. As far as a huge command and control network, [we] have not seen that yet,” Gen Rodriguez said.

“The numbers are somewhere around a couple hundred ... but again we don’t have a specific precise assessment of that right now,” he said.

Gen Rodriguez said the trainees appeared to be members of Libyan militias who were “trying to make a name or trying to make a connection”. It was unclear whether they might join ISIL fighters elsewhere once their training was complete, he said. The United States has been waging an aerial war against the group in Iraq and Syria, but when asked if the training camps in Libya were a potential target for American forces, Gen Rodriguez said: “No, not right now.”

“We’ll have to just continue to monitor and watch that carefully in the future to see what happens or whether it grows on unabated,” he said.

The general said it appeared the militants in Libya were not volunteers coming from outside the country but militia members who had shifted their loyalty to the group.

His comments came after the US government and European allies voiced “grave concern” over mounting violence and civil unrest in Libya.

Experts have warned that ISIL has gained a foothold in the eastern town of Darna, exploiting the chaos that has engulfed the North African state.

Libya has been plagued by instability since the overthrow of autocratic leader Muammer Qaddafi in 2011, and ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi recently boasted that militants in the country had pledged allegiance.

Analysts say a number of factions in Darna have pledged loyalty to ISIL, but it remains unclear how much support they enjoy.

* Agence France-Presse and Reuters

Published: December 4, 2014 04:00 AM

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