The bloody terrorist attacks in Paris had their genesis not only in the poor Muslim suburbs of France and Belgium, and on the battlefields of Syria, but also in NATO’s operation to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The Libyan strongman gave the West fair warning at the time that his ouster would give an enormous boost to radical jihadists. Because no one in power listened, thousands have died in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Mali and now France.
Among the many extremist groups running wild in Libya today is the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh). Headquartered in the city of Sirte — the late Col. Gaddafi’s hometown on the central Mediterranean coast —the ISIS colony now hosts as many as 3,000 foreign fighters who enforce their iron rule over a 150-mile stretch of the country’s coast. ISIS also has a strong presence in northeastern Libya, around the towns of Derna and Benghazi.
Since Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, Libya has exported thousands of its own extremists to support jihad in other countries. In Syria, one group of Libyan supporters of ISIS went by the name of Katibat al-Battar al Libi. One of its leaders was none other than Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected organizer of the recent Paris attacks.
A subsequent report by two members of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commented on the role of Libyan jihadists who returned home from Syria to commit atrocities on behalf of ISIS, including car bombings, attacks on hotels and embassies, and a brutal slaughter of Egyptian Copts. The analysts traced much of the violence to veterans of Katibat al-Battar, who were active in Derna and Benghazi:
“Libyans had already begun traveling to fight in Syria in 2011, joining existing jihadi factions or starting their own. In 2012, one group of Libyans in Syria declared the establishment of the Battar Brigade in a statement laden with anti-Shia sectarianism. The Battar Brigade founders also thanked ‘the citizens of Derna,’ a city in northeastern Libya long known as a hotbed of radical Islamism, for their support for the struggle in Syria.
“Later, the Battar Brigade fighters in Syria would pledge loyalty to the Islamic State, and fight for it in both Syria and Iraq, including against its al-Qaeda rivals. . . In the spring of 2014, many Battar Brigade fighters returned to Libya. In Derna, they reorganized themselves as the Islamic Youth Shura Council (IYSC). In September, an Islamic State delegation . . . arrived in Libya. After being received by the IYSC, they collected pledges of allegiance to the Islamic State’s self-appointed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, from . . . fighters in Derna. They then declared eastern Libya to be a province of the Islamic State.”
The estimated 800 Battar Brigade veterans in Derna proceeded to execute local judges, journalists, army officers and anyone else deemed un-Islamic. They sent suicide bombers to Tobruk, the temporary headquarters of Libya’s national parliament, to Benghazi, and to the embassies of Egypt and United Arab Emirates in Tripoli.
New Yorker correspondent Jon Lee Anderson reported that “a rival militia loyal to Al Qaeda” wrested control of Derna from the Battar Brigade veterans this summer. “The victors are said to have marched the captured ISIS commander through the streets naked before executing him. ISIS lost Derna, but in the past few months they have taken Qaddafi’s home town of Sirte and surrounding areas in Libya’s ‘Oil Crescent,’ and have begun attacks on the outer defenses of the city of Misrata.”
Back in March 2011, while battling foes of his regime, Col. Gaddafi warned that such mayhem could follow his defeat. He told a French newspaper, “I am surprised that nobody understands that this is a fight against terrorism.” If his opponents prevailed, Gaddafi predicted, “There would be Islamic jihad in front of you in the Mediterranean.” He was right.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy chose to ignore such warnings and, with British Prime Minister David Cameron, dragged a reluctant President Barack Obama into supporting NATO strikes against Gaddafi in the name of humanitarian motives.
But in blatant violation of the United Nations Security Council mandate approving the use of force only to protect civilians, Sarkozy, Cameron, and Obama admitted in an op-ed article on April 14, 2011, that their real agenda was to oust Gaddafi “for good” so that “a new generation of leaders” could take over.