Libya remains an ungoverned space on Europe’s doorstep because of choices made, primarily, by British and French political leadersby Arthur Snell / May 26, 2017 / Leave a comment
As soon as the identity of the suicide bomber that murdered 22 concert goers in Manchester on Monday night was released, people began trying to understand the significance of Salman Abedi’s connections to Libya.
Although Manchester born and bred, members of Abedi’s family, including his father and brother, are based in Libya, their country of origin. Abedi was known to have travelled to and from Libya regularly, including returning from there, via Turkey, only days before the attack.
Much about Abedi fits the classic profile of the modern urban terrorist: a young male born in Europe of immigrant parents, he had dropped out of educational institutions and flirted with gang culture.
But there are significant differences: his attack employed a sophisticated and devastating bomb that would likely have been made by a trained expert. The target selection was cynically and horrifically made to cause maximum impact and damage.
As has now been made clear, this was the work of a terrorist network, some of whom may still be at large, rather than a low-tech, poorly planned “lone wolf” expedition, such as the Westminster Bridge attack of 22 March.
But the biggest novelty is the Libya connection: this is the first major terror attack carried out in Europe by someone based in, or in regular contact with, Libya.
Confused international interests
It was clear from the very start of the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya in support of the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi that there was a gulf between the gung-ho attitudes of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, and Barack Obama’s reluctance to get involved. The subsequent and total collapse of Libyan state authority and the rise of Islamic State in Sirte, Gadaffi’s former hometown, laid bare the failure of the intervention. The international community has tended to focus on the resultant migration crisis.
The situation on the ground remains very fluid: Islamic State has been dislodged from Sirte but are not a spent force in Libya. Indeed, the Oxford-based Libya expert Dr Alia Brahimi has reported that up to 350,000 armed men may have fallen in with radical Islamist groups in Libya.
Libyan-based terrorists attacked the BP plant in Amenas in Algeria in 2013, killing 40 people. The gunman who ravaged the beach in Sousse in Tunisia in 2015,…