The French Defense Minister has warned that the advance of militias currently allied to the UN backed government in Libya against the ISIS, (Daesh) held city of Sirte risks scattering militant fighters into both Tunisia and Egypt.
Speaking yesterday at the University of Defense, in the Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau, Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian said, “We must begin to seriously tackle the question of dispersal of terrorists,” Le Drian continued his comments, calling for a unified strategy between all of Libya’s neighbors, (including France) to prevent the flow of militants from the region following the final fall of Sirte. However, Le Drian noted, due to a variety of political considerations, that strategy was looking increasingly unlikely.
Specifically, Le Drian warned, “What will happen tomorrow may indirectly present new risks for Tunisia and Egypt.”
A coalition of militias, led by UN allied forces from Misrata have been waging a bloody campaign against the Daesh stronghold of Sirte since May of this year. Despite heavy losses, the taking of the coastal city now appears imminent with concerns about fighter dispersal following its fall mounting throughout the international community.
Warnings about the consequences for Tunisia of a Daesh defeat in Sirte were previously sounded in Tunisia Live in June and by the UN Security Council the following month. In a confidential memo obtained by AFP, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon wrote that potentially dozens of Tunisian born fighters had already returned to their country with the intention of perpetrating attacks here.
Reports on the number of Daesh fighters in Sirte vary. According to the UN’s report, there may potentially be anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 militants within the city. However, writing on this site in June, Ludovico Carlino, Senior MENA Analyst at IHS Jane’s Country Risk estimated their numbers at around 1,000.
Militia forces allied to the UN backed, Government of National Accord, (GNA) in Tripoli resumed their assault upon the coastal city of Sirte on Saturday following a lull of a few days, Reuters report. Despite prolonged US aerial support and the presence of several international Special Force units upon the ground casualties among the advancing militias have been heavy, as militias fighters’ advance has been repeatedly stalled by a variety of car bombs, sniper fire, mines and heavy shelling.
Prior to joining Tunisia Live, Simon worked as a freelance journalist. He has lived in Tunisia since 2013 and previously worked in Vietnam and Moscow.