Libya's upheaval in the past two years helped lead to the ongoing conflict in Mali, and now Mali's war threatens to wash back and further increase Libya's instability. Fears are growing that post-Moammar Gadhafi Libya is becoming an incubator of turmoil, with an overflow of weapons and jihadists operating freely, ready for battlefields at home or abroad.
The terrorist group that carried out the Algeria hostage-taking had help from Libyan extremists in the form of smuggled weapons and “organizational ties,” said the Algerian group's leader, Moktar Belmoktar. He urged Libyan militias not to submit to calls by the Tripoli government to hand over their weapons, saying their arms are “the source of their dignity and their guarantee of security.”
With pressure building on Mali's Islamists, Libya provides a possible alternative haven for jihadis, said Scott Stewart of the global intelligence group Stratfor.
“It is a very good place to operate if you are an extremist,” he said. “There are fault lines and divisions ... The central government has very little authority outside Tripoli. This is very conducive environment for Jihad to thrive.”
They already have a free rein in Benghazi.
“Libya became a heaven for them,” Col. Salah Bouhalqa, a leading military commander in Benghazi, said of al-Qaida. “The Westerners are fearful that what happened in Algeria will take place in Libya. And here, just like Mali and Egypt and Iraq, these groups have extensions.”
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