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Islamic State expanding in Libya, UN experts warn


Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, pictured, in 2011

Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, pictured, in 2011

Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, pictured, in 2011

The political and security vacuum in Libya is being exploited by the Islamic State extremist group which has "significantly expanded" the territory it controls in the conflict-torn nation, United Nations experts have said.

In a report to the world body's Security Council, t he experts monitoring UN sanctions against Libya said IS had successfully recruited marginalised communities in the central city of Sirte, which it controls.

They said IS, also known as Isil, had also increased its operational capacity in the city of Sabratha and the capital Tripoli through local recruitment reinforced by foreign fighters.

"While Isil does not currently generate direct revenue from the exploitation of oil in Libya, its attacks against oil installations seriously compromise the country's economic stability," the six-member panel said.

"Libyans have increasingly fallen victim to the terrorist group's brutalities, culminating in several mass killings."

Libya has effectively been a failed state since the 2011 ousting and death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, which led to the country's military collapse and fragmentation by powerful militias.

Since 2014, an internationally-recognised government has convened in the far east of the vast, oil-rich country while a rival Islamist government is based in Tripoli. The United Nations has been trying to help forge a unity government to revive services to millions of people and confront IS extremists.

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According to the experts, Libya has become increasingly attractive to foreign fighters and their presence in the south "is symptomatic of the regional dimension of the conflict".

It added that countries in the region had been providing political support - and possibly more - to various groups, further fuelling the continuation of fighting.

The experts said that all parties in the conflict are continuing to receive illicit arms transfers, some with support from UN member countries.

These weapons are not only influencing the instability but are having "a negative impact on the security situation in Libya and its political transition," the report said.

The report called for the arms embargo - which allows the government to seek exemptions - to remain in place and be enforced.

On the financing of Libyan armed groups, the report said "government salaries are continuing to be paid to enlisted combatants, regardless of their human rights record or their ties with spoilers or terrorist groups".

The experts said armed groups and criminal networks in Libya had further diversified their sources of financing, including through kidnapping and smuggling migrants, oil products, subsidised goods and profits from foreign currency exchange schemes.

The report said asset freezes and travel bans on individuals from the Gaddafi regime continued to be broken, with large amounts of assets remaining hidden and unfrozen and travel bans repeatedly violated.

Meanwhile, European Union countries are preparing possible sanctions against officials in Libya blamed for undermining the peace process and blocking the formation of a unity government.

EU diplomats say a small list of "spoilers" could be targeted as soon as next week.

Unconfirmed reports suggest Nouri Abu-Sahmain, head of the Tripoli parliament, and Khalifa Ghweil, prime minister of Tripoli Salvation, could be in the EU's sights.

EU foreign ministers will hold informal talks on Libya in Brussels on Monday.

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