The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could expand in Libya, EU coordinator for anti-terrorism Gilles de Kerchove warned on Saturday. De Kerchove made the statement to Al Arabiya correspondent in Brussels Noureddine Fridhi. He also said that 30 percent of Arab internet users in Belgium have shown support for the extremist group.
Last month several young people in the eastern town of Derna pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to a video posted on the internet.
Dozens of people could be seen in the video posted on social media gathering in Derna to support Baghdadi, who calls himself “caliph,” or Muslim leader, of ISIS, an Al-Qaeda offshoot.
There has been growing concern among Western nations and Libya’s neighbors that ISIS is trying to exploit lawlessness in the oil producer where militant Islamists and other militias who helped topple Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 are carving out fiefdoms.
Derna, a port halfway between the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi and the Egyptian border, has since 2011 turned into a gathering point for militant Islamists and Al-Qaeda sympathisers.
Fifteen foreign members of ISIS traveled to Derna from Syria in September trying to rally support and establish an ISIS branch in Libya, Egyptian security officials have said.
Authorities were unable to open ballot boxes for Libya’s parliamentary elections in June in Derna due to threats from militants.
Derna, already a stronghold of Islamist opposition under Qaddafi, has also made headlines with pictures of Islamic courts and police stations.