The self-proclaimed Islamic State is offering up to $1,000 cash bonuses to poor Africans who agree to fight for the terror group in Libya, successfully recruiting soldiers for what Libyan officials call the “Army of the Poor.”
Libyan officials say they’re essentially helpless to stop the influx of would-be ISIS fighters who often enter the country by way of human smuggling routes used by a flood of migrants on their way to Europe, reported The Telegraph. Some of the migrants are reportedly abandoning their plans, opting to instead join ISIS ranks.
“Most of the migrants want to go to Europe, but some want to link up with [ISIS],” a senior police officer told The Telegraph. “Unfortunately, here in Libya we are right in the middle of the migration rat run.”
ISIS is capitalizing on the extreme poverty of the countries surrounding Libya — such as Chad and Mali where a few hundred dollars is equivalent to a year’s wages for many — in order to build its militant presence in the port city of Sirte. The terror group’s army there is thousands strong and growing.
Former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi used a similar strategy of recruiting mercenaries from poor African countries to solidify his regime and suppress rebellion before he was toppled in 2011. His exit resulted in widespread chaos and a civil war that paved the way for ISIS to move in.
Libyan security forces have been unable to successfully fight ISIS in Sirte, and are hesitant to accept help from Western troops for political reasons. Officials blame the West for not doing more to stop the mass exodus from North Africa.
“When some migrant who has come via Libya carries out a terror attack in Europe, the world will pay attention,” the Libyan officer told The Telegraph. Islamic State militants are reportedly learning how to fly commercial jets in large simulators imported to Sirte from abroad.
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