What difference does it make, Secretary Clinton? This is the difference that it makes. “Benghazi, Libya, has become training hub for Islamist fighters,” by Nancy A. Youssef for McClatchy, December 12 (thanks to Anne Crockett):
BENGHAZI, Libya “” Every week, about a dozen Syrians arrive at Benghazi’s airport for what’s described as insurgent training. When they fly out, they”re carrying fake Libyan passports, according to three officials familiar with the comings and goings of foreigners at the airport.
The accounts of the officials, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the topic, are more evidence that this city in Libya has become a regional hub for Islamist extremists seeking to hone their combat skills.
Fighters from Tunisia and Algeria also are thought to be training here, driving across Libya’s borders to reach Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising that, with NATO”s help, toppled Moammar Gadhafi two years ago. But the Syrians” routine arrival and departure by air indicates that the training process is better organized and financed than had been realized.
It also raises questions about the role of Libya’s homegrown militia, Ansar al Shariah, in the global jihadi movement. Ansar al Shariah has its roots in the anti-Gadhafi uprising and it’s thought to have participated in the attack last year on U.S. facilities in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. Any effort to train al Qaida-linked fighters here is unlikely to have gone forward without the backing of Ansar al Shariah, experts in the organization say.
The Benghazi airport officials said that in the face of weak government forces and Ansar al Shariah supporters among their personnel, there’s little they can do to stop fighters from arriving or from leaving illegally, even though their fake passports are easily detected. By leaving on Libyan passports, they avoid legal requirements that they report their activities while they”re in the country, the airport officials told McClatchy.
“It is easier to leave Libya that way. They fly to Istanbul and sneak back into Syria,” one airport employee said. “They use the Libyan passport once.” The three airport officials said they saw anywhere from 10 to 15 fighters each week.
Airport authorities can’t stop them because they themselves fear the repercussions of confronting militants. As one employee explained, pointing to an immigration official: “He is with Ansar al Shariah.”
“There is nothing we can do to stop it,” a second official told McClatchy. “But everyone knows who they are.”
Libya’s minister of justice, Salah al Marghani, told McClatchy that the government is unaware of fighters coming to the country for training, but he acknowledged that Libya’s security situation would allow “such groups to move freely.”
“I would not be surprised if foreign fighters are involved like this. . . . We have a lot of challenges,” he said. “Thank you for letting me know so we can investigate this.”…