BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — A series of military victories over extremist Islamic groups along Libya’s Mediterranean coastline has forced hundreds of militants, including Islamic State fighters, to seek refuge in the vast deserts of the North African nation.
The desert is already home to militias from neighboring countries, cross-border criminal gangs and mercenaries.
Libya’s lawless, desolate center and south provides a sanctuary for militants to reorganize, recruit, train and potentially plot for a comeback. That is especially important at a time when the Islamic State group lost not only its urban holdings in Libya but is crumbling in Iraq and Syria.
In Libya’s remote stretches near the borders with Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Algeria, Niger and Tunisia, multiple armed groups already operate freely.
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