EXCLUSIVE: Islamic State terrorists are said to be using Libya as an "entry point" into Europe, with intelligence sources on the ground in Africa telling Fox News at least 30 ISIS fighters who left from the country have been "picked up" by the Italians in recent weeks.
The purported terrorists all claimed refugee status but American and European agents believe this is a clear indication that ISIS terrorists have come into Europe virtually untouched.
"There is no way you can block it,” one told Fox News. “Libya is now an easy entry point into the E.U. and ultimately into the U.S. for ISIS. They are saying, this is the way to America."
One special operator in the region told Fox News, "It's a new ISIS route to the West." A congressional source confirmed that even the Libyan government, which controls little in the country, has easily captured ISIS terrorists.
Earlier this week, President Obama authorized up to 450 additional U.S. troops to deploy to Iraq, to help local security forces in the fight against ISIS there. But while American foreign policy continues to focus on ISIS operations in Syria and Iraq, many in the region and in American intelligence worry that Libya is actually the most unstable country in the region and gives ISIS its best opportunity for entry to the West.
In response to the ISIS captures and current instability in Libya, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ron Johnson, R-Wis., blasted the administration.
“This administration continues to deny reality and fails to adequately convey to the American people the severity of the security situation throughout the Middle East and the resulting threats America faces,” he said.
Fox News has learned that the Libyan port city of Sirte, which lies on the Mediterranean between Benghazi and Tripoli, was flying the black flag of ISIS just last week and now is essentially under ISIS control. The terrorist group even controls the airfield -- building a supply-line much like they did in Iraq when the city of Mosul was captured, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Sources on the ground in Libya also tell Fox News that hard drugs are now widespread in Libya, much of it pushed by outsiders who’ve come into the country freely and even sold by children on street corners. The country appears to be part of a drug route into Europe and even the United States, with much of the supply coming from Afghanistan and shipments of heroin also coming from South America. Sources say prior to the overthrow, drugs weren’t popular in the country and were looked down upon, but “all that has changed drastically as people and militias need money."
One longtime intelligence agent who works closely with American officials in Iraq told Fox News, “Oil and drugs are how the militias are getting their money to fund their terrorism and America should be very concerned.”
The deterioration of Libya has been swift since Muammar Qaddafi was killed in 2011. Two of his sons also are currently being held in the country and could face the death penalty. Much of the country is lawless, there are no border controls of substance in place, airspace is not monitored and the country has become the crime hub in the region.
“It has become a huge problem,” said an international intelligence agent working in the country. “There is no more trust for the Americans anymore.”
Some of these same critics also argue that if the United States puts boots back on the ground in the region, it shouldn’t be in Iraq or Syria "where ISIS can be somewhat contained” -- but in Libya.
“Everyone is now going to Libya … terrorists are coming from all over because they can move freely and the U.S. really has nobody on the ground there. The Americans and West needs to open their eyes,” said one source who just returned from the country. “Libya is a mess and much worse than Iraq. ISIS has [a] very good command-and-control building in Libya.”
One international intelligence officer worried about the ISIS movements was bewildered why there are no operations planned or taking place near Libya. "When and where will this stop? When will western powers open their minds and see that this is happening on the ground?" he said. "The West is underestimating ISIS and its military tactics. These guys are much more trained and much more dangerous than Al Qaeda ever was, and nobody is paying attention to Libya.”