Islamic militants could use aircraft seized from Libya's militant-held Tripoli airport in 9/11-style terrorist attacks in North Africa, according to a warning reportedly issued by U.S. officials.
The Washington Free Beacon quoted one unnamed U.S. official as saying “there are a number of commercial airliners in Libya that are missing. We found out on September 11 what can happen with hijacked planes.”
Militants seized control of Tripoli's international airport in late August, after a battle lasting almost a month, according to a report from the BBC. Several pictures were posted on social media purportedly showing fighters celebrating around captured aircraft.
â€” ScrewMB (@LibyanTweep) August 23, 2014
There are conflicting reports about which group is in control of the airport, with some outlets reporting that Libyan Dawn, a terrorist group, was responsible, while others allege that a group called 'The Masked Men Brigade' has them.
With the anniversary of the 9/11 and Benghazi attacks approaching (both events happened on Sept. 11, in 2001 and 2012 respectively), there are fears that terror groups might seek to use the planes in a fresh attack against U.S. or Western interests in North Africa.
Officials reportedly said that U.S. intelligence agencies have not confirmed the aircraft theft, and are attempting to locate all aircraft owned by two Libyan state-owned airlines
Abderrahmane Mekkaoui, a Moroccan military expert, told Al Jazeera that the planes had been taken by the Masked Men Brigade, and claimed that there was “credible intelligence” that the group is plotting to use the planes in attacks on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Libya has been racked by factional violence since the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The U.S. embassy complex in Tripoli was overrun by militants on Aug. 31, though it had been closed and all staff evacuated since June.