According to a report in the Washington Free Beacon, Islamists have taken control of as many as a dozen commercial airliners last month after taking over a Libyan airport.
The revelations came to light after US intelligence agencies issued a warning that the aircraft could be used in terror attacks across North Africa.
The airliners were reportedly taken by the Libyan Dawn group after they took over the Tripoli International Airport late last month.
While there isn’t exact information on which planes were taken, there were several large Airbus planes in the fleet of Libyan Airlines, including an Airbus A340, which has a range of 6,700 to 9,000 nautical miles.
Obviously, the news is unsettling as the intelligence warning was released just 9 days ahead of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in which passenger planes were used to strike targets in the United States.
It’s hard to imagine planes that large being able to breach US airspace, but they certainly could be used regionally to attack US interests or allies.
According to the Free Beacon report, the threats the aircraft represent are being taken seriously,
Al Jazeera television reported in late August that western intelligence reports had warned of terror threats to the region from 11 stolen commercial jets.
In response, Tunisia stopped flights from other Libyan airports at Tripoli, Sirte, and Misrata over concerns that jets from those airports could be on suicide missions.
Egypt’s government also halted flights to and from Libya.
Military forces in North Africa, including those from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt have been placed on heightened alert as a result of intelligence warning of the stolen aircraft.