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Policy Analysis

Policy Notes 45

The Others: Foreign Fighters in Libya

Aaron Y. Zelin

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January 2018


This new study offers a deeper understanding of the foreign-fighter phenomenon, its evolution, and its potential trajectories.

Over the past seven years of revolution and civil war, Libya has experienced a massive influx of foreign fighters. This development deserves attention not just for the domestic menace it poses but also because Libya offers a potential future jihadist hub amid the 2017 collapse of Islamic State centers in Iraq and Syria. Particularly worrisome in the Libyan theater have been the outsize role of Tunisian fighters and a rise in recruitment in continental Africa.

In this richly detailed Policy Note, Aaron Zelin breaks down the components of the Libyan jihad, including country-by-country statistics on fighters. He also meticulously traces the routes taken by jihad aspirants from various African points of origin to Libya. In thus offering a deeper understanding of the foreign-fighter phenomenon, its evolution, and its potential trajectories, this study provides invaluable insights for mitigating related problems in Africa and Europe in the years ahead.

THE AUTHOR

AARON Y. ZELIN is the Richard Borow Fellow at The Washington Institute, where his research focuses on Sunni Arab jihadi groups in North Africa and Syria as well as trends in foreign fighting and online jihadism.