EU leaders to visit Tunis to bolster anti t…

NNA – Top EU officials said Friday they would visit Tunisia this month to back the fight against a growing Islamist militant threat from north Africa after this week’s deadly Tunis museum attack.

European Council President Donald Tusk and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini will travel to the Tunisian capital on March 31 to show solidarity after the attack in which several European tourists were killed.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack which left 21 people dead and on Friday Tunisia said the two gunmen had trained at a militant camp in neighboring Libya.

“Events in the southern Mediterranean are dangerous for Europe,” Tusk told a press conference after a two-day European Union leaders summit in Brussels.

“We condemned the appalling terrorist attack in Tunis this week and agreed to intensify cooperation with Tunisia in order to counter the terrorist threat, to strengthen its promising democracy and to assist its economic and social development,” Tusk added.

Mogherini, a former Italian foreign minister, said the Tunis killings were “an attack on Europe.”

“We know that the risk of instability from terrorism in Libya is also a risk for Tunisia,” she said.

Tunisia has seen an upsurge in Islamist extremism since the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring uprisings around the region.

In their final statement, the leaders from the 28-country bloc said they took up proposals to prepare a possible EU security mission in Libya once the country’s warring factions agree a national unity government.

Foreign ministers approved the proposals earlier this week.

Mogherini has pressed hard on the issue, highlighting the threats to European security of IS gaining a foothold in Libya, and of an even bigger exodus of illegal immigrants.

Until now Europe has largely focused on the Islamist threat from the Middle East, especially in the wake of the Paris and Copenhagen terror attacks.

But it is increasingly turning a wary eye towards North Africa.

“The crisis in Libya is a serious challenge to international peace and security requiring the EU’s full attention,” EU leaders said in their final statement.

The summit “called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and for Libyan parties to rapidly agree on a government of national unity.”

Libya’s rival parliaments have been holding U.N.-sponsored talks in Morocco on forming a national unity government and bringing an end to the violence wracking the oil-rich North African country.

Mogherini said earlier that the EU was not planning a military intervention but offering security support for the north African country.

Libya has descended into chaos since France and Britain provided military support to Libyan rebels who ousted long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Mogherini said she has already started discussions with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Arab leaders in the region concerned about the militant threat in Libya, including the Egyptian leadership.

“We need to unite against the threat that is growing in Libya,” she said earlier, referring to the threat from Islamic State, which is also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh.

“The growth of the Daesh threat in Libya should be a chance for all partners in Libya, all of them, to unite against the threat of Daesh… not to fight among each other but to fight against a common threat,” Mogherini said. —AFP

==========R.A.H.