Lampedusa and the Islamic State’s War on Rome
Lampedusa. The name may not mean much to you, but to hundreds of thousands of African refugees—and to the entire continent of Europe—Lampedusa can mean the difference between life and death.
As Italy’s southernmost territory, the small island of Lampedusa has become the front line in the Islamic State’s war on Rome.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of refugees climb into makeshift barges and overcrowded rafts, and attempt the perilous crossing from Libya to either Lampedusa or Sicily.
The journey is not without risk. Last year 3,500 deaths were recorded, and with resources stretched so thin, it’s likely many more drowned in the Mediterranean unaccounted for. The high death toll makes this crossing the most dangerous in the world.
Yet for all those who die, far more are making the journey successfully, slipping into Italy, and settling there or continuing on deeper into the Continent.
And the numbers are astounding. Italian authorities and merchant vessels rescued more than 2,800 people in at least 18 boats between the 13th and 15th of February this year. On the 15th alone, 2,225 people were rescued.
However, it is the unregistered migrants that pose the greatest threat.
Last year an investigation into Sicilian immigration found that “in 2014 there were 170,816 immigrants into Italy,” and of those, “only 66,066 are registered.” That leaves 104,750 illegal migrants unaccounted for somewhere in Italy—or possibly deeper in Europe.
One can hardly blame the tens of thousands who attempt the journey. With the Islamic State and other radical Islamic groups butchering people across Libya, the sea crossing is worth the risk. But there is a real danger that hidden among the flock of migrants are wolves.
With so many immigrants crossing to Italy, the likelihood is high that radicals are slipping into mainland Europe unnoticed.
In an interview with Bloomberg Business, Nicoletta Pirozzi, a senior research fellow at the Institute for International Affairs in Rome, said, “From a strategic point of view, Libya is crucial for Italy. It’s an energy security issue, it’s a immigration and internal security issue, and it’s fast becoming a terrorism issue, with direct threats leveled at it.”
Islamic State leader Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi has made numerous threats to wage a war against Rome. In video and audio recordings, he calls on all Muslims to return to their homeland, from where they can launch their offensive against “the nation of the cross.”
The final moments of the Islamic State’s gruesome video of the decapitation of 21 Coptic Christians are punctuated by the call for war against Rome.
Sending fighters amidst the sea of refugees would be one way for the Islamic State to achieve its goal.
The Islamic State has also proclaimed that it will inundate Italy with refugees to “turn it into hell.” The longer people attempt to flee North Africa, the more crippling and devastating the immigration crisis will be for Europe.
To defend against the wolves within the flock, Italy has increased security measures, particularly in Rome. Italy has also pledged 5,000 troops to a UN mandate that would take the fight to the Islamic State in Libya.
However, these measures are not designed to stop the refugees. As long as the dangers of the sea crossing are outweighed by the dangers posed in Libya, the boats will continue, and the risk of terrorists slipping in will remain.
And the violence doesn’t look to be abating any time soon. Italy closed its embassy in Tripoli on February 15 due to security concerns. There are firefights in and around the capital. The nation is effectively fragmented into tribal regions with an array of radical groups all vying for power and dominance.
Italy’s and Europe’s safety will only come when their southern borders are secured.
According to intelligence analysts, Italy has “never been so exposed.” What Europe needs, and what it is looking for, is a strong hand from someplace. “Extraordinary engagement” is necessary according to Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s minister of foreign affairs. It also requires “greater accountability.”
As the former colonial power in Libya, Italy would likely play a key role in any future military action taken by Europe in Libya.
And the Vatican could play a powerful role in galvanizing popular support. Following the beheadings, Pope Francis said: “The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same.”
Radical Islam is directly threatening the Catholic Church and Europe today in a way unseen since the Muslim Aghlabids used what is modern-day Tunisia to launch raids into Italy, leading to the sacking of Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica in a.d. 846. The blood of the Catholic Church’s “brothers” in Egypt and Libya is being spilled into the Mediterranean again today. How long before it reaches Lampedusa or further?
Whatever happens next in Libya, the nation’s potential as a deadly backdoor into Europe has been exposed. Italy and the Vatican are now dealing with the dangers posed by radical Islam. Don’t expect Europe to allow that back door to remain open much longer. For more information, read Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry’s May 2011 article titled “An Islamic Takeover of Libya and Ethiopia Is Imminent.”