The Islamic State (Isis) has announced the ascendancy of a new leader in Libya, the Saudi-born Jihadi Abdel Qader al-Najdi, who has threatened war on Europe's doorstep launched from the coast of north Africa and claimed he is ready to invade Rome.
Najdi says Libya's geographical location can "open the door" for Daesh to Rome and Italy. Najdi's arrival in Libya was announced in the latest edition of the Islamic State's Arabic propaganda magazine al-Nabaa (the announcement). Extracts from an interview with the Saudi national were translated by the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
Speaking to the weekly propaganda outlet, Najdi repeated Isis (Daesh) claims the militant group would invade Rome. The city and the Roman Empire play a major role in Isis's apocalyptic ideology –the group's propaganda often refers to Western powers as 'Romans'. In a previous issue of the Islamic State's English language Dabiq magazine, the group has said it will hang its black flag from the Vatican.
While a US-led coalition closes in on Isis across its territories in Iraq and Syria, in Libya Daesh has grown from a force of 3,000 fighters to 6,500 in just three months, according to the UN and the Pentagon. The terror group has carried out audacious suicide attacks in Libya's cities of Tripoli, Benghazi, Zliten and Misrata, killing scores, and clashed with government aligned militias at crucial oil installations.
The rapid expansion of Isis into the anarchy of post-Gaddafi Libya has been fuelled by the arrival of hundreds from across the Middle East and Africa.
The new Isis Emir (leader) also commented upon the state of Libya's civil war, lashing out at the different factions competing for control of the country. Najdi reserves the mainstay of his vitriol for former Gaddafi Genreal Khalifa Hafter who recently pushed Isis fighters out of key districts in Benghazi. He also attacked Libya Dawn, a coalition of Tripoli based militias fighting against forces loyal to Hafter as "too democratic", and referred to Libya's vast oil resources as "a gift from God"
The leader for the Isis franchise in Libya replaces Abul-Mughirah al-Qahtani, also known as Abu Nabil al Anbari, a senior Iraqi commander who was killed US air strikes in November 2015 in the former Isis stronghold of Derna in eastern Libya. He was thought to have been the spokesman in a video showing the execution of Coptic Christians in February 2015, and played a central role in Isis forces victory in Tikrit in 2014.
A Saudi militant fighting with Isis in Libya appeared in propaganda video in August 2015, calling for jihadists from across the world, from the Arabian Peninsula to Tunisia, to rally in the North African country and fight for Isis against the Libyan Army.
The fighter from the Arabian peninsula, identified at the time as Abu Ali Jazrawi, was reported by to be a leader of IS's "Tripoli State" branch, its offshoot in the west of Libya.