ISIS is now training pilots for future terrorist missions on an imported flight simulator in Libya, according to Arabic media reports citing Libyan and Egyptian military officials.
The flight simulator, apparently imported in October, is now located in the former Qaddafi stronghold of Sirte, about halfway between Benghazi and Tripoli.
"It's a modern simulator, which apparently arrived from abroad," the officials told the London-based Arabic daily, Al Sharq al Awsat. The simulator is the size of a compact car and includes a steering wheel, radar and communications gear, so student pilots can practice take-off and (crash) landing.
For now, it would appear that ISIS is “merely” training pilots to fly small aircraft, not military jets. "We’re talking about very basic, rudimentary pilots who can take off in a light plane and crash themselves into the Vatican, for instance,” Colonel Jacques Neriah, a retired Israeli military intelligence official, told FoxNews.
Although the initial news accounts on the ISIS simulator appeared last week, so far no reporter has asked the State Department or the White House about it during the daily briefings, nor has the U.S. government officially commented on it.
But the news so alarmed neighboring Arab governments that they briefed reporters on it, including the extraordinary detail that the Lebanese Air Force “tried several times to hit the base where the flight training is thought to be being conducted, but did not succeed in the attempts.”
The Lebanese Air Force mothballed its entire 10-aircraft fleet of Mirage IIIs in the 1980s, and today has just a handful of ancient British-made Hawker Hunter T-66 ground attack aircraft. The last time I can remember them conducting an air strike was about 1975.
Perhaps Egypt or Saudi Arabia were worried that if they attempted to bomb the facility, they would kill their own nationals.
This extraordinary piece of news came on the heels of a United Nations report that detailed the push by ISIS into Libya, where they now have an estimated 3,000 foreign fighters (aka, terrorists) training to strike targets in the region and beyond.
Qaddafi’s former stronghold, Sirte, has become the capital of ISIS in Libya and home to about half of all the ISIS fighters now in country.
Remember how Libya was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s great success story? So proud was she of her role in getting rid of Qaddafi and replacing him with a rebel coalition that included known jihadi terrorists that she instructed her top policy advisor, Jake Sullivan, to craft bragging points about it in August 2011.
Libya was Hillary’s war, her shining accomplishment as Secretary of State. After Benghazi, she hoped the media and the American public would not remind her of it.
Last year, ISIS fighters captured two Air Force bases in Central Syria, Tabqa and Kshesh, and posed for photographs with Syrian Air Force MiG 19s and MiG 21s. ISIS subsequently released a propaganda video, purporting to show its pilots flying a former Syrian military jet, most likely a Czech L-39 “Albatross” jet trainer.
I can imagine an ISIS pilot flying a Syrian Air Force jet and pretending to return after a mission to a Syrian Air Force base and blowing up key installations on the ground.
But far more unsettling is the thought that ISIS might train pilots on commercial jetliners, just as al Qaeda did before the 9/11 attacks.
Although it is not well known, the Iranian regime imported a Boeing 757/767/777 simulator and used it to train some of the 9/11 pilots for their final mission. This is one of many little reported facts that emerged from the Iran-9/11 case in New York that ultimately convinced a U.S. district court judge to award the families of 9/11 victims a $6 billion judgment against Iran.
Al Qaeda called on Iran for the more advanced training because the pilots who had undergone basic flight school in the United States were not deemed proficient enough for the tricky task of navigating a giant Boeing into the World Trade Center towers. Because Iran Air did not have Boeing 757/767/777 aircraft or the required simulator, they tasked an intelligence team to procure it in China.
There have been persistent reports that ISIS-affiliated groups in Libya commandeered former Libyan Airlines commercial jets last year. The initial reports mentioned eleven or twelve missing aircraft.
While some of those aircraft have turned up since, either whole or in pieces, others remain missing.
It’s hard to overstate the danger of an ISIS pilot training facility in the badlands of Libya, especially if they begin training pilots to fly those missing commercial jets.
Remember that the original al Qaeda template for 9/11 was a scheme known as Bojinka, and involved planting bombs on 11 commercial airliners to blow them up in flight, en route from Asia to the United States, with a 12th plane crashing into CIA headquarters.
Suicide pilots make the logistics of such a scheme much simpler. And with dozens of major urban centers within easy flying range in Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy and France, the potential for mayhem becomes mind-boggling.
When the President of the United States and his Secretary of State believe that the greatest danger facing the world is global warming and that terror attacks in California should remind us of the need for more gun control, we should prepare for the worst.