Will Islamic militants commemorate September 11th with a re-enactment of the U.S. terrorist attacks?
Reports have surfaced that at least 11 commercial jetliners are missing from the main airport in Libya's capital of Tripoli. There are fears that militants will mark the 13th anniversary of 9/11 by using the jets in attacks in Europe, North Africa and elsewhere. The U.S. is not expected to be a target.
The date also marks the second anniversary of the Libyan terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The Huffington Post and conservative news website, the Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com) both cited anonymous intelligence sources who confirmed the reports. Neither officials from the State Department nor the White House National Security Council could confirm anything about missing airliners.
The aircraft was allegedly stolen when Libyan militants overran the airport last month, damaging much of the airport and its aircraft. Videos have been released online of militants posing next to the jetliners. Islamist-allied militias have seized virtually all of the capital.
Strict air traffic monitoring and higher security measures, due to the 9/11 anniversary, make it unlikely terrorists would attempt to fly stolen planes into the U.S. Airliners are required to file flight plans before entering U.S. airspace, and air-traffic monitors would be looking for aircraft matching the description of any stolen planes, according to Jeffrey Price an aviation security expert. An airliner could try to fly below radar to avoid detection, but the U.S. military has developed systems to detect and stop low flying threats, he said.
Price added, however, that most countries near Libya, including those in Europe, do not have the same air-defense capabilities and would be more at risk.
In the past four months, a renegade general has battled Islamic militants in the eastern city of Benghazi — cradle of the 2011 uprising that toppled Moammar Gadhafi — as powerful regional militias have fought for control of the Tripoli airport.
About 150,000 people have fled Libya during the fighting and another 100,000 have been internally displaced, according to a United Nations report.