[Editor’s Note: While it makes perfect sense Daesh would want to develop the same functionality Al Qaeda used to such a devastating effect just over fourteen years ago, one can only hope they’d really be that stupid. While turning airplanes into weapons is not a new concept–it wasn’t even a new idea in 2001–it is still a legitimate concern, and the former CIA case officer makes some valid points. That being said, we’d love to meet up with them in the airspace over the Mediterranean.]

ISIS is training pilots at an airbase in Libya using small planes, some possibly left over from the Qaddafi regime, and at least one flight simulator in an effort experts fear could lead to aerial attacks targeting Europe, according to regional analysts.

The terrorist group, which is bulking up its footprint in the chaotic north African nation even as airstrikes by Russia, the U.S. and other western allies pound its headquarters in Syria, is functioning unfettered in the Mediterranean city of Sirte. Given that Sirte is just a short flight from mainland Europe – Italy is closest of all – the development could mean ISIS is closing in on a bid to take its terrorism to a frightening new level with a multitude of high-profile potential targets within range.

Sirte Air Base, located in very close proximity to the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. (Reuters)
Sirte Air Base, located in very close proximity to the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. (Reuters)

“We know that the jihadists are trying every means to hurt the West, and if they can blow themselves up in cars they can certainly do the same with airplanes; this wouldn’t be a great novelty and is in line with their thinking and purpose to do as much harm as possible,” Col. Jacques Neriah, the retired former deputy head for assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence and an expert on North African affairs, told Fox News.com.

” … if they can blow themselves up in cars they can certainly do the same with airplanes; this wouldn’t be a great novelty and is in line with their thinking and purpose to do as much harm as possible.”

– Col. Jacques Neriah, former Israeli Military Intelligence official

“We’re not talking about MiG-31 or F-16 pilots,” he continued. “We’re talking about very basic, rudimentary pilots who can take off in a light plane and crash themselves into the Vatican, for instance. It takes only an hour and a half to cross [the Mediterranean Sea] from Libya to Rome.”

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Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told French President Francois Hollande at a meeting in Paris that “Europe must turn its attention to the militants’ rise in Libya.”

Reports of ISIS training pilots out of the Sirte airbase appeared earlier this week in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. The paper cited a security official in Libya who said the Libyan Air Force had attempted to destroy ISIS training camps in Libya but had met with limited success, and highlighted the fact that a brand-new aircraft training simulator has been acquired by the radical Sunni terrorist organization as recently as October.

For the original article on Fox News, click here.