Militias loyal to ISIS could bring Somalia-style piracy to the Mediterranean, officials fear.
Two centuries after the brutal Berber pirates were cowered into submission, the threat of maritime terror in the Med is once again looming from North Africa.
Fighters that have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State have made sweeping new inroads in Libya, and have taken numerous coastal towns, just a few hundred miles across the water from mainland Europe.
Italian officials believe that militants are already working with experienced seamen – the human traffickers shipping tens of thousands of migrants to Europe every month.
And it is feared they could be close to striking into a bold new business on one of the world’s busiest waterways.
Officials at the Italian Ministry of Defence have warned that IS ‘could replicate in the Mediterranean the scenario that has dominated the maritime region between Somalia and Aden for the last ten years’.
Rampant piracy has characterised shipping in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen since the civil war in the 1990s plunged the country into lawlessness and clan warfare.
The international community struggled to get to grips with the armed attacks because of the impossibility for Western forces to patrol 2.5 million square miles of ocean with just a few dozen ships.