(Reuters) – When the man in charge of Libya’s main border crossing with Egypt checks his staff rota every morning, he can count on a maximum of just 30 officers.
The tiny force polices the northern tip of a 1,115 km (700 mile) desert border, where Egypt and its Western allies hope to prevent Islamist militants infiltrating to join fellow fighters on Egyptian territory, or sneaking back into the lawless OPEC producer to find safe haven. But hampered by a lack of manpower and equipment, worsened by a breakdown in state authority following the 2011 downfall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s border guards are struggling to contain the spreading anarchy.
On paper, the Libyan interior ministry force in charge of the Musaid crossing into Egypt has 120 men on the payroll, but only 30 or so show up regularly for work. “The rest go to the bank on the 30th (to pick up their salaries),” Musaid security chief Ibrahim al-Mumin said.
Neither of the north African neighbors has a firm grip at the border. Only two weeks ago, 15 members of the militant Islamic State group, which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, crossed in from Egypt to set up a cell in Libya.
(Top photo: Egyptian trucks loaded with goods are inspected by officers from the Libyan interior ministry force at the Libyan-Egyptian border crossing in Musaid September 25, 2014.)