Libyan town that churns out terrorists was home to Barbary pirates





Darnah's militants do have one other thing in common [beside desperate lives]: an almost obsessive devotion to their town's place in history. Greek and Roman ruins, the detritus of occupations in the ancient past, dot the wheat and barley fields along Libya's coastal plain. The United States left its own lasting mark on the town's collective memory during the Barbary Wars of the early 1800s. Darnah became a key battlefield in America's first overseas military expedition, when 500 American Marines and local mercenaries marched across the desert from Egypt to assault the town. (The ensuing Battle of Darnah inspired the "shores of Tripoli" line in the current Marine Hymn.)

But it was another country a century later that seared the ideal of armed resistance into the town's psyche. In 1911, Italy landed warships in Darnah's port, the beginning of a ruthless colonial presence that would last through the Mussolini era until the Axis powers were defeated in World War II. Local resistance to the occupation was strongest in the rocky hills near Darnah, but even there it was ultimately crushed. From its dust, a homegrown tradition of Islamic martyrdom emerged.


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