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Who are the Libyan Freedom Fighters and Their Patrons? [Copy link] 中文

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Prof. Peter Dale Scott's Libyan Notebook  


Preface

The world is facing a very unpredictable and potentially dangerous situation in North Africa and the Middle East. What began as a memorable, promising, relatively nonviolent achievement of New Politics - the Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt - has morphed very swiftly into a recrudescence of old habits: America, already mired in two decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sporadic air attacks in Yemen and Somalia, now, bombing yet another Third World Country, in this case Libya.

The initially stated aim of this bombing was to diminish Libyan civilian casualties. But many, senior figures in Washington, including President Obama, have indicated that the US is gearing up for a quite different war for regime change, one that may well be protracted and could also easily expand beyond Libya.1 If it does expand, the hope for a nonviolent transition to civilian government in Tunisia and Egypt and other Middle East nations experiencing political unrest, may be lost to a hard-edged militarization of government, especially in Egypt. All of us, not just Egyptians, have a major stake in seeing that that does not happen.

The present article does not attempt to propose solutions or a course of action for the United States and its allies, or for the people of the Middle East. It attempts rather to examine the nature of the forces that have emerged in Libya over the last four decades that are presently being played out.

To this end I have begun to compile what I call my Libyan Notebook, a collection of relevant facts that underlie the present crisis. This Notebook will be judgmental, in that I am biased towards collecting facts that the US media tend to ignore, facts that are the product in many instances of investigative reporting that cuts to the heart of power relations, deep structures, and economic interests in the region including the US, Israel, and the Arab States as these have played out over the last two decades and more. But I hope that it will be usefully objective and open-ended, permitting others to draw diverse conclusions from the same set of facts.2

I wish to begin with two ill-understood topics:

I. Who Are the Libyan Opposition,

and

II. Where Are the Libyan Rebel Arms Coming From?

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Part Two

I. Who Are the Libyan Opposition?

1) Historically:

"If Muammar Al Gaddafi behaved paranoid, it was for good reason. It wasn't long after he reached the age of 27 and led a small group of junior military officers in a bloodless coup d'état against Libyan King Idris on September 1, 1969, that threats to his power and life emerged - from monarchists, Israeli Mossad, Palestinian disaffections, Saudi security, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO), British intelligence, United States antagonism and, in 1995, the most serious of all, Al Qaeda-like Libyan Islamic fighting group, known as Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya.
The Colonel reacted brutally, by either expelling or killing those he feared were against him."3

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Part Three

2) National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL)

"With the aim of overthrowing Libyan strongman Muammar Khadafy, Israel and the U.S. trained anti-Libyan rebels in a number of West and Central African countries. The Paris-based African Confidential newsletter reported on January 5th, 1989, that the US and Israel had set up a series of bases in Chad and other neighboring countries to train 2000 Libyan rebels captured by the Chad army. The group, called The National Front for the Salvation of Libya, was based in Chad."4

"US official records indicate that funding for the Chad-based secret war against Libya also came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Israel and Iraq. The Saudis, for instance, donated $7m to an opposition group, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (also backed by French intelligence and the CIA). But a plan to assassinate Gadafi and take over the government on 8 May 1984 was crushed. In the following year, the US asked Egypt to invade Libya and overthrow Gadafi but President Mubarak refused. By the end of 1985, the Washington Post had exposed the plan after congressional leaders opposing it wrote in protest to President Reagan."5

"The FNSL [National Front for the Salvation of Libya] was part of the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition held in London in 2005, and British resources are being used to support the FNSL and other 'opposition' in Libya.... The FNSL held its national congress in the USA in July 2007. Reports of 'atrocities' and civilian deaths are being channeled into the western press from operations in Washington DC, and the opposition FNSL is reportedly organizing resistance and military attacks from both inside and outside Libya."6

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Part Four

3) National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO),

"The main group leading the insurrection is the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition which includes the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL). The NFSL, which is leading the violence, is a U.S.-sponsored armed militia of mostly Libyan expatriates and tribes opposed to al-Qaddafi."7

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Part Five

4) Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, LIFG)

"The LIFG was founded in 1995 by a group of mujahideen veterans who had fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Upon their return to Libya they grew angry about what they viewed as the corruption and impiety of the Libyan regime and formed the LIFG to create a state that would show what they believed to be the true character of the Libyan people.

The most significant LIFG attack was a 1996 attempt to assassinate Gadhafi; LIFG members led by Wadi al-Shateh threw a bomb underneath his motorcade. The group also stages guerilla-style attacks against government security forces from its mountain bases. Although most LIFG members are strictly dedicated to toppling Gadhafi, intelligence reportedly indicates that some have joined forces with al-Qaida to wage jihad against Libyan and Western interests worldwide. ....

As recently as February 2004, then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that "one of the most immediate threats [to U.S. security] is from smaller international Sunni extremist groups that have benefited from al-Qaida links. They include ... the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group."8

"In recent days Libyan officials have distributed security documents giving the details of Sufiyan al-Koumi, said to be a driver for Osama bin Laden, and of another militant allegedly involved in an "Islamic emirate" in Derna, in now-liberated eastern Libya. Koumi, the documents show, was freed in September 2010 as part of a "reform and repent" initiative organised by Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's son....

The LIFG, established in Afghanistan in the 1990s, has assassinated dozens of Libyan soldiers and policemen. In 2009, to mark Gaddafi's 40 years in power, it apologised for trying to kill him and agreed to lay down its arms. MI6 [British Intelligence] has been accused in the past of supporting it. Six LIFG leaders, still in prison, disavowed their old ways and explained why fighting Gaddafi no longer constituted "legitimate" jihad. Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, another freed LIFG member, denied the official claims. "Gaddafi is trying to divide the people," he told al-Jazeera. "He claims that there is an Islamist emirate in Derna and that I am its emir. He is taking advantage of the fact that I am a former political prisoner."

Derna is famous as the home of a large number of suicide bombers in Iraq. It is also deeply hostile to Gaddafi. "Residents of eastern Libya in general, and Derna in particular, view the Gaddadfa (Gaddafi's tribe) as uneducated, uncouth interlopers from an inconsequential part of the country who have 'stolen' the right to rule in Libya," US diplomats were told in 2008, in a cable since released by WikiLeaks.

The last 110 members of the LIFG were freed on 16 February, the day after the Libyan uprising began. One of those released, Abdulwahab Mohammed Kayed, is the brother of Abu Yahya Al Libi, one of al Qaida's top propagandists. Koumi fled Libya and is said to have ended up in Afghanistan working for Bin Laden. Captured in Pakistan, he was handed over to the US and sent to Guantánamo Bay in 2002. In 2009 he was sent back to Libya.9 US counter-terrorist experts have expressed concern that al-Qaida could take advantage of a political vacuum if Gaddafi is overthrown. But most analysts say that, although the Islamists' ideology has strong resonance in eastern Libya, there is no sign that the protests are going to be hijacked by them.10

"Fierce clashes between [Qadhafi's] security forces and Islamist guerrillas erupted in Benghazi in September 1995, leaving dozens killed on both sides. After weeks of intense fighting, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) formally declared its existence in a communiqué calling Qadhafi's government "an apostate regime that has blasphemed against the faith of God Almighty" and declaring its overthrow to be "the foremost duty after faith in God." [3] This and future LIFG communiqués were issued by Libyan Afghans who had been granted political asylum in Britain.... The involvement of the British government in the LIFG campaign against Qadhafi remains the subject of immense controversy. LIFG's next big operation, a failed attempt to assassinate Qadhafi in February 1996 that killed several of his bodyguards, was later said to have been financed by British intelligence to the tune of $160,000, according to ex-MI5 officer David Shayler. [4] While Shayler's allegations have not been independently confirmed, it is clear that Britain allowed LIFG to develop a base of logistical support and fundraising on its soil. At any rate, financing by bin Laden appears to have been much more important. According to one report, LIFG received up to $50,000 from the Saudi terrorist mastermind for each of its militants killed on the battlefield." [2005]11

"Americans, Britons and the French are finding themselves as comrades in arms with the rebel Islamic Fighting Group, the most radical element in the Al Qaeda network [to bring down Gaddhafi]. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted the risks of the unholy alliance in a congressional hearing, saying that the Libyan opposition is probably more anti-American than Muammar Gaddhafi. A decade ago, this very same delusion of a Western-Islamist partnership in Kosovo, Bosnia and Chechnya ended abruptly in the 9/11 attacks."12

“In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited ‘around 25’ men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are ‘today are on the front lines in Adjabiya.

Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters ‘are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,’ but added that the ‘members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader’.
His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad's president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, ‘including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries’.
Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against ‘the foreign invasion’ in Afghanistan, before being ‘captured in 2002 in Peshwar, in Pakistan’. He was later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008.

US and British government sources said Mr al-Hasidi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, which killed dozens of Libyan troops in guerrilla attacks around Derna and Benghazi in 1995 and 1996.” (“Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links,” Daily Telegraph [London], March 25, 2011)

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Part Six

5) Transitional National Council
"A RIVAL transitional government to the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi looks set to win US and other international support as momentum builds to oust the longtime dictator.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed yesterday that the Obama administration was reaching out to opponents of Colonel Gaddafi. She said the US was willing to offer ‘any kind of assistance' to remove him from power.

Protest leaders who have taken control in Libya's eastern cities claim to have established a transitional "national council" that amounts to rival rule. They have called on the country's army to join them as they prepare for an attack on the capital, Tripoli, where the Libyan leader retains control.

Confident the Libyan leader's 42-year rule was coming to an end, Mrs Clinton said yesterday: ‘We are just at the beginning of what will follow Gaddafi.'"13

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Part Seven

6) Facebook

"He [Omar El- Hariri, Chief of Armed Forces for the Transitional National Council] remained under close surveillance by the security forces until Feb. 17, when the revolution started. It was not initiated by prominent figures of the older generation, he said, but began spontaneously when Tunisia and Egypt inspired the youth. ‘Children of Facebook!' he declared, in English, with a broad smile."14

7) Oil

"Libyan rebels in Benghazi said they have created a new national oil company to replace the corporation controlled by leader Muammar Qaddafi whose assets were frozen by the United Nations Security Council.

The Transitional National Council released a statement announcing the decision made at a March 19 meeting to establish the ‘Libyan Oil Company as supervisory authority on oil production and policies in the country, based temporarily in Benghazi, and the appointment of an interim director general" of the company.

The Council also said it "designated the Central Bank of Benghazi as a monetary authority competent in monetary policies in Libya and the appointment of a governor to the Central Bank of Libya, with a temporary headquarters in Benghazi."15

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