The Reality of al-Qaeda in Libya
This does not mean that the al-Qaeda group is completely inexistent in Libya, although however, it does exist in a weak manner – due to the security restrictions – such as extending its organisation into the Western Sahara. A tape has emerged in which it has been ascribed to the second man in the al-Qaeda group, Ayman al-Zawahir, in November 2007 stating that in fact a Libyan organisation has joined the al-Qaeda group.
In this tape recording, al-Zawahir invited in what he called the ‘Mujahideen’ to overthrow the leaders of the Maghreb countries, namely: Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. He said: ‘the Muslim nation is witnessing a pure blessed step, and here is a troop from the virtuous Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who announced their joining with the al-Qaeda Jihad Group for the sake of complementing the march of their brothers. Just like al-Zawahiri presented himself in this recording, another speaker did likewise saying that his name is Abul Layth and that he is the Libyan wing leader for the al-Qaeda group. He thereby announced the recent joining of the Libyan organisation with al-Qaeda. The organisation joined with al-Qaeda is the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and it has declared itself for the first time in 1995. It stated that its main aim was to overthrow the regime rule of the Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. Clashes have occurred between members of the organisation and the Libyan Security Forces for a number of years, however many of its leaders were arrested in Libya and abroad.
The LIFG in 2001 has been added to the United Nation’s list of individuals and institutions affiliated or associated with the al-Qaeda group. Yet the most unusual thing is that the fearful al-Qaeda, which was spread by Gaddafi and his son, came following a series of peaceful negotiations between the parties, resulting in the release of a number of these individuals (!).. Consequently the son of the Libyan leader, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, had undertook the task of opening the fighting group’s covering and had led them in lengthy dialogues since the beginning of 2007 through the mediation of some preachers, the head of them being Dr. Ali Muhammad al-Sallabi. The spreading of the group had resulted in reviewing their thinking, which was a prelude to starting the release of the group’s detainees, bit by bit.
He also declared (Saif al-Islam) last March 2010: ‘The Libyan state announces the releasing of 214 prisoners from the Islamic groups including 100 items associated with the existing group in Iraq and 34 items from the Islamic Fighting Group.’
He also pointed out that among those released three were leaders of the Islamic Fighting Group, namely: Abdel Hakim Belhadj (the leader of the organisation), Sami al-Saadi (the legal official) and Khalid al-Sharif (the military commander and security of the group). He further mentioned that ‘705 of the Islamists have been released since the beginning of the programme and 409 others are still in prison including 232 people who could potentially be released in the coming period’.
However with the outbreak of the Peoples Revolution in February 2011 and the need to hold someone responsible for what had occurred, with the aim of distracting attention from the fact that it is a Peoples Revolution, there was no one more appropriate to be accused than the al-Qaeda group being behind the events. In a letter from the West – via letters of Gaddafi and his son – it is stated that the termination of the Colonel and his son’s rule means the control of al-Qaeda over Libya and the emergence of Islamic authorities over the Mediterranean Bank, which would transport terrorism into France, Italy and all of Europe as well as have control over Libya’s oil! Gaddafi’s choice for al-Qaeda specifically and not the Muslim Brotherhood for instance – just as Ben Ali and Mubarak did- is because al-Qaeda is an armed organisation, hostile and bent on retaliation of the West, just like how France announced their entry into war with this organisation in which two French hostages were killed in Niger.
In last August 2010, France has taken the decision to enter an open war with ‘al-Qaeda’ in North Africa after the killing of the French hostage Michel Germano in response to a joint French and Mauritanian raid against armed militants. Despite the French aim, perhaps this is to be a strategy game and an attempt to compete with the American presence in a continent that was historically subservient to Paris. Therefore, this decision serves the intentions of Gaddafi after France had announced that it wants to throttle ‘al-Qaeda’ in the Sahara of Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Algeria.
Paris did not find a solution in giving legitimacy for its return to Africa except with the covering of ‘al-Qaeda’ and jealousy on the ‘security zone’ being expressed as a belt that protects Europe or else it will drown in crises. Gaddafi and his partners did not find a solution to escaping from the fall of his rule and utilising the services of the West to prevent the collapse of his rule except the fearful al-Qaeda, which proved to be along with the fearful Islamists, in general, a failed peg for survival from the volcano of the Peoples Revolution. Despite the warnings of Gaddafi, his son and the Libyan foreign ministry regarding the organisation being the armed al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, who in turn aims to establish ‘a centre for this organisation in Libya in lieu of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and sought to prove this by the emergence of what is called ‘the Radio of the Islamic Al Bayda’ Authority’ in the Al Bayda City, which was liberated by the revolutionaries and consequently was not paid much attention to by the West.
In the previous year when the al-Qaeda group carried out in the Arab West – contrary to the Libyan Fighting Group – eight kidnappings within six months, some states have approved to pay the ransom. The newspaper ‘Vancouver Sun’ (Canada) mentioned that the Secretary of General People’s Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation Musa (Musa Kusa) had stated that the ‘ransom’ which he had paid for the release of two kidnapped Canadian diplomats at the hands of the al-Qaeda group in the Islamic Maghreb has increased its power in Africa. Kusa also stated – according to a U.S. diplomatic telegram published by WikiLeaks – that the al-Qaeda group in the Islamic Maghreb is working on expanding its influence in the belt of the Great Sahara and in North Africa. Kusa also described the process of paying the ransom as ‘unfortunate, and only increased the power of al-Qaeda.’
Moreover, Kusa put forward his comments – according to a U.S. diplomatic telegram, dated 2009, published by ‘WikiLeaks’ – on the release of the two kidnapped Canadian diplomats, namely: ‘Louis Guay’ and Robert Fowler’ who was appointed as a special convoy for the United Nations to Niger in December 2008, and the two remained being held for nearly ‘130’ days at the hands of the al-Qaeda group in the Islamic Maghreb before the release both of them.
The West is still sceptical regarding the intentions of Gaddafi’s regime and does not cooperate with him except to ensure the flow of oil. When they found that a significant portion of the oil fields were being controlled by the supported tribes of the revolution against Gaddafi and that Gaddafi’s rule is reeling along with the bets being against him as a loser, they did not care about his speech about the fearful al-Qaeda due to the risk of al-Qaeda in Libya being no less of a danger than in the Arab West as a whole. This is while they know that the intervention would not be against al-Qaeda but rather against the Libyan people who have rose to earn their freedom and dignity from the oldest Arab ruler who has remained in his seat for forty-two years!