Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
|Libyan Fighting Group (Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya)|
|Motives||Overthrow Muammar Gaddafi and to establish an Islamic state.|
|Status||Sanctioned by the UN 1267 Committee.|
|Means of revenue||Mohammed Benhammedi
Sanabal Charitable Committee
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) also known as Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya (Arabic: الجماعة الإسلامية المقاتلة بليبيا) is a group active in Libya which played a key role in deposing Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime, allying itself with the National Transitional Council. However the organisation has a troubled history being under pressure from Muammar Gaddafi and shortly after the 9–11 attacks, LIFG was banned worldwide (as an affiliate of al-Qaeda) by the UN 1267 Committee. Listed at the Foreign Terrorist Organizations, the group has denied ever being affiliated with al-Qaeda, stating that it refused to join the global Islamic front Osama bin Laden declared against the west in 1998. Members of the group participated in the Libyan civil war under the name Libyan Islamic Movement (al-Harakat al-Islamiya al-Libiya).
LIFG was founded in 1995 by Libyans who had fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. It aims to establish an Islamic state in Libya and views the Gaddafi regime as oppressive, and anti-Muslim, according to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. LIFG claimed responsibility for a failed assassination attempt against Gaddafi in February 1996, which was in part funded by MI6 according to David Shayler, and engaged Libyan security forces in armed clashes during the mid-to-late 1990s. They continue to target Libyan interests and may engage in sporadic clashes with Libyan security forces.
Relationship with al Qaeda
The LIFG links to Al-Qaeda hail from Afghanistan, where hundreds joined Al-Qaeda. High ranking LIFG operatives inside Al-Qaeda, are the leader of the insurgency Abdel-Hakim Belhadj (also known as Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq), and the recently killed Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was killed in a CIA drone strike, and Al-Qaeda's Abu Yahya al-Libi.
The Telegraph reported that senior Al Qaeda members Abu Yahya al-Libi and Abu Laith al-Libi were LIFG members. One of al-Qaeda's most senior members, Atiyah Abdul-Rahman, was purportedly a member of LIFG as well.
In an audio message published in November 2007 Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Laith al-Libi claimed that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group had joined al-Qaeda. "Benotman fired back an open letter to Zawahiri questioning his credibility. "I questioned their idea of jihad ... directly you know. This is crazy, it is not Islamic and it's against the Sunni understanding of Islam," Benotman told CNN. Zawahiri chose not to respond. As late as this August Zawahiri's video statements included praise of LIFG leaders, in what may have been a desperate attempt to head off the condemnation he could see coming."
"In November last year Noman Benotman, ex-head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which is trying to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, published a letter which asked Al-Qaeda to give up all its operations in the Islamic world and in the West, adding that ordinary westerners were blameless and should not be attacked."
Noman Benotman's letter to Zawahiri was published in Akhbar Libya (News) as an op-ed clarification in November 2007. The gist is that al-Qaeda's efforts have been counterproductive and used as "subterfuge" by some Western countries to extend their regional ambitions. These comments were first aired at a meeting in Kandahar in the summer of 2000.
UK Terrorism Act 2000
On 10 October 2005, the United Kingdom's Home Office banned LIFG and fourteen other militant groups from operating in the UK. Under the United Kingdom's Terrorism Act 2000, being a member of a LIFG is punishable with a 10-year prison term. The Financial Sanctions Unit of the Bank of England acting on behalf of HM Treasury issued the orders to freeze all their assets. Mohammed Benhammedi lived and worked in Liverpool at the time of the UN sanction against him. Sergey Zakurko, the father to his Lithuanian mistress was suspended from his job at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) for fear that the link could pose a security threat.
UN-embargoed LIFG affiliates and their subsequent de-listing
On 7 February 2006 the UN embargoed five specific LIFG members and four corporations, all of whom had continued to operate in England until at least October 2005. Those nine are in the following table; the accusations are according to the US State Department.
|Abd Al-Rahman Al-Faqih||عبد الرحمن الفقيه||Possibly the same person as the jihadist writer Abdul-Rahman Hasan. Wanted in Morocco in connection with the mass murders of 16 May 2003 in Casablanca.|
|Ghuma Abd'rabbah||غومه عبد الرباح||Trustee of the Sanabel terrorist charity, by which he transferred money and travel documents to terrorists abroad.|
|Abdulbaqi Mohammed Khaled||عبد الباقي محمد خالد||Trustee of the Sanabel terrorist charity; GIA affiliate.|
|Mohammed Benhammedi||محمد بن حامدي||Financier of LIFG.|
|Tahir Nasuf||طاهر ناصف||Previously of the Libyan GIA circle in the UK. He denied any relation with the LIFG.|
|Sara Properties Limited||Source of some of Benhammedi's money.|
|Meadowbrook Investments Limited||Source of some of Benhammedi's money.|
|Ozlam Properties Limited||Source of some of Benhammedi's money.|
|Sanabel Relief Agency Limited||Alias SARA, a charity front by which LIFG transacted with other al-Qaeda components (including GICM) via its office in Kabul, prior to the fall of the Taliban.|
The "Summary of Evidence" from Mohammed Fenaitel Mohamed Al Daihani's Combatant Status Review Tribunal. states: "The Sanabal Charitable Committee is considered a fund raising front for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group."
In June 2011, all of the entities included in the table above were de-listed by the United Nations Security Council Committee.
Reconciliation and mass release of prisoners
In September 2009 a new "code" for jihad, a 417-page religious document entitled "Corrective Studies", was published after more than two years of intense and secret talks between incarcerated leaders of the LIFG and Libyan security officials.
On 9 April 2008, Al Jazeera reported that Libya released at least over 90 members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. The Italian press agency Adnkronos International reported the release was due to the efforts of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and leader of the charity Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations. It reported that a third of the LIFG members Libya was holding were released. A further 200 prisoners were released in March 2010, including group leader Abdelhakim Belhadj.
In January 2011 members of the group threatened a return to violence unless still imprisoned members were released.
Libyan civil war
In March 2011, members of the LIFG in Ajdabiya declared to the press that the group supports the revolt against Gaddafi's rule, and had placed themselves under the leadership of the National Transitional Council. They also stated that the group had changed its name to Libyan Islamic Movement (al-Harakat al-Islamiya al-Libiya), had around 500–600 militants released from jail in recent years, and denied any past or present affiliation with Al-Qaeda.
A leader of the LIFG, Abdelhakim Belhadj, became the commander of the Tripoli Military Council after the rebels took over Tripoli during the 2011 Battle of Tripoli. On March 2011, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, a leading member of the group, admit to the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore that his fighters had al-Qaeda links. Al-Hasidi was captured in 2002 in Peshwar, Pakistan, later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008. He admit in the same interview that he had earlier fought against "the foreign invasion" of Afghanistan.
In September 2011, Ismail Sallabi (a leader of LIFG) said in an interview to the Washington Post: “We want [Libyan Islamic Movement] to be a good government that comes from Islam, that respects human rights and personal freedoms,” “The Islamic way is not something dangerous or wrong. The West hears ‘Islamic law’ and they think we want to lock our women in boxes,” “The Islamic groups want a democratic country, and they want to go to the mosque without being arrested. They’re looking for freedom like everyone else.”
- "Islamic militant group pledges support to anti-Gadafi rebels". Irish Times. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2011. "We want to help take our country from the revolutionary stage to the stage of rebuilding the nation, says al-Madhouni. "At that point we will hand over our weapons, when the LNC demands it." ... The Libyan National Council says its vision is of a democratic Libya... "As long as this democracy is not against Islam, we will accept it. What we are looking for is a state that respects Islam as the religion of the people. Anything that goes against Islam, we will refuse it.""
- "Foreign Terrorist Organizations". United States Department of State. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- "Proscribed terrorist groups". Home Office. Retrieved 4 April 2012. – Terrorism Act 2000
- "QE.L.11.01. Libyan Islamic Fighting Group". United Nations Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
- ALAN RIMMER and DANIEL BOFFEY (12 April 2009). "Terror raid house owner's Al Qaeda links". Mail Online.
- "UN list of affiliates of al-Qaeda and the Taliban". Un.org. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
- "Foreign Terrorist Organizations – Multimedia Counterterrorism Calendar". Nctc.gov. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
- "Islamic militant group pledges support to anti-Gadafi rebels". Irish Times. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2011. "Both reject claims the LIFG has been affiliated with al-Qaeda, noting that the group refused to join the global Islamic front Osama bin Laden declared against the west in 1998."
- Gary Gambill (24 March 2005). "The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)". The Jamestown Foundation. Archived from the original on 18 July 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-14.
- US Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002
- "Libya: Scores of prisoners released from jail". Adkronos International. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-10. "The group was formed in the mid-1990s in Afghanistan by some veterans of the war against the Soviet forces."
- Ian Black, Middle East editor (5 September 2011). "The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – from al-Qaida to the Arab spring | World news | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
- David Blair (10 July 2009). "Extremist group announces split from al-Qaeda". London: The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
- Wanted: Atiyah Abd al Rahman, Rewards for Justice Program, US Department of State
- "Libyan Islamists 'join al-Qaeda'". BBC News. 3 November 2007.
- "Libya releases scores of prisoners". Al Jazeera. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
- New jihad code threatens al Qaeda, Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank, CNN, 10 November 2009
- Paul Cruikshank (8 June 2008). "How Muslim extremists are turning on Osama Bin Laden". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
- Abul Taher (8 June 2008). "Al-Qaeda: the cracks begin to show". London: The Times. Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 2008-06-09. "In November last year Noman Benotman, ex-head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which is trying to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, published a letter which asked Al-Qaeda to give up all its operations in the Islamic world and in the West, adding that ordinary westerners were blameless and should not be attacked."
- "Op-Ed: Al Qaeda Is Losing Support Among Jihadists". Digital Journal. 8 June 2008. Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
- http://www.akhbarlibya-english.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=29&Itemid=40[dead link]
- "Proscribed terrorist groups". UK Home Office. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
- "Financial Sanctions: Al-Qa'ida and Taliban". www.opensourcesinfo.org. 8 February 2006.
- "Al-Qaida accused 'linked to N-plant terror threat'". Liverpool Daily Post. 22 February 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-14.
- Treasury Designates UK-Based Individuals, Entities Financing Al Qaida-Affiliated LIFG, US State Department
- USMA Militant Ideology Atlas, p. 291
- "Assets frozen over al-Qaeda claim". BBC. 8 February 2006. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
- Summary of Evidence (.pdf) from pages 25–26 of Mohammed Fenaitel Mohamed Al Daihani's Combatant Status Review Tribunal
- Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee Approves Deletion of Eight Entries from Al-Qaida Sanctions List
- "Ex-Islamists walk free from Libyan jail". Reuters. 1 September 2010.
- Andy Worthington (2 September 2010). "Ex-Guantánamo prisoner freed in Libya after three years’ detention – and information about "ghost prisoners"". Cageprisoners.
- "اعضاء في الجماعة الليبية المقاتلة بالخارج تحذر السلطات من عودة العنف إلى ليبيا" [Members of the LIFG abroad warn Authorities of a return to violence in Libya] (in Arabic). London: Lighthouse Foundation Media. 12 January 2011.
- "Islamic militant group pledges support to anti-Gadafi rebels". Irish Times. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2011.
- Leila Fadel (14 September 2011) “Islamists emerge in force in new Libya”. Washington Post.