Moussa Koussa

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Moussa Muhammad Koussa
Portrait of Moussa Koussa, made in September 2010
Koussa in September 2010
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Libya
In office
4 March 2009 – 30 March 2011
President Imbarek Shamekh
Abu Al-Quasim al-Zwai
Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi
Leader Muammar Gaddafi
Preceded by Abdel Rahman Shalgham
Succeeded by Abdelati Obeidi
Personal details
Born (1949-03-23) 23 March 1949 (age 66)
Tajura, Libya
Nationality Libyan
Alma mater Michigan State University
Religion Islam

Moussa Muhammad Koussa (Arabic: موسى كوسا‎, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈmusaˌkosa]; born 23 March 1949)[1] is a Libyan political figure and diplomat, who held several high-profile positions in the Libyan government, lastly as Minister of Foreign Affairs from March 2009, into the Libyan Civil War, when he resigned his position from the Gaddafi regime on 30 March 2011.[2]

Mr. Koussa previously headed the Libyan intelligence agency from 1994 to 2009, and was considered one of the country's most powerful figures. He arrived in the United Kingdom on 30 March 2011. Later the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office released an official statement saying that Koussa no longer wished to represent the Libyan government[3] and intended to resign.[2] He now lives in a small house in a suburb of Doha, Qatar, after being asked to leave his suite in Doha's luxurious Four Seasons hotel.[4] He was a member of Gaddafi's inner circle.[5]

“The Sultan… was condemned to endure a bizarre sort of apocalypse, a living nightmare so awful he couldn’t bear to rest his head on his pillow or close his eyes at any time of day or night for fear of dreaming a certain black dog (…) For years, the Sultan searches in vain for a cure for ceaseless visions of being mauled by a rabid black dog. One day, a “wise traveler” arrives with a warning and a solution (…). The 'wise man' might be intelligence head Musa Kusa.”

Ethan ChorinExit Gaddafi: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution, Saqi Books, 2012

Early life and Education[edit]

Born and raised in the Tripoli suburb of Tajura, Mr. Moussa had no significant tribal or other power base. He was one of the talented Libyans sent to the United States for master’s degrees. He attended Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, earning a degree in sociology in 1978 with a 200-plus pages study of Colonel Qaddafi.[6] As a student, according to those who taught him, Mr. Koussa took great care with his work, interviewing Gaddafi twice, his family, childhood teachers, friends, and military colleagues, allowing him to paint a vivid picture of the influences that motivated the young revolutionary. The brilliant master’s thesis caught Colonel Gaddafi’s eye and praise, and persuaded the Colonel to convince Mr. Koussa to abandon his academic plans and return to Libya. Few people knew Gaddafi's mind as well as Moussa Koussa, who, according to one of his professors, would have had a career in academia had he not abandoned plans to study for a doctorate to become one of Gaddafi’s closest confidants.[3][7][8]

Career in the Libyan government[edit]

After his return to Libya, Mr. Koussa worked as a security specialist for Libyan embassies in Northern Europe before being dispatched as Secretary of the Libyan People's Bureau in London in 1979. He was expelled from the United Kingdom in 1980, after commenting too candidly[9] in an interview with The Times newspaper about his government's intention to eliminate two political opponents, who were living in the UK.[10]

From 1984 to 1992, Moussa Koussa was then head of Al-Mathaba Aalamiya (meaning "The World Center"), an ideological anti-imperalist organization known in the West as Libya’s Center to Resist Imperialism, Racism, Backwardness and Fascism. The organization built on Mr Koussa’s diplomatic prestige, political weight and intellectual acumen. Its leading members included Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, Yoweri Museveni, and Robert Mugabe. Under his tenure, Al-Mathaba played a leading role with the African National Congress against apartheid in South Africa. Instead, the organization in the West became widely known as a sponsor of training, funding and support for revolutionary groups.

Moussa Koussa served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1992 to 1994. In 1994, Gadaffi fired Abdullah Senussi as head of Libyan intelligence agency and reorganized the organization under a newly formed External Security Organization (ESO), headed by Moussa Koussa from 1994 to 2009. During this phase he was the key figure in the normalization of relations between Libya and many NATO nations, including the United States and the United Kingdom. He played a crucial role in securing the release of alleged Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, as several legal experts as well as the UN observer at the Lockerbie trial have vehemently challenged the verdict that convicted Megrahi. In October 2008, Moussa Koussa met both British and Scottish government officials, listed as an interpreter, while in a second visit in January 2009, he was listed as Minister of Security.[10]

Mr. Koussa is also accredited for the expulsion of Abu Nidal from Libya. Koussa describes Abu Nidal as a ruthless murderer and terrorist that Gaddafi allowed to live in Libya in 1986, the year the United States launched Operation El Dorado Canyon against Gaddafi for his association and harboring of Abu Nidal.[11] On August 23, 2002, The BBC reported Abu Nidal 'behind Lockerbie bombing'.[12]

Under his tenure at the ESO, Koussa gained a reputation as an urbane and worldly figure “who would not have looked out of place as a Western ambassador,” according to the words of former Central Intelligence Agency agent Robert Pillar.[13]

Koussa is further accredited by the Central Intelligence Agency, British MI6, as well as French Intelligence Services for his unraveling of a labyrinth of Islamic radical and fundamentalist cells and movements, which would come to be known as Al-Qaeda, in neighboring Sudan, Niger, Mali, and Chad. On March 16, 1998, five months before the Al-Qaeda bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Libya ordered the first alert to the Interpol for the capture of Osama Bin Laden, a fact unbeknown to the wide public in the west.[14] The warrant was forwarded to Interpol in France, where it was formalized on April 15, 1998.

Secretary Clinton shakes hands with Libyan Foreign Minister Kousa
Moussa Koussa with Hillary Clinton in 2010

In 2004, George Tenet credits Libya for issuing the first international red notice interpol alert and arrest warrant for Osama Bin Laden, in 1998.[15] Koussa was also credited for ending the case against Libya for Pan Am 103 and negotiated Libya's decision into giving up its WMD program thus reintegrating Libya back into the International community.[12] US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks reveal that the U.S. views Moussa Koussa a character of high interest who embodies a combination of intellectual acumen, operational ability, and political weight [16] Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Tripoli states Koussa is "straightforward and reliable". "I found him a perfectly reasonable person to deal with."[17][18]

Koussa was appointed Foreign Minister in 2009, replacing Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, who was appointed Libyan ambassador to the United Nations in New York. In the May 2009 cable released by Wikileaks, Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa expressed concerns over the The Harper Government with U.S. envoy to Libya Gene Cretz. There had been eight kidnappings in the past six months, including two Canadian officials who have been released in return for ransom payments. Moussa Koussa raised a formal complaint on the decision by The Harper Government[19] over concerns such decisions would allow Al-Qaeda in gaining traction in the Saharan belt and parts of north Africa. Similar actions were to be considered unacceptable as they would serve to further boost the terror group's strength in Niger,[20] where a 1989 bombing of a passenger plane occurred while UTA Flight 772 flying over its air space, resulting in the death of 170 people.[21]

Mr. Koussa accompanied Mutassim Gaddafi on a visit to New York soon after Libya emerged from international isolation. A U.S. embassy cable quoted Koussa, in a private conversation, as saying that Mutassim was not a keen student of international relations and had to be prompted to read books on the subject. Before the Libya crisis, there were indications that Mr Koussa was no longer at the center of the country's ruling circle. There had been unconfirmed reports of a physical altercation between him and one of Gaddafi's sons. At an international summit in Tripoli in December, Mr Koussa spent much of his time smoking in the public buffet area while the rest of Gaddafi's entourage were cloistered in a private room [22]

Departure and resignation[edit]

 Moussa Koussa at a press conference in 2011
Moussa Koussa at a press conference in 2011

After departing Tripoli by car and arriving in Tunis, Tunisia, on 28 March 2011, via the Ras Ajdir border crossing, a Tunisian Government spokesman stated via Tunis Afrique Presse that Koussa had arrived on a "private visit."[23] On 30 March 2011, he departed from Djerba on a Swiss-registered private jet, arriving at Farnborough Airfield, England, according to Libyan sources on a diplomatic mission.[24] The Foreign and Commonwealth Office later released an official press statement, stating that Koussa no longer wished to represent the Libyan government and intended to resign,[2][3][8][25] unhappy with Libyan Army attacks on civilians.

Scottish prosecutors interviewed Koussa about the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people.[26] At the time, Koussa was a leading member of Al-Mathaba.[27]

Koussa left the United Kingdom and moved to Qatar following a European Union decision to lift sanctions against him, meaning he no longer faces travel restrictions or an asset freeze.[28] Moussa Koussa's role in the torture and deaths of Libyan people was alleged by the BBC television Panorama program (broadcast on 24/10/2011). Koussa issued a statement to the press through his lawyer, strongly refuting the allegations.[29][30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beaumont, Peter (31 March 2011). "Profile: Moussa Koussa". The Guardian (London). 
  2. ^ a b c Press release (30 March 2011). "Foreign Office Statement on Musa Kusa". Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa Flees to UK". BBC News. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  4. ^ "Qaddafi's spymaster takes a walk". Doha. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  5. ^ Inside Gaddafi's inner circle – Africa. Al Jazeera English. (2011-02-27). Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  6. ^ "Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa's defection surprises Gaddafi, was he an MI6 agent all along?". 
  7. ^ Wright, Robin (21 July 1991). "Pair Emerge as Key Suspects in Libyan Terror". LA Times. Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Harding, Thomas; Winnett, Robert (30 March 2011). "Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa defects to Britain". Telegraph (London). Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  9. ^ "Sanctions Are Dropped Against Libyan Defector". NY Times. 5 April 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Bloxham, Andy; McElroy, Damien (30 March 2011). "Profile: Moussa Koussa, the Lockerbie Spymaster Who Defected". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ "Sanctions Are Dropped Against Libyan Defector". 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Old Arab Ties May Harm New Ones". NY Times. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Carrell, Severin. "Moussa Koussa could know truth about Lockerbie bombing, say campaigners". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-04-19. 
  18. ^ "The Global Intelligence Files - LIBYA - A Profile of Musa Kusa: From Envoy of Death to Gaddafi defector". Retrieved 2015-04-19. 
  19. ^ "Ransom paid for Canadian diplomats, leaked cable suggests". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-04-19. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Libyan FM Visits Tunisia". Xinhua News Agency. 28 March 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  24. ^ "Libya Formin Has Not Defected – Govt Spokesman". Reuters. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  25. ^ "Libyan Foreign Minister Defects – UK Foreign Ministry Says Moussa Koussa Has Arrived in the UK After Resigning from His Post". Al Jazeera English. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011. 
  26. ^ Lockerbie probe police meet Kusa – UK, Local & National. (2011-04-08). Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  27. ^ "Koussa Lockerbie interview sought by prosecutors". BBC News. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  28. ^ Moussa Koussa denies Libya torture alleged on BBC Panorama. The Guardian. 26 October 2011
  29. ^ "Musa Kusa full statement on Lockerbie", STV, 26 October 2011.
  30. ^ "Musa Kusa full statement on Lockerbie". STV News. Retrieved 2015-04-19. 

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Head of the Libyan Intelligence Agency
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Abdel Rahman Shalgham
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Libya
Succeeded by
Abdel Ati al-Obeidi