Moussa Koussa

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Moussa Muhammad El-haj Nemr 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
Prime MinisterBaghdadi Mahmudi
LeaderMuammar Gaddafi
Preceded byAbdel Rahman Shalgham
Succeeded byAbdelati Obeidi
Personal details
Tajura, Libya
Alma materMichigan State University

Moussa Muhammad El-Haj Nemr Koussa (Arabic: موسى كوسا, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈmusaˌkosa]; born 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 on 30 March 2011.[2]

Koussa previously headed the Mukhabarat el-Jamahiriya (national intelligence agency) from 1994 to 2009, and was considered one of the country's most powerful figures and a member of Gaddafi's inner circle.[3] When he arrived in the United Kingdom in March 2011, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office released an official statement saying that Koussa no longer wished to represent the Libyan government[4] and intended to resign.[2] No charges were pressed against him by the British government, and in the following months financial sanctions on him were lifted by the Obama administration. 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.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Koussa was born in the Tripoli suburb of Tajura[citation needed] into a well-respected middle-class family with no significant tribal or other power base. 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 titled "The political leader and his social background: Muammar Qadafi, the Libyan leader".[dubious ] Koussa was offered the chance to continue to study for a doctorate but instead returned to Tripoli. As a student, 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 and motivations of Gaddafi's revolutionary visions in his thesis, which may be the most comprehensive, revealing document in English about Libya's enigmatic leader. According to his thesis adviser, Christopher K. Vanderpool, Moussa Koussa would have had a promising career in academia had he not abandoned plans to study for a doctorate to become one of Gaddafi's closest confidants.[4][6][7] His passion for academia and teaching was so deep-rooted that he taught at the University of Tripoli for decades, even while serving the Libyan government in different roles.

Chief of Intelligence and diplomat[edit]

After his return to Libya, Koussa was appointed 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[8] in an interview with The Times newspaper about his government's intention to eliminate two political opponents who were living in the UK.[9]

From 1984 to 1992, Moussa Koussa was head of Al-Mathaba Aalamiya (meaning "The Safe house/place"), an ideological anti-imperialist organization known in the West as Libya's Center to Resist Imperialism, Racism, Backwardness and Fascism. Its leading members included Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Luiz 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 source of training, funding, and supporting revolutionary groups.

Moussa Koussa served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1992 to 1994. In 1994, Gadafi fired Abdullah Senussi as head of the Libyan intelligence agency and reorganized the agency under a newly formed External Security Organization (ESO), headed by Moussa Koussa from 1994 to 2009. During this phase Moussa Koussa 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 Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the alleged Pan Am Flight 103 bomber, whose involvement in the story is quite controversial. Several legal experts as well as the UN observer at the Lockerbie trial have vehemently challenged the verdict that convicted Megrahi. Koussa is also credited for the expulsion of Abu Nidal from Libya, whom he describes 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 terrorists.[10] On 23 August 2002, the BBC reported that Abu Nidal was 'behind Lockerbie bombing'.[11] In October 2008, Moussa Koussa, listed as an interpreter, met both British and Scottish government officials, while on a second visit in January 2009, he was listed as Minister of Security.[9]

In 2004, he allegedly played a leading role in the failed assassination plot against Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.[12]

Over the decades, 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 former Central Intelligence Agency agent Paul R. Pillar.[13]

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

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

In 2004, George Tenet credited Libya for issuing the first international red notice Interpol alert and arrest warrant for Osama bin Laden.[15] Koussa was also credited for negotiating Libya's decision to give up its WMD program, thus facilitating Libya's reintegration into the international community.[11] Leaked US diplomatic cables reveal that the U.S. viewed Moussa Koussa as a character of high interest with a combination of intellectual acumen, operational ability, and political weight.[16] Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Tripoli, stated Koussa is "straightforward and reliable ... I found him a perfectly reasonable person to deal with."[17][18] Another leaked cable described him as "a useful and powerful interlocutor who has been mostly cooperative in liaison channels and key to our re-engagement."[19]

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, Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa expressed concerns about the Canadian Government led by Stephen Harper over the issue of ransom payments, which would only further strengthen Al-Qaeda's traction in the Saharan belt and parts of North Africa. There had been eight kidnappings in the past six months, including two Canadian officials who had been released in return for money.[20]

Koussa accompanied Mutassim Gaddafi on a visit to the United Nations headquarters in 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 Koussa was no longer at the center of the country's ruling circle. He was held responsible for the defection of Nuri Mesmari to France in October 2010 and his passport was allegedly confiscated by Gaddafi.[21] At an international summit in Tripoli in December 2010, 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

Koussa, accompanied by his deputy Abdul Ati al-Obeidi,[23] departed Tripoli by car and arrived 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."[24] On 30 March 2011, Koussa departed from Djerba on a Swiss-registered private jet, while Obeidi returned to Tripoli. Koussa arrived at Farnborough Airfield, England, according to Libyan sources on a diplomatic mission.[25] 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][4][7][26] unhappy with Libyan Army attacks on civilians.

Scottish prosecutors interviewed Koussa about the Lockerbie bombing, and found no judicial reason or evidence to hold him in captivity.[27] At the time, Koussa was a leading member of Al-Mathaba.[28]

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.[29] Moussa Koussa's role in the torture and deaths of Libyan people was alleged by the BBC Television Panorama programme in October 2011, after which Koussa issued a statement to the press through his lawyer, strongly denying the allegations.[30][31]

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. ^ Inside Gaddafi's inner circle – Africa. Al Jazeera English. (2011-02-27). Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  4. ^ a b c "Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa Flees to UK". BBC News. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Qaddafi's spymaster takes a walk". Doha. 6 February 2012. Archived from the original on 21 May 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  6. ^ Wright, Robin (21 July 1991). "Pair Emerge as Key Suspects in Libyan Terror". LA Times. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  7. ^ a b Harding, Thomas; Winnett, Robert (30 March 2011). "Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa defects to Britain". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  8. ^ Shane, Scott (5 April 2011). "Sanctions Are Dropped Against Libyan Defector". New York Times. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  9. ^ a b Bloxham, Andy; McElroy, Damien (30 March 2011). "Profile: Moussa Koussa, the Lockerbie Spymaster Who Defected". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  10. ^ Barkham, Patrick (7 April 1999). "Lockerbie conspiracies: from A to Z". The Guardian.
  11. ^ a b "Abu Nidal 'behind Lockerbie bombing'". BBC News. 23 August 2002.
  12. ^ "'UAE ruler's friend' ran Libyan plot to kill Saudi crown prince". Middle East Eye édition française (in French). Retrieved 4 February 2023.
  13. ^ Shane, Scott (5 April 2011). "Sanctions Are Dropped Against Libyan Defector". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 February 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Mazzetti, Mark; Shane, Scott (17 March 2011). "Old Arab Ties May Harm New Ones". New York Times. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  16. ^ Hopkins, Nick; Black, Ian; Carrell, Severin; Norton-Taylor, Richard (31 March 2011). "Moussa Koussa's defection surprises Libya – and maybe Britain too". Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  17. ^ Carrell, Severin. "Moussa Koussa could know truth about Lockerbie bombing, say campaigners". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  18. ^ Al-awsat, Asharq. "Middle-east Arab News Opinion". (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 21 September 2022.
  19. ^ "Factbox: Who is Moussa Koussa?". Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  20. ^ "Ransom paid for Canadian diplomats, leaked cable suggests". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 23 August 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  21. ^ "LIBYA : Mesmari Affair Could Unseat Kussa - 02/12/2010 - Maghreb Confidential". Africa Intelligence. 2 December 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2023.
  22. ^ "Libya: Moussa Koussa resigns – factbox". The Daily Telegraph. London. 30 March 2011.
  23. ^ "Gaddafi's deputy foreign minister flies to Athens with peace proposal". the Guardian. 3 April 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2023.
  24. ^ "Libyan FM Visits Tunisia". Xinhua News Agency. 28 March 2011. Archived from the original on 30 March 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  25. ^ "Libya Formin Has Not Defected – Govt Spokesman". Reuters. 30 March 2011. Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  26. ^ "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.
  27. ^ Lockerbie probe police meet Kusa – UK, Local & National[permanent dead link]. (2011-04-08). Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  28. ^ "Koussa Lockerbie interview sought by prosecutors". BBC News. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  29. ^ Moussa Koussa denies Libya torture alleged on BBC Panorama. The Guardian. 26 October 2011
  30. ^ "Musa Kusa full statement on Lockerbie" Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, STV, 26 October 2011.
  31. ^ "Musa Kusa full statement on Lockerbie". STV News. Archived from the original on 27 April 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Head of the Libyan Intelligence Agency
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Libya
Succeeded by