Al Qaeda sends fighters to Libya
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri personally dispatched a veteran Al Qaeda fighter to Libya earlier this year.
December 30th, 2011
04:17 AM ET

Al Qaeda sends fighters to Libya

By Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank

Al Qaeda's leadership has sent experienced jihadists to Libya in an effort to build a fighting force there, according to a Libyan source briefed by Western counter-terrorism officials.

The jihadists include one veteran fighter who had been detained in Britain on suspicion of terrorism. The source describes him as committed to al Qaeda's global cause and to attacking U.S. interests.

The source told CNN that the al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, personally dispatched the former British detainee to Libya earlier this year as the Gadhafi regime lost control of large swathes of the country.

The man arrived in Libya in May and has since begun recruiting fighters in the eastern region of the country, near the Egyptian border. He now has some 200 fighters mobilized, the source added. Western intelligence agencies are aware of his activities, according to the source.

Another al Qaeda operative, of dual European-Libyan nationality, was arrested in an unnamed country on his way to Libya from the Afghan-Pakistan border region.

The individual now trying to establish a bridgehead for al Qaeda in Libya is known as "AA." His name has not been made public because of UK law on terrorist suspects who are detained but not charged.

"AA" has been close to Ayman al-Zawahiri since the 1980s and first traveled to Afghanistan in the early 1990s to join mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation - as did hundreds of Arab fighters.

"AA" later moved to the United Kingdom, where he began spreading al Qaeda's ideology to younger Muslims. He was an admirer of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who emerged as leader of al Qaeda in Iraq after the U.S. invasion and who led an especially brutal campaign that targeted civilians and promoted sectarian hatred between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

After the terrorist attacks in London in July 2005, heightened concern about terrorist activities in the UK led to the arrest of a number of Libyans resident in England.

"AA" was detained under what was termed a "control order," a mechanism used to detain terrorist suspects - usually under home arrest - without charging them. Control orders have been used in dozens of cases where the government does not want to reveal evidence in court for fear of compromising security sources. Those subject to control orders are not named by authorities.

"AA" also spent some time in Belmarsh high-security jail in the UK in 2006-07, possibly because he was seen as a flight-risk. It is also possible, according to the source, that he was resisting legal moves to have him deported to Libya. At the time, relations between the Gadhafi regime and the United Kingdom were improving, and Libyan authorities were seeking the deportation of opponents.

At some point the control order lapsed, and "AA" left Britain late in 2009 and went back to the Afghan-Pakistan border area - taking two teenagers with him. One was subsequently killed.

Western intelligence agencies have voiced concern in public and privately about the potential for Islamist extremists and especially al Qaeda to gain a foothold in Libya.

The al Qaeda leadership has included several Libyans - among them Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was killed in August, and Abu Yahya al-Libi.

In a video message to fellow Libyans distributed on jihadist forums earlier this month, al-Libi said: "At this crossroads you have found yourselves, you either choose a secular regime that pleases the greedy crocodiles of the West and for them to use it as a means to fulfill their goals, or you take a strong position and establish the religion of Allah."

Militant groups have long had a presence in eastern Libya, even if they were ruthlessly suppressed by the Gadhafi regime. Al Qaeda documents discovered in Iraq in 2006 showed that many of the fighters who had joined the insurgency had come from eastern Libya.

And a U.S. diplomatic cable from 2008 - published this year by WikiLeaks - told of support for extremist Islamist views in the town of Derna, which is close to where "AA" has established a presence.

Entitled "Die Hard in Derna" the cable describes the town as a "wellspring of Libyan foreign fighters" for al Qaeda in Iraq.

The diplomat who traveled to Derna quoted a local businessman who had "likened young men in the town to Bruce Willis' character in the action picture 'Die Hard,' who stubbornly refused to die quietly. For them, resistance against coalition forces in Iraq is an important act of 'jihad' and a last act of defiance against the Gadhafi regime."

High youth unemployment, discrimination by the Gadhafi regime and the influence of veteran Libyan jihadists from Afghanistan all played a role in radicalizing a new generation.

"It's jihad - it's our duty, and you're talking about people who don't have much else to be proud of," the businessman said.

CNN's Tim Lister contributed to this report.

Filed under: Al Qaeda • Libya • Terrorism
soundoff (53 Responses)
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  14. Mike

    Why can the U.S. never get it right the first time. First Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya. We always have to go in a 2nd time. I guess we have to kick some more Libyan jihad ass.

    January 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  15. James

    "Al Qaeda sends fighters to Libya"
    Surprise-Surprise !!–And the Blood Bath continues–

    January 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Reply
  16. Lisa

    Love him or hate him, Gaddafi was the best thing for Libya. He kept Al Qeada and islamic terrorist out of Libya. The Libyan people are going to regret turning on Gaddafi. Is the U.S in cahoots with Al Qaeda?

    January 2, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Reply
    • faye

      yes he was at war with them

      January 18, 2012 at 11:06 am | Reply
  17. Mr Raygor

    With this aAb spring it seems that dictators are being replaced by what may turn out to be an Arab surge. Lock n load....

    January 2, 2012 at 1:41 am | Reply
  18. keb carerra

    Look what happens when you decide to cooperate with the US and give up your nukes.
    Anybody see the report about the ship Thor Liberty with 69 Patriot missiles on board for South Korea , seized in Finland?
    This is a big deal but I don't seem to find it in the "free" press .

    January 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Reply
  19. Ted Wilson

    Go Al Qaeda! Just keep showing the whole world what islam is all about: bombs, death, misery, hatred, murder, hell on earth essentially.

    December 31, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Reply
    • Bobby

      Thank you USA/NATO for killing Gaddafi and bringing Al-Qaeda to Libya. Isn't thgis the main reason why you toppled the Gaddafi Government and killed him and his family? I sometimes wonder who is working in cahoots with Al-Qaeda and who is AL Qaeda partnering with? No Al Qeda in Afganistan till the Americans armed the Mujahideen to fight Russia. No Al Qaeda during Saddam's time but soon after. Same in Libya!!! Didn't Gadddafi tell us so? NATO /USA is making a fool of the whole world.

      January 2, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Reply
    • Bobby

      It is Christains who are in working in cahoots with Al-Qaeda. What proof do you need?

      January 2, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Reply
    • John C.

      Bobby, you do know that Gaddafi:

      Gaddafi supported militant organizations that held anti-Western sympathies around the world.[174] The Foreign Minister of Libya called the massacres "heroic acts".[175] Gaddafi fueled a number of Islamist and communist militant groups in the Philippines, including the New People's Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The country still struggles with their murders and kidnappings.[71][176][177] In Indonesia, the Organisasi Papua Merdeka was a Libyan backed militant group. Vanuatu's ruling party also enjoyed Libyan support. In Australia he attempted to radicalize Australian Aborigines, left-wing unions,[178] Arab Australians,[178] against the "imperialist" government of Australia.[78][78] In the United Kingdom he financed the Workers Revolutionary Party.[178][179]

      In 1979, Gaddafi said he supported the Iranian Revolution, and hoped that "...he (the Shah) ends up in the hands of the Iranian people, where he deserves."[180] Gaddafi also financed and supported Nelson Mandela[159] and his African National Congress party,[161] who had for a long time been wrongly designated as terrorists by the United States up until 2008.[181][182]

      Gaddafi explicitly stated that it "is the Libyan people's responsibility to liquidate" Libyan dissidents that had escaped from Libya, unless they "repent" and return to the Libyan Jamahiriya, raising tensions with refugee countries and European governments. In 1985, he stated that he would continue to support the Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), as long as European countries supported anti-Gaddafi Libyans.[113] In 1976, after a series of attacks by the IRA, Gaddafi announced that "the bombs which are convulsing Britain and breaking its spirit are the bombs of Libyan people. We have sent them to the Irish revolutionaries so that the British will pay the price for their past deeds".[113] In April 1984 some Libyan refugees in London protested the execution of two dissidents. Libyan diplomats shot at 11 people and killed Yvonne Fletcher, a British policewoman. The incident led to the cessation of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Libya for over a decade.[183] In June 1984 Gaddafi asserted that he wanted his agents to assassinate dissident refugees even when they were on pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca and, in August that year, a Libyan plot in Mecca was thwarted by Saudi Arabian police.[80]

      On 5 April 1986 Libyan agents bombed "La Belle" nightclub in West Berlin, killing three and injuring 229. Gaddafi's plan was intercepted by Western intelligence and more detailed information was retrieved four years later from Stasi archives. The Libyan agents who had carried out the operation, from the Libyan embassy in East Germany, were prosecuted by the reunited Germany in the 1990s.[184]

      Following the 1986 bombing of Libya, Gaddafi intensified his support for anti-American government organizations. He financed the Nation of Islam, which emerged as one of the leading organizations receiving assistance from Libya; and Al-Rukn, in their emergence as an indigenous anti-American armed revolutionary movement.[185] Members of Al-Rukn were arrested in 1986 for preparing to conduct strikes on behalf of Libya, including blowing up U.S. government buildings and bringing down an airplane; the Al-Rukn defendants were convicted in 1987 of "offering to commit bombings and assassinations on U.S. soil for Libyan payment."[185] In 1986, Libyan state television announced that Libya was training suicide squads to attack American and European interests. He began financing the IRA again in 1986, to retaliate against the British for harboring American fighter planes.[186]

      Gaddafi also sought close relations with the Soviet Union and purchased arms from the Soviet bloc.

      January 3, 2012 at 1:52 am | Reply
    • James


      January 3, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  20. John smith

    AQ in Libya yes of course this is not shocking at all, my question is what took CNN so long? AQ has been there for a long time, since the beginning of the conflict. If you look back at Al Jazzera coverage of the fall of Sirte you can clearly see Jihadist flags in the background, these are the same flags we see in AQ propaganda. The Quilliam Foundation (a think tank based in the UK focused on countering violent extremism) produced a paper entitled “The Jihadist Threat in Libya” when compared against most other reference materials it appears one of the most credible and well put together documents concerning the potential for Al Qaeda to establish a network in Libya. Noman Benotman a co-author of this paper is a Libyan and a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). He highlights that Al Qaeda has always desired to create a network in Libya and that this was and remains a strategic objective of Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s main strategist. The author’s perspective is that it is highly likely that AQ’s leadership in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region will continue to attempt to use the international community’s intervention in Libya to inspire the creation of an indigenous Libyan AQ affiliate. The authors state that Libyans associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are now operating in Libya and that AQIM has increased its propaganda efforts to influence the Libyan population. According to the authors the LIFG is completely disbanded and no longer functions as a network since most former members have renounced extremist Islam. The paper also highlights that although some former members of LIFG are fighting for the opposition the LIFG does not exist as an organization and therefore has no role in the conflict. The authors do not discount that former LIFG members may cooperate with AQ or AQIM entities in Libya. Also mentioned is the phenomenon of inspired individual jihadists, the authors acknowledge that Libyans from eastern Libya such as the town of Dahrna were among those that traveled to Iraq after answering the call of Jihad. They further identify that AQ propaganda may radicalize some members of the population towards support for Jihad. Freedom of movement is another issue cited by the authors, they highlight the lack of pressure on Islamists as allowing them the chance to organize. Further the authors recognize that AQ is able to gain access and is benefiting from the uncontrolled stockpiles of weapons in Libya. The authors suggest that AQ may develop as a clandestine network in Libya that initially might not conduct overt attacks instead working to undermine democratic governments. Again CNN why aren't you seeing this?

    December 31, 2011 at 8:49 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      The whole "Arab Spring" was instigated by Jihadists from the start. That is why all this "pro-democratic protesters" crap from mass media was so laughable. They kept repeating "sugar" as long as they could. Now comes the time for "reveal". Big surprise indeed!
      Now US trying that tool on Russia. Creating an angry mob using twitter and facebook indeed is no expense. But they would rather be careful. That cheap may come at the price.

      January 2, 2012 at 12:52 am | Reply
  21. Edward

    This entity is controlled by JEWISH terrorists.

    December 31, 2011 at 6:37 am | Reply
    • Bobby

      Totally agree with you!! It is very easy to see who is looing and gaining becuase of AL Qaeda= American created =Jewish Managed + CIA sponsored organization

      January 2, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Reply
  22. riskability

    a little sample of al Qaeda is a huge meal , a feast .. like the anthrax sample Colin Powell show the world at the UN summit , it worth the life of 4500 US troops & one million Iraqis, trillions of dollars & generations of Iraqis to suffer if any left , how could we know when MSM coverage of al Qaeda hotel in Guantanamo is a million times bigger than Abu Ghraib.
    that's HUGE ,the Donald J. Trump say it , and south park spell it the Truth it's all made in rotten London : al Qaeda, al Jazeera, Bin Laden, Zawahiri, Qaradawi : political Islam

    December 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Reply
  23. shabir

    In Iraq they said they hav the weapons of mass destruction,in Afganstan they hav Alqeada in their country similarly in Somalia,in Pakistan now it is turn of Libya as everyone know that libya is rich in natural resources espeacially in Oil production.i thing what is happening with Muslim Uma moreso we as Muslim r responsible.we as muslims doesn't hav unity we love the world rather then we hav thing we hav 1Allah 1Kalima 1Nabi Saw we have mak Muslims instead Shai's r Suni i request to all Muslim countries just make your defence so strong that no one even dare to touch youur borders.just spend much more money on defence rather then any other then.

    December 30, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  24. Justcause2012

    Looks like nato has to send in ground soldiers exterminate the alqeada forces in Libya since NTC will not, or wait, maybe the NTC is alqeda and we have to triple cross them..

    December 30, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Reply
  25. Justcause2012

    Al Qeada... oh noes!

    December 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Reply
  26. evil

    evil evil evil that what libyan muslims are.

    December 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • Chad

      I really LOVE how you make ALL of the people in Libya evil you truly are s disgusting person

      December 30, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Reply
      • Peter North

        Fuck you.

        December 31, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Bobby

      eveil,eveilevil is NATO/USA mass mudereres of innocent people in Libya and creator of AL qaeda.

      January 2, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Reply
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    December 30, 2011 at 11:19 am | Reply
  28. dreamer96

    Like the PLO, and Hamas, before them, Al Qaeda will turn itself into a political party and pledge to stop the terrorist attacks...and like China and the new Russia they will take up Capitalism and setup a chain of Mc Donalds in the Middle-East;

    Arab family pulls into an Al Qaeda owned McDonalds drive through in the Middle-East and orders two Death to America burgers, two large Coke a cola blood of the infidels drinks and two happy Jihad meals for the kids, with the self exploding suicide bomber toys, and two small Sunkist juice of Allah drinks ...Just another day in the Middle-East...As they leave the traditional American car blows up with fake flames and sound effects....the kids go ooh and laugh...and the car resets for the next customer..

    As they pull onto the street the Parents wave at their Jewish neighbors pulling out across the street from the Wailing Wall Wendy's drive through...the kids in each car wave they new toys and laugh....and the Parents turn on their favorite radio talk show..Good Morning Jihadist...and life goes on...

    December 30, 2011 at 10:00 am | Reply

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