Monday, May 9, 2011

Libyan Leader Qaddhafi First to Demand Arrest Warrant for Osama bin Laden

The following passage is contained in chapter 10 of Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for bin Laden (2002), by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, translated by Lucy Rounds with Peter Fifield and Nicholas Greenslade.

"The first Interpol arrest warrant against Osama bin Laden was actually issued on April 15, 1998, at the request of Libya's Ministry of the Interior.  Judicial authorities in Tripoli first filed an international warrant for his arrest, numbered 127288/1998, on March 16, 1998, at Interpol headquarters in Lyon.  The international policing organization followed up on the proceedings by issuing its own warrant one month later to police around the world.  This official document proves that two years after the attack against American military installations in Dharan, the United States was still not openly pursuing Osama bin Laden, even though he was considered the principal suspect in the attack; had called for a fatwa against the West and America on February 28, 1998; and was involved, according to the United States, in the attack against the World Trade Center in February 1993.  The individual identified by the State Department in 1996 as "one of the most significant financial sponsors worldwide of extremist Islamic activity" was not being sought after by American judicial authorities.

"According to Libya, the charges justifying this warrant date back to the murder of two German nationals on March 10, 1994--a detail no less surprising than the others, and one that reopened an old case.  The victims were Silvan Becker and his wife, Vera, German secret service agents in charge of missions in Africa and of anti-terrorism efforts.  They were working for the Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz (Office for Constitutional Protection), one of the three German intelligence agencies.  Never before had the names of the Beckers been revealed.  Interpol and all the Western judicial authorities had known since April 1998 that Osama bin Laden was responsible, however, and theoretically they should have been doing everything in their power to stop him.  Even worse, the Interpol document proves that two years after the attack against American military installations in Dharan, the United States was not the nation that was openly going after Osama bin Laden.  Yet he had already issued a fatwa against America and the West.

"Why was Colonel Qaddhafi's government the only one tracking down Osama bin Laden?  Had not the Libyan leader himself supported international terrorism?  It's not quite so simple.  Answers to all of these questions are closely linked to the history of Libya and Great Britain.

Qaddhafi in '69
"On September 1, 1969, a group of progressive young Libyan officers seized power from King Idriss Senussi while he was enjoying himself at a spa in Turkey.  London was immediately enraged, for the Senussi monarchy had been Great Britain's protege.  The world was suddenly introduced to the young but determined face of Muammar el-Qaddhafi, who at the time was twenty-eight years old.  Though he would later show a penchant for dictatorial methods, in the first hours of his reign he concentrated on redistributing the country's wealth and following through with the long-overdue economic decolonization.  He immediately nationalized the oil industry, first and foremost the sites controlled by British Petroleum, owner of the majority of the country's oil fields.  Starting in February 1970, the British Secret Intelligence Service made it a priority to oust Qaddhafi, while the British treasury froze Libyan government assets in London (32 million pounds were frozen).

"Lacking local support and sometimes luck as well, Britain launched several operations, all of which failed miserably, as former senior SAS officer George Campbell-Johnson would confirm much later.  But what did it matter, when a war of attrition had begun between London and Tripoli--one that never really ended.  For this reason, in time, Great Britain found friends in Qaddhafi's enemies--especially in the radical religious movements, which saw Qaddhafi as too moderate and adhering to an Islam that was too lax.  One of these movements has gotten recent attention: the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which appeared on the White House and Justice Department's list of twenty-seven suspect organizations after the September 11 attacks.  Jama al-Islamiya al-Muqatila, its Arabic name, is a group of Libyan Islamic combatants, and one of the longest-standing supporters of Osama bin Laden.  Its main operational leader, Anas the Libyan, is one of bin Laden's close aids.

"From the early 1990s, al-Muqatila [Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] mobilized "Afghani-Libyans," that is to say, former Mujahedeen apprentices who had been recruited by various Muslim Brotherhood offices to fight in Afghanistan with the help of Saudi dollars and American Stinger missiles.  After the war, about 2,500 of these religious soldiers from Libya formed a radical movement with the intention of establishing itself in its native country.  The group's goal was clear: members would establish themselves within the Libyan community in order to take control of the government in Tripoli.  After the Cold War, as so many others had done, they installed their rear guard in Sudan and pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, who seemed from afar to be the most successful of all the fundamentalist leaders.

"Bin Laden followed the group's cause with great interest, and also gave them support.  Starting in 1993, he even imagined settling down in their country.  Located between Algeria, where Islamist forces were growing, and Egypt, where the Jamaa and Islamic Jihad still had strong networks, Libya seemed the most natural place to set up Al Qaeda's central headquarters.  Details contained in the Interpol document even prove that the terrorist lived there--in the small city of Jabala-larde, not far from Benghazi, in the eastern part of the country.  There, bin Laden was on Arab soil.  Even better, since Qaddhafi was ostracized from other nations, he did not receive foreign aid.  On the contrary.  Former British secret service agent David Shayler, positioned at the North African branch of the British secret service (MI5), revealed that MI5 had organized an operation to assassinate Qaddhafi, in November 1996--with the support of al-Muqatila combatants.  The failed operation was meant to attack Qaddhafi's motorcade during an official trip.

"During this period, and at least up until 1996, the British secret service, which depends upon the Foreign Office but is supervised by the prime minister, worked in cooperation with Osama bin Laden's main allies.  Now it's easy to understand why the Interpol documents remained for so long in the archives, where no one could get at them.  And this collaboration was not just occasional, since al-Muqatila's liaison bulletin Al-Fajr, is published in London by an important figure in the radical Sunni community, Said Mansour.

"Because Osama bin Laden was aggressively targeting Qaddhafi while at the same time his al-Muqatila brothers were receiving support from London, Libyan security authorities were the first to really pursue bin Laden.  This was during a period when he was of use to many different states, from the banks of the Tamise to the desert outskirts of Riyadh.

"The irony in this game of bluff came in the end of September 2001, when the head of Libya's intelligence agency, Musa Kusa, went to London to share important information with his counterparts at MI6.  It was a gift that demanded a return favor: he handed over a list of a dozen names of al-Muqatila members living in London, whom his authorities would very much like to get their hands on."