Tuesday 9th of August 2022

NATO knew terrorists would gain from toppling gaddafi……..

 

Britain’s military knew that fighters from an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization were benefiting from the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, but continued to support NATO airstrikes in Libya for another two months.

The revelation raises serious questions about British foreign policy and whether the U.K.’s then Prime Minister David Cameron misled Parliament. 

In early September 2011, Cameron updated the House of Commons about the situation in Libya, telling MPs: 

“This revolution was not about extreme Islamism; Al-Qaeda played no part in it.”

However, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) had assessed the month before that: “The 17 February Brigade is likely to be an enduring player in [the] transition” away from Gaddafi’s regime and had “political linkages” to Libya’s rebel leadership, the National Transitional Council.

 

by Phil Miller

 

The 17 February Brigade, also known as the 17 February Martyrs Brigade, was a hardline Islamist militia named after the date the uprising began against Gaddafi. Its ranks included Salman Abedi, who went on to murder 22 innocent people in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in 2017.

The MOD assessment said, “Many 17th February Brigade fighters have affiliations with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, such as the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change (formerly LIFG).”

The LIFG, or Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was banned by Britain in 2005 as a terrorist organization over its links to Al Qaeda. Its supporters included the Manchester bomber’s father, Ramadan Abedi. The organization rebranded to the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change during the 2011 war.

Although the LIFG’s leadership renounced ties to Al Qaeda as part of a prisoner release deal it made with Gaddafi shortly before the 2011 uprising, many of its members continued to hold violent Islamist views. It was not until 2019 that the ban was lifted on the LIFG in the U.K.

 

Misleading Parliament?

The MOD has only released a portion of its assessment to Declassified following a freedom of information request. It is not clear whether the intelligence was shared at the time with ministers.

Dr. Liam Fox, who was defence secretary during the war, told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in 2016: “I do not recall reading any reports that set out the background of any Islamist activity to specific rebel groups.”

Fox was responding to a question from the committee about whether he was aware that members of the LIFG were participating in the rebellion. 

Lord William Hague, who was foreign secretary, told the committee: “Libyan leaders themselves did not have a deeper understanding of what was happening in their own country” and so “it is probably wrong to expect somebody sitting in the backrooms of the Foreign Office or Vauxhall Cross [MI6 headquarters] to know better than they did.”

General Sir David Richards, Britain’s top military officer during the intervention, said Whitehall’s knowledge about the extent of LIFG involvement in the rebellion “was a grey area.” He told the committee “in a perfect world, we would have known it all” and that “we were suspicious and beginning to build up our understanding during the campaign.”

Richards had argued internally for pauses during the bombing campaign to allow for negotiations, but Cameron overruled him.

The former defence chief told Declassified he was concerned that this particular assessment was not shown to him at the time.

“Given my well-known hostility to regime change in Libya, I am certain that my outer office staff would have brought this to my attention if they had seen it,” Richards commented.

“I suspect it remained within Defence Intelligence as one of many sometimes contradictory reports. The report’s importance was also probably not properly understood at the time.”

Defence Intelligence is a branch of the MOD that gathers and analyses information relevant to conflicts.

 

Failed State

The MOD assessment was compiled sometime in August 2011, when rebels led by former LIFG commander Abdul Hakim Belhaj captured Libya’s capital Tripoli. That operation relied heavily on NATO air power and planning. 

Ian Martin, the U.N.’s top official in Libya at the time, has said British attack helicopters were “pivotal … in supporting the final assault on Tripoli”, and that U.K. special forces accompanied and advised a rebel commander throughout the advance.

Although NATO’s U.N. mandate allowed it only to protect civilians, the alliance continued attacking Gaddafi’s forces until the end of October 2011, two months after the fall of Tripoli. Gaddafi was lynched by rebels in his hometown of Sirte on Oct. 20.

By destroying Libyan government forces, rather than seek a ceasefire and negotiated settlement, as the African Union proposed, NATO helped create a power vacuum in the country.

Elections were held in 2012, at which Islamists failed to win a majority and instead used their militias to maintain political influence. Libya then descended into a failed state, as rival militias vied for control.

The chaos created a safe haven for international terrorism, with Al Qaeda’s Libyan branch Ansar al Sharia and the so-called Islamic State group setting up camps in the country.

Among those fighting with Ansar al Sharia in 2011-12 was Khairi Saadallah, a child soldier who several years later went on to murder three men in a park in Reading. Attacks on Western tourists in Tunisia in 2015, that killed 60 people, were also linked to a terrorist base in Libya.

More than a decade after NATO’s intervention, Libya is split between rival governments and run by militias. A recent survey by The Economist found that Tripoli was one of the worst capital cities in the world to live in.

An MOD spokesperson told Declassified:

“Throughout 2011, the U.K. government was responding to a rapidly changing and volatile situation in Libya and sought to make timely decisions to protect Libyan civilians and U.K. national security. All U.K. military action was taken in accordance with the United Nations mandate to protect civilians.

“Assessments of the different actors in Libya in 2011 were produced as standard by the MoD. These were routinely made available to ministers and senior officials.”

David Cameron, Liam Fox, William Hague and former Home Secretary Theresa May did not respond to requests for comment.

    Phil Miller

Phil Miller is Declassified UK’s chief reporter. He is the author of Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away With War Crimes. Follow him on Twitter at @pmillerinfo

 

 

READ MORE:

https://scheerpost.com/2022/06/30/nato-knew-terrorists-would-gain-from-toppling-gaddafi/

 

 

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By Peter Oborne
Declassified UK

 

Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 a number of people —  including then MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller — warned it would make the streets of Britain more dangerous.

These warnings were ignored by Prime Minister Tony Blair. Even when MI5’s prophecy was proven tragically accurate with the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, Blair (who did not pass it on to the British people) continued to deny the link with British foreign policy. 

Yet the 7/7 bombers themselves had made the connection explicit in videotaped statements that were released posthumously.

Blair refused to call an independent inquiry, calling it a “ludicrous diversion”.

When David Cameron became prime minister in 2010, he commissioned Lady Justice Hallett to hold a coroner’s inquest. She focused on the emergency response and the role of domestic counter-terrorism, ignoring the foreign policy dimension.

It is fair to say that after 7/7 the British state chose not to investigate the link between foreign adventurism in Afghanistan and Iraq and terrorism at home. 

On May 22, 2017, Salman Abedi walked into a pop concert at the Manchester Arena and detonated a home-made bomb, killing 23 people (including himself) and injuring more than 1,000 others. This was the worst terrorist atrocity since 7/7 and, as with that attack, the link to British foreign policy is compelling. 

Abedi came from a family of Libyan exiles. Significantly, his father Ramadan was a supporter of the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), whose militants were among those supported by Nato when it moved against Gaddafi in the 2011 Libya war.

In 2011 Salman Abedi probably fought alongside his father with Islamist militias. Thereafter Salman spent a great deal of time in Libya, where he may have learnt the techniques he used to such deadly effect at the Manchester Arena. 

[Related: Why Americans Were Never Told Why They Were Attacked]

Grave Question

The great mystery is whether Sir John Saunders, the chair of the public inquiry, will answer the grave question which was evaded after 7/7: did innocent citizens pay a blood price for British foreign policy? Or to put it another way: was the British state a part of the apparatus of terror which killed 22 innocent people in Manchester?

Thus far this question has been obscured or ignored. There’s been a lively media campaign to demonize the blameless local mosque where Salman Abedi sometimes worshipped, while Sir John Saunders devoted several months to examining the peripheral security at the Manchester Arena. 

Though he could hardly avoid the subject altogether, Sir John has shown less interest in the domestic impact of British foreign policy. 

Hence the importance of this week’s unique investigation by Declassified UK.

Sifting through evidence presented to the inquiry, while drawing on material elsewhere, Declassified has painted by far the most detailed picture yet of the Manchester bomber: his early life as part of the small Manchester community of Libyan exiles; his shambolic early career; his drift into minor crime and above all his Libyan connections.

As a result, it is fair to say that far more is now known about the personal history, ideological motivation and wider connections of Salman Abedi than any other British suicide bomber. 

“The Manchester bomber and his closest family” spells out the Declassified investigation, “were part of Islamist militia forces covertly supported by the British military and Nato in the Libyan war of 2011.”

Or to quote Pete Weatherby, one of the lawyers for the bombing victims, in testimony to the inquiry, “It is highly likely that [Salman Abedi] had a baptism of violence by exposure to the 2011 uprising.”

 

 

Traveled Freely

Declassified highlights the astonishing fact that the British authorities allowed Salman Abedi to travel freely to and from Libya in the years running up to the Manchester atrocity. At no point was Abedi stopped and questioned on his way in or out of Britain. 

Yet he was in Libya during key periods of 2014, when Islamic State (IS) emerged as a potent force in the country and spent much of the summer of 2016 there too, at a time when IS was running training camps and planning attacks on Europe.

This makes it bewildering that Sir John Saunders failed to call either the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) or Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)  to his inquiry for questioning. 

There have been repeated reports that MI6 may have encouraged Libyan radicals from Manchester to join the military campaign against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Why not ask them? 

Later on, MI6 – and GCHQ – surely took an interest in the coming and goings of the Abedis as terror groups competed for control of post-revolutionary Libya. Sir John Saunders didn’t think this avenue was worth exploring either.

To be fair, Sir John did call an MI5 officer — known to the court as “Witness J” — who turned out to be a bland corporate tool with no operational knowledge of the Libya file. 

Lawyers for the families asked the right questions. Was Ramadan Abedi connected to the LIFG? Witness J refused to say. What about Salman Abedi’s astonishing rescue by the British navy in 2014? No answer. 

Lone Wolves?

MI5 told the inquiry Salman Abedi and his brother Hashem, who is already serving a 55-year jail sentence for his role as an accomplice, were the only people involved in the plot. 

This paints them as “lone wolves” who radicalized themselves: Pete Weatherby has written that this “is inconsistent with the evidence.” 

One can understand the institutional justification for such a position: it absolves MI5 of responsibility. 

But the bombing took place during the politically sensitive time of a British general election, and feels like part of a pattern of Islamic State-planned atrocities then causing carnage across Europe. 

It was carried out by someone who had recently returned from Libya where he had ample opportunity to spend time with Islamic State. One likes to think MI5 officers possess a lively intelligence. If true, it’s hard to believe they really think the Abedis were acting on their own. 

If that is their judgement they need to explain why.

There are powerful reasons to regard both the 7/7 bombings and the Manchester Arena atrocity as different versions of blowback. The 7/7 bombers never had dealings with the British state. Put crudely, they were acting out of revenge for the Iraq invasion. 

The Abedi family is more complicated. The suspicion is that they were radicalized courtesy of the British state, as agents of a British foreign policy intervention which went horribly wrong both abroad and at home. 

Sir John Saunders might care to reflect as he writes his report that his job is not to salvage reputations. It’s to learn the correct lessons so that similar tragedies can be avoided in future.

The British government deliberately ignored the hard lessons from 7/7. We need to learn the right lessons from the Manchester Arena.

Peter Oborne is a columnist for Middle East Eye. His new book – The Assault on Truth: Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Emergence of a New Moral Barbarism – will be published by Simon & Schuster.

This article is from Declassified UK.

 

 

 

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

 

READ MORE:

https://consortiumnews.com/2022/07/01/is-there-a-price-in-blood-for-british-foreign-policy/

 

 

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