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In return for their pledge of cooperation, Seif al-Islam freed over 850 prisoners linked to Islamic terror groups from Libyan prisons, including three of the LIFG’s top leaders: Abdullah Sadeeq; Abu Mundhir al Saadi; and Abu Hazem.
The LIFG conversion was supposedly sparked by their release of a long religious document called the Corrective Studies, which read in part: “Jihad has ethics and morals because it is for God. That means it is forbidden to kill women, children, elderly people, priests, messengers, traders and the like. Betrayal is prohibited, and it is vital to keep promises and treat prisoners of war in a good way. Standing by those ethics is what distinguishes Muslims’ jihad from the wars of other nations.”
However, many jihadist critics of the LIFG’s actions argued that the Corrective Studies lacked any legitimacy because it was authored under prison duress. In either case, the ramifications of this wholesale prisoner release now have far greater implications. According to one US intelligence official: “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an affiliate of al-Qaeda that has now seen dozens if not hundreds of cadres freed from jail in Benghazi, now poses a threat to the entire region.”
Now, as the Libyan regime disintegrates, the LIFG has gone back on the jihad, reportedly merging with Al Qaeda in North Africa (AQIM). AQIM, which evolved from the Algerian militant group Salafist Group for Preaching Combat (GSPC) has been responsible for over 800 terrorist attacks in the Sahel-Maghreb region of North Africa.
AQIM’s goal is the creation of an Islamist state that includes the North African nations of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya — as well as al-Andalus, the parts of the Iberian Peninsula governed by Muslims in medieval times. In addition to its merger with AQIM, LIFG, according to the Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor, has reaffirmed its allegiance to al-Qaeda.
For Gadhafi, to find himself in the crosshairs of Islamic militants is a disturbing irony in that he was once himself a staunch promoter of worldwide Islamic revolution, evidenced by his creation of the Islamic Legion in 1972.
However, when he became the target of an assassination attempt by LIFG members in 1993, his Islamic revolutionary fervor was replaced by a greater concern over his own safety.
Gadhafi’s new commitment to his own security became clear after 9/11. For all his past anti-American, anti-Western terrorist actions, he soon found himself in alliance with the Bush administration’s War on Terror. In October 2002, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahman Chalgam even admitted that his government had closely consulted with the United States on counterterrorism. More telling, perhaps, was Gadhafi’s own website which posted “The phenomenon of terrorism is not a matter of concern to the U. S. alone. It is a concern for the whole world.”
For the Libyan people, their concern lies much closer to home. While they struggle to replace one tyrannical leader, an equal if not greater threat waits in the wings. The attack in Derna was just a reminder of its deadly presence.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com
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