Libyan Islamic Fighting Group

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Libyan Fighting Group (Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya)
Leader(s)Abdelhakim Belhadj
Dates of operation1995–2017
MotivesOverthrow Muammar Gaddafi and to establish an Islamic state.[1]
Active region(s) Libya
IdeologySalafi jihadism
StatusUnited States Delisted as Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department[2]
United Kingdom Designated as Proscribed Group by the UK Home Office[3]
United Nations Sanctioned by the UN 1267 Committee.[4]
Means of revenueMohammed Benhammedi[5]
Sanabal Charitable Committee

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), also known as Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya (Arabic: الجماعة الإسلامية المقاتلة بليبيا‎), was an armed Islamist group. Militants participated in the 2011 Libyan Civil War as the Libyan Islamic Movement (al-Harakat al-Islamiya al-Libiya), and are involved in the Libyan Civil War as members of the Libya Shield Force. Alleged militants include alleged Al Qaeda organizer Abd al-Muhsin Al-Libi who now holds a key command position in the Libya Shield Force.

In the 2011 civil war, members claim to have played a key role in deposing Muammar Gaddafi. The force was part of the National Transitional Council.

However the organisation has a troubled history being under pressure from Muammar Gaddafi and shortly after the 9–11 attacks, LIFG was banned worldwide (as an affiliate of al-Qaeda) by the UN 1267 Committee.[4][6] Listed at the Foreign Terrorist Organizations,[7] the group has denied ever being affiliated with al-Qaeda, stating that it refused to join the global Islamic front Osama bin Laden declared against the west in 1998.[8]


LIFG was founded in 1995 by Libyans who had fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. It aims to establish an Islamic state in Libya and views the Gaddafi regime as oppressive, and anti-Muslim, according to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. LIFG claimed responsibility for a failed assassination attempt against Gaddafi in February 1996, which was in part funded by MI6 according to David Shayler, and engaged Libyan security forces in armed clashes during the mid-to-late 1990s.[9] They continue to target Libyan interests and may engage in sporadic clashes with Libyan security forces.[10]

Adnkronos International reported that the group was founded in Afghanistan by Abu Laith Al Libi and other veterans of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.[11]

Relationship with al Qaeda[edit]

The LIFG links to Al-Qaeda hail from Afghanistan, where hundreds joined Al-Qaeda. High ranking LIFG operatives inside Al-Qaeda, are the leader of the insurgency Abdel-Hakim Belhadj (also known as Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq), and the recently killed Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was killed in a CIA drone strike, and Al-Qaeda's Abu Yahya al-Libi.[12]

The Telegraph reported that senior Al Qaeda members Abu Yahya al-Libi and Abu Laith al-Libi were LIFG members.[13] One of al-Qaeda's most senior members, Atiyah Abdul-Rahman, was purportedly a member of LIFG as well.[14]

In an audio message published in November 2007 Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Laith al-Libi claimed that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group had joined al-Qaeda.[11][15][16] "Benotman fired back an open letter to Zawahiri questioning his credibility. "I questioned their idea of jihad ... directly you know. This is crazy, it is not Islamic and it's against the Sunni understanding of Islam," Benotman told CNN. Zawahiri chose not to respond. As late as this August Zawahiri's video statements included praise of LIFG leaders, in what may have been a desperate attempt to head off the condemnation he could see coming."[17]

In November 2007 Noman Benotman, described as the "ex-head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group", published on open letter to al-Qaeda.[18][19][20] According to The Times:[19]

In November last year Noman Benotman, ex-head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which is trying to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, published a letter which asked Al-Qaeda to give up all its operations in the Islamic world and in the West, adding that ordinary westerners were blameless and should not be attacked.

Noman Benotman's letter to Zawahiri was published in Akhbar Libya (News) as an op-ed clarification in November 2007. The gist is that al-Qaeda's efforts have been counterproductive and used as "subterfuge" by some Western countries to extend their regional ambitions. These comments were first aired at a meeting in Kandahar in the summer of 2000.[21]

On 10 July 2009, The Telegraph reported that some member organisations of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group had split with Al Qaeda.[13]

UK Terrorism Act 2000[edit]

On 10 October 2005, the United Kingdom's Home Office banned LIFG and fourteen other militant groups from operating in the UK. Under the United Kingdom's Terrorism Act 2000, being a member of a LIFG is punishable with a 10-year prison term.[22] The Financial Sanctions Unit of the Bank of England acting on behalf of HM Treasury issued the orders to freeze all their assets.[23] Mohammed Benhammedi lived and worked in Liverpool at the time of the UN sanction against him. Sergey Zakurko, the father to his Lithuanian mistress was suspended from his job at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) for fear that the link could pose a security threat.[24]

UN-embargoed LIFG affiliates and their subsequent de-listing[edit]

On 7 February 2006 the UN embargoed five specific LIFG members and four corporations, all of whom had continued to operate in England until at least October 2005. Those nine are in the following table; the accusations are according to the US State Department.[25]

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Faqih عبد الرحمن الفقيه Possibly the same person as the jihadist writer Abdul-Rahman Hasan.[26] Wanted in Morocco in connection with the mass murders of 16 May 2003 in Casablanca. Al-Faqih was convicted in 2006 of possessing documents related to terrorism.[27]
Ghuma Abd'rabbah غومه عبد الرباح Trustee of the Sanabel terrorist charity, by which he transferred money and travel documents to terrorists abroad.
Abdulbaqi Mohammed Khaled عبد الباقي محمد خالد Trustee of the Sanabel terrorist charity; GIA affiliate.
Mohammed Benhammedi محمد بن حامدي Financier of LIFG.
Tahir Nasuf طاهر ناصف Previously of the Libyan GIA circle in the UK. He denied any relation with the LIFG.[27][failed verification] Nasuf was removed from the UN list 1267 list a few years later, at the British government's request.[28]
Sara Properties Limited Source of some of Benhammedi's money.
Meadowbrook Investments Limited Source of some of Benhammedi's money.
Ozlam Properties Limited Source of some of Benhammedi's money.
Sanabel Relief Agency Limited Alias SARA, a charity front by which LIFG transacted with other al-Qaeda components (including GICM) via its office in Kabul, prior to the fall of the Taliban.

Al-Faqih, Nasuf, and a third man appealed being listed.[29][30][31] Their appeal went all the way to the European Union's Court, which ordered the UK to delist the men, and return their passports.

The "Summary of Evidence" from Mohammed Fenaitel Mohamed Al Daihani's Combatant Status Review Tribunal. states: "The Sanabal Charitable Committee is considered a fund raising front for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group."[32]

In June 2011, all of the entities included in the table above were de-listed by the United Nations Security Council Committee.[33]

Reconciliation and mass release of prisoners[edit]

In September 2009 a new "code" for jihad, a 417-page religious document entitled "Corrective Studies", was published after more than two years of intense and secret talks between incarcerated leaders of the LIFG and Libyan security officials.

On 9 April 2008, Al Jazeera reported that Libya released at least over 90 members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.[11][16] The Italian press agency Adnkronos International reported the release was due to the efforts of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and leader of the charity Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations. It reported that a third of the LIFG members Libya was holding were released. A further 200 prisoners were released in March 2010, including group leader Abdelhakim Belhadj.[34][35]

In January 2011 members of the group threatened a return to violence unless still imprisoned members were released.[36]

Libyan Civil War[edit]

In March 2011, members of the LIFG in Ajdabiya declared to the press that the group supports the revolt against Gaddafi's rule, and had placed themselves under the leadership of the National Transitional Council. They also stated that the group had changed its name to Libyan Islamic Movement (al-Harakat al-Islamiya al-Libiya), had around 500–600 militants released from jail in recent years, and denied any past or present affiliation with Al-Qaeda.[37]

A leader of the LIFG, Abdelhakim Belhadj, became the commander of the Tripoli Military Council after the rebels took over Tripoli during the 2011 Battle of Tripoli. On March 2011, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, a leading member of the group, admit to the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore that his fighters had al-Qaeda links.[38] Al-Hasidi was captured in 2002 in Peshwar, Pakistan, later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008. He admit in the same interview that he had earlier fought against "the foreign invasion" of Afghanistan.[38]

In September 2011, Ismail Sallabi (a leader of LIFG) said in an interview to the Washington Post: "We want [Libyan Islamic Movement] to be a good government that comes from Islam, that respects human rights and personal freedoms," "The Islamic way is not something dangerous or wrong. The West hears 'Islamic law' and they think we want to lock our women in boxes," "The Islamic groups want a democratic country, and they want to go to the mosque without being arrested. They're looking for freedom like everyone else."[39]

Foreign relations[edit]

Designation as a terrorist organization[edit]

Countries and organizations below have officially listed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group as a terrorist organization.

Country Date References
 United Kingdom October 2005 [40]
 United States 17 December 2004 (until 9 December 2015) [41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Islamic militant group pledges support to anti-Gadafi rebels". Irish Times. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2011. We want to help take our country from the revolutionary stage to the stage of rebuilding the nation, says al-Madhouni. "At that point we will hand over our weapons, when the LNC demands it." ... The Libyan National Council says its vision is of a democratic Libya... "As long as this democracy is not against Islam, we will accept it. What we are looking for is a state that respects Islam as the religion of the people. Anything that goes against Islam, we will refuse it."
  2. ^ "Foreign Terrorist Organizations". United States Department of State. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  3. ^ "Proscribed terrorist groups". Home Office. Retrieved 4 April 2012. – Terrorism Act 2000
  4. ^ a b "QE.L.11.01. Libyan Islamic Fighting Group". United Nations Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  5. ^ ALAN RIMMER and DANIEL BOFFEY (12 April 2009). "Terror raid house owner's Al Qaeda links". Mail Online.
  6. ^ "UN list of affiliates of al-Qaeda and the Taliban". Un.org. Archived from the original on 28 July 2006. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  7. ^ "Foreign Terrorist Organizations – Multimedia Counterterrorism Calendar". Nctc.gov. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  8. ^ "Islamic militant group pledges support to anti-Gadafi rebels". Irish Times. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2011. Both reject claims the LIFG has been affiliated with al-Qaeda, noting that the group refused to join the global Islamic front Osama bin Laden declared against the west in 1998.
  9. ^ Gary Gambill (24 March 2005). "The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)". The Jamestown Foundation. Archived from the original on 18 July 2006. Retrieved 14 August 2006.
  10. ^ US Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002
  11. ^ a b c "Libya: Scores of prisoners released from jail". Adkronos International. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 10 April 2008. The group was formed in the mid-1990s in Afghanistan by some veterans of the war against the Soviet forces.
  12. ^ Ian Black, Middle East editor (5 September 2011). "The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – from al-Qaida to the Arab spring | World news | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2011.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  13. ^ a b David Blair (10 July 2009). "Extremist group announces split from al-Qaeda". London: The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 July 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  14. ^ Wanted: Atiyah Abd al Rahman Archived 11 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Rewards for Justice Program, US Department of State
  15. ^ "Libyan Islamists 'join al-Qaeda'". BBC News. 3 November 2007.
  16. ^ a b "Libya releases scores of prisoners". Al Jazeera. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
  17. ^ New jihad code threatens al Qaeda, Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank, CNN, 10 November 2009
  18. ^ Paul Cruikshank (8 June 2008). "How Muslim extremists are turning on Osama Bin Laden". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2008.
  19. ^ a b Abul Taher (8 June 2008). "Al-Qaeda: the cracks begin to show". London: The Times. Archived from the original on 7 October 2008. Retrieved 9 June 2008. In November last year Noman Benotman, ex-head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which is trying to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, published a letter which asked Al-Qaeda to give up all its operations in the Islamic world and in the West, adding that ordinary westerners were blameless and should not be attacked.
  20. ^ "Op-Ed: Al Qaeda Is Losing Support Among Jihadists". Digital Journal. 8 June 2008. Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2008.
  21. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20081014195654/http://www.akhbarlibya-english.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=29&Itemid=40. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2008. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ "Proscribed terrorist groups". UK Home Office. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  23. ^ "Financial Sanctions: Al-Qa'ida and Taliban". www.opensourcesinfo.org. 8 February 2006.
  24. ^ "Al-Qaida accused 'linked to N-plant terror threat'". Liverpool Daily Post. 22 February 2006. Retrieved 14 August 2006.
  25. ^ Treasury Designates UK-Based Individuals, Entities Financing Al Qaida-Affiliated LIFG Archived 25 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine, US State Department
  26. ^ USMA Militant Ideology Atlas Archived 25 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine, p. 291
  27. ^ a b "Libyan jailed on terror charges". BBC News. 17 July 2007. Archived from the original on 5 October 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2014. Al Bashir Mohammed al Faqih, 47, of Hall Green, Birmingham, admitting possessing documents on how to make explosives and set up a terror cell.
  28. ^ "Uncorrected Evidence -". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  29. ^ "Case T-134/11 before the General Court - Al-Bashir Mohammed Al-Faqih, Ghunia Abdrabbah, Taher Nasuf, Sanabel Relief Agency Ltd v. European Commission - Intervention by the Council" (PDF). European Union. 16 June 2011. Archived from the original on 30 January 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  30. ^ "Al-Bashir Mohammed Al-Faqih and others v Council of the European Union (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland intervening)". European Union. 29 September 2010. Archived from the original on 2 April 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  31. ^ "Wrong to give passport back to 'terror suspect' says MP". Manchester Evening News. 8 October 2010. Archived from the original on 30 January 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014. Last week the European Court of Justice ordered the British government to overturn the decision. Ministers are currently considering whether to appeal.
  32. ^ "News from The Associated Press" (PDF). Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  33. ^ Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee Approves Deletion of Eight Entries from Al-Qaida Sanctions List
  34. ^ "Ex-Islamists walk free from Libyan jail". Reuters. 1 September 2010.
  35. ^ Andy Worthington (2 September 2010). "Ex-Guantánamo prisoner freed in Libya after three years' detention – and information about "ghost prisoners"". Cageprisoners.
  36. ^ اعضاء في الجماعة الليبية المقاتلة بالخارج تحذر السلطات من عودة العنف إلى ليبيا [Members of the LIFG abroad warn Authorities of a return to violence in Libya] (in Arabic). London: Lighthouse Foundation Media. 12 January 2011.
  37. ^ "Islamic militant group pledges support to anti-Gadafi rebels". Irish Times. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2011.
  38. ^ a b Swami, Praveen (25 March 2011). "Libyan rebel commander (Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi) admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
  39. ^ Leila Fadel (14 September 2011) “Islamists emerge in force in new Libya”. Washington Post.
  40. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 August 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  41. ^ "Foreign Terrorist Organizations". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 7 February 2017.

External links[edit]