Libya to co-operate on terror links to al-Qaeda




By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent

Financial Times, 25 March 2004

The role of Libyan terrorists linked to al-Qaeda who had been active in Britain is expected to dominate the intelligence-sharing relationship that Libyan and British officials hope will expand rapidly as a result of Tony Blair’s visit to Tripoli.

Libya has been holding an unknown number of members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group for several years. Officials who have tracked the group’s activities say Britain had been used as a source of logistical support and that “there was active support for them in the UK”.

It is unclear how extensively activists linked to the LIFG are operating in Britain, and most north Africans arrested under terrorism legislation have been Algerian. But a senior security official said that the Libyans involved with other north African groups “have enormous credibility. They have the ability to be taken on immediately as they are trusted”.

Libya was the first country to issue an arrest warrant for the Osama bin Laden. The warrant was issued secretly through Interpol on April 15 1998 on the basis of charges of murder and the illegal possession of firearms in reference to the murder of two German tourists in Libya in 1994.

Security officials say the LIFG is a significant element in al-Qaeda and that the activists held in Libya are still likely to be a good source of information on the terrorist threat in Europe and north Africa.

“When you find a nest of terrorists you expect it to have Arabs, al-Qaeda and the LIFG,” said a western intelligence official. “The LIFG is a serious concern. If you want to move away from thinking about al-Qaeda and instead think about its constituent parts, you will find LIFG.”

The group emerged in Libya in spite of tough action by the regime of Muammer Gadaffi to crush the Islamist phenomenon in the 1970s. Its key goal until the 1990s was to overthrow one of the most secular regimes in the Arab world. The majority of LIFG activists have ties with other north African groups, particularly in Morocco, a regional security official said.

“The network of which the LIFG is seen as a part can probably support terrorist networks from as far east as Turkey and as far west as the UK,” said a senior intelligence official. The distinction between the Moroccan groups and the LIFG blurred in the late 1990s, he added.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.