London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Talks began around two years between the Libyan state and the imprisoned leaders of the Islamic fighting group. This has resulted in the release of over 100 members of the group incarcerated in Busalim Jail after denouncing the group’s ideology and from taking up arms against the regime. A final round of the dialogue was reportedly held recently between the group and the state, under the auspices of the Al- Gaddafi Development Foundation which is headed by Saif-al-Islam, the son of the Libyan leader.
Most importantly concerning this dialogue round, it has been announced that revisions of the ideology and convictions of the fighting group will soon be made public. These revisions are similar to those made by the Islamic groups in Egypt, namely the Islamic Group and the Jihad Group: The Islamic Group’s initiative to halt violence in 1997, and the document on rationalization of Jihadist action by Sheikh Sayyid Imam in 2007.
Asharq Al-Awsat received a statement from Al-Maqrizi Centre, which is run by the Egyptian Islamic figure Hani al-Siba’i, saying that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is about to appear on a satellite television channel to announce its revisions, which are similar to those made by Dr Sayyid Imam in Egypt. The fundamentalists’ statement quotes Islamists held in Busalim Jail in Tripoli as saying that a meeting is due to be held on 1 August between the group and the government to discuss ways of announcing the revisions on a satellite television channel.
The fundamentalists’ statement points out that, meanwhile, the conditions inside the jail in question have gradually improved and local magazines such as Qurina, Oya and Al-Shams are now allowed in. Also, the authorities have allowed the introduction of a television set for each Libyan television channel, prolonged visiting time, and permitted some prisoners to benefit from the lawful privacy allowing them to be on their own with their wives for some time [Al-Khalwah in Islamic law]. Prisoners are now also allowed to buy some food such as honey and olive oil with their own money through the prison management.
The statement indicates that the prison harbors several groups including 30 to 40 Salafis, about seven zealots that consider everybody as non-believers, and members of the Salafia Jihadia who form a majority and are divided into two groups. There are also a large number of young men who were arrested in Syria. They are Libyans and they were about to cross into Iraq when they were arrested, as well as some brothers who were arrested either in Algeria or at the Libyan borders while on their way to Algeria. The total number of prisoners is about 1,500.
The dialogue inside the jail is supervised by Abu-Abdullah al-Sadiq, the amir of the group, Abu-Mundhir al-Sa’idi who is the lawful representative of the group and author of the book entitled: “Broadlines of the Islamic Fighting Group’s Methodology,” and other jailed leaders of the group.
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group was formed in Libya after the return of the Libyan Afghans from the war against the Russians in Afghanistan in 1990. It worked in secrecy with the aim of toppling the Al-Gaddafi regime and establishing an Islamic state in Libya. However, the Libyan authorities discovered the group in 1995, and the latter came out of clandestine action. From then on armed clashes continued with the regime until 1999 when Al- Gaddafi announced the elimination of the group.
Al-Maqrizi Centre has quoted a Libyan prisoner, who was held in Busalim Jail in Tripoli and is now released, as saying: “The dialogue began approximately in 2005 or 2006 but nothing transpired; the group’s leadership kept silent about this matter, even with their affiliates, because the government was looking for leaders of the group, namely Abdul-Wahab Qaid [Abu-Idris], who is the brother of Abu-Yahya al-Libi, and Al-Dawudi (Abdul-Ghaffar).”