London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Leaders of the Libyan “Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyah al-Muqatilah” [The Islamic Fighting Group] are close to reaching an ideological consensus that condemns armed violence, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.
The new developments are taking shape as talks are held in the BuSalim Prison in Tripoli between Libyan authorities and the leaders of the Islamic Fighting Group. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Numan Bin-Uthman, the former leader of the group disclosed the names of several leaders of the Islamic Fighting Group that participated in the current dialogue until his last visit to the BuSalim Prison last week.
These leaders include Abdullah al-Sadiq, AKA Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, the “amir” of the group (who was arrested in Tailand in 2004); Al-Sadiq’s assistant Abu-Hazim, AKA Khalid al-Sharif (who was detained in the Bagram Prison and handed over to Libya two years ago by the Americans); Abu-al-Mundhir, AKA Sami al-Sa’di, the official in charge of Shariaa in the group (arrested in Hong Kong in 2004); Sheikh Miftah al-Duwwadi, alias Abdul-Ghaffar; Abdul Wahab Qayid Idris, the older brother of Abu-Yahya al-Libi, the Al-Qaeda leader who is at large in the border strip; and Mustafa Qanfid, AKA Abu-al-Zubayr, the military official of the Islamic Fighting Group.
Numan Bin-Uthman, the former leader of the Islamic Fighting Group, fought alongside other Arab fighters in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In the1990s, he traveled between Iran, Pakistan, and Sudan before eventually settling in London. In his statement, he stressed that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group has practically come to an end at this time and has no actual presence any more on Libyan soil or abroad. In the 1990s, the Islamic Fighting Group had a large base of hundreds of armed fighters in Libya that plotted to overthrow the ruling regime and replace it with an Islamic state. It is known that over the past two years, dialogue sessions have been held between the two sides that resulted in the release of one-third of the group’s members. The Al-Qadhafi Foundation for Development, headed by Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, is playing a prominent role in these contacts. It has recently sought the assistance of a former leader of the Islamic Fighting Group to move matters forward by providing him with direct contact with the jailed leaders.
Asharq Al-Awsat has learned that Abdullah al-Sadiq, the amir of the Fighting Group who is held in BuSalim Prison with the Al-Qaeda leaders sent a written message a few days ago to Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi thanking him for the initiative of opening a dialogue with the Libyan Islamists regardless of the outcome. Numan Uthman, who fought against the Russians in Afghanistan, said: “I have been a party to these contacts from the beginning at the request of the Al-Qadhafi Foundation for Development and directly through Engineer Saif al-Islam as well as at the request of the imprisoned leaders of the group, specifically the group’s amir Abdullah al-Sadiq, deputy amir Abu-Hazim, and Sheikh Abu-Mundhir al-Saidi, the official in charge of Shariaa. Bin-Uthman described the dialogue with the leaders of the Fighting Group as a new approach by the state that was strongly opposed to the fundamentalists after some members of the Fighting Group participated in an attempt to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi. He said that what is exciting in the matter is that the one in charge of the dialogue is Engineer Saif al-Islam, the son of the colonel himself. Bin-Uthman revealed that he personally met with some elements inside the BuSalim Prison that were wearing a red overall, in other words, they have sentenced to execution. He said that the jurisprudential review includes a re-diagnosis of reality, especially in light of what he described as “the American onslaught on the Islamic world while focusing on the importance of preserving security and stability in Libya”. He revealed that the released fundamentalist members of the Fighting Group “have been given 10,000dinars each to start a new decent life and 300 dinars each in immediate assistance from the Prison Administration on the day they were released”. The dialogue sessions are a new blow to the leaders of Al-Qaeda and to Bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri who had announced the joining of the Fighting Group to Al-Qaeda and who is personally in charge of the Libyan members in the organization. Numan Bin-Uthman also revealed that his imprisoned comrades in the Fighting Group asked him to convey a message to a number of Libyan activists abroad to inform them about the dialogue they are holding with the Libyan security authorities and also to consult them in any decision they may take. It is believed that this is the first time that the leaders of the Islamic Fighting Group try to involve their comrades abroad in their contacts with the Libyan authorities, particularly since some of them -led by Abu-Yahya al-Libi – are commanding known armed groups that are fighting against the US forces in Afghanistan. It is known that Abu-Yahya was one of four Arab prisoners in the Bagram Prison that managed to escape in 2005.
In a 20-minute video clip, Abu-Yahya threatened the United States, saying “We will rub America’s nose in the dust. Either we live in dignity or our fate would be the gardens of paradise”. What is known about Muhammad Hassan Qayid (Abu-Yahya al-Libi) is that he is in his mid-thirties and has two nicknames Abu-Yahya al-Libi and Yunus al-Sahrawi. He studied Islamic Shariaa and jurisprudence in Mauritania and then joined the ranks of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in Afghanistan. He is the author of “Al-Ijma Fi Al-Shariaa al-Islamiyah”[Consensus in Islamic Shariaa]. He was detained after the US military operation in Afghanistan in 2001.
He said that the Libyan security authorities are holding the imprisoned leaders of the Fighting Group responsible for the actions of the group’s elements abroad, particularly if these actions are related to Libya’s security. He adds, however, that the subject of the participation of Libyans in the fight against the Americans alongside the Taliban movement was not raised in the dialogue sessions between the two sides. He added that he believes that the Libyan security authorities are more interested in any action against Libya, such as attempts to rebuild the cells of the Islamic Fighting Group or re-establishing contacts with its supporters inside Libya. The Libyan Islamist stressed that “the leaders of the Islamic Fighting Group in prison insist on saying that no one has the right to talk on its behalf or about its opinions. He said that “the Libyan security organs are in agreement on one basic point; namely, preventing or ending any threat to the security of the state either through dialogue or the authority of the law or by force”.
He added: “Actually, it was the Al-Qadhafi Foundation for Development that took the decision and embarked on the initiative. I sensed that myself since I am directly involved in the case. However, had it not been for the personal involvement of Saif al-Islam, the dialogue would not have begun and the foundation is eager to proceed with it”.
Bin-Uthman also revealed that Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda organization, used to refuse carrying out any operations inside Libya or against its ruling regime. He considered Al-Qadhafi as the best ally against the Americans. Bin Laden preferred to have Libya act as “a rear front to the jihad in other countries like Algeria and Egypt”. He said that in the mid-1990s.
The leaders of the Islamic Fighting Front used to settle in Sudan close to the gathering points of the Al-Qaeda organization. He added that after the Salvation Front took over power in Sudan, Al-Qaeda provided the members of the Islamic Fighting Group with the required conditions and a safe haven through which they could act with relative freedom. He went on to say that circumstances drove the Islamic Fighting Group to embark on an armed confrontation against the Libyan government and to carry out several operations that ended with the dismantling of the group and the detention of most of its members that are now held in BuSalim Prison.