Connections Between Al Qaeda And Libyan Rebels Run Deep

There’s more evidence today that many of the men engaged in fighting against the Gaddafi regime have ties to an organization that killed 3,000 Americans about 9 1/2 years ago:

Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited “around 25” men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are “today are on the front lines in Adjabiya”.

Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader”.

His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, “including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries”.

Chad, of course, lies to Libya’s south, and there are fears that a collapse of the central government in Tripoli could allow groups sympathetic to al Qaeda to set up camp in the vast deserts of Southern Libya:

The fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi might see the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic terrorist groups filling up the void, US analysts have said.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that was branded by the US as a terrorist organisation in May 2010 has been operating from its base in Algeria, and has now extended its reach to the borders of Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Chad and Libya, Fox News reports.

Gaddafi had earlier not only provided intelligence on the terrorists’ operations to the US, but has also publicly spoken out against them.

Branding the group members as ‘bad Muslims’, Gaddafi said: “The security forces found a mosque in al-Zawiya. In a mosque! Weapons, alcohol, and their corpses – all mixed up together.”

Now that the Libyan dictator has gone into hiding, many analysts have raised concerns whether southern Libya will become a magnet for jihadist groups.

Cully Stimson, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who is now a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that the al-Qaeda affiliate might turn out to be an adaptive enemy.

“AQIM has found their niche. They are going to exploit that to the degree they can. They have the ability in the strategic interest in moving and being adaptable. One of the most high-profile cases was a British hostage Edwin Dyer, who was murdered after lengthy negotiations for his release stalled,” Stimson added.

If post-Gaddafi Libya turns into an al Qaeda haven on the very doorsteps of Europe, we may have traded one insane dictator for a far more serious problem.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Terrorism, World Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. The Fury says:

    Here’s what I’m confused about Gaddafi is only a Colonel after all these years of dictatorship?

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I thought I’d help out by posting for you the only paragraph you left out of your quote from the ANI piece:

    US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz has described the AQIM as a “danger to the region”.

    Insisting that Gaddafi might be overplaying the threat for selfish reasons, Cretz said: “It’s clearly a card that he thinks he might be able to get some benefit of. It’s patently ridiculous. But do we have concerns about AQIM? Certainly, we do.”

    This is a genuine concern, and a potential problem.

    But making the case with an ANI story quoting a low-level Bush DoD staffer who was tossed out for making some impolitic remarks and was forced to publicly apologize and now works for the right-wing “think tank,” Heritage Foundation, may not be as compelling as you hoped.

    Especially when the only graph you cut quotes the US ambassador, (a Bush nominee, incidentally) — who many might consider the superior source — to the effect that Gaddafi may be the source of at least some of these claims.

  3. mattt says:

    First the thought: “Al Qaeda in Iraq” is not the same organization that committed the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Fighting the military forces of an occupation is not the same thing as committing terrorist attacks against civilians on their home soil.

    Second thought: How long did it take after 1945 before we were arming German WWII veterans against the Soviet threat? A very imperfect analogy, to be sure, but the point is that allegiance is mutable.

    I remain skeptical of the long term outcome in Libya, but this particular line of criticisms smacks of playing the AQ bogeyman.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    I can of course see why it’s very important to try and paint the rebels as Al Qaeda, by the way.

    Those rebels — the ones you dismissed — have retaken Ajdabiyah and apparently Breg (Burayqah, pick a spelling, any spelling) which two of not all that many towns between them and western Libya.

    It has obviously dawned on the right wing echo chamber that Obama might actually pull this off. So, quick! Find a way to make it a bad thing. Because the alternative is just so dangerous, eh, Doug? A competent, capable, effective liberal president?

    That would suck.

  5. anjin-san says:

    So Doug are you officially a pass-though for boilerplate churned out by right wing think tanks now? Maybe you should just share your admin rights on OTB with them, it would give you time for an extra cup of coffee or two in the morning.

  6. Herb says:

    I remember debating a buddy of mine back in 03 about the connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Lost in that debate was whether the connections meant anything. I see a repeat happening here.

  7. Tano says:

    seriously Doug,

    How can you justify making a link to 9/11 based on the fact that 25 guys who are now “on the front lines” fought against us in Iraq?

    Hell, there are thousands of guys who fought us in Iraq who are now our allies in Iraq – ever hear of Anwar?

  8. michael reynolds says:

    Doug earns GOP karma points by teasing links with his ludicrous headline. Classic right wing echo chamber. I guess he’s filling in for Dodd who normally handles that.