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DDoossssiieerr:: LLiibbyyaann IIssllaammiicc
FFiigghhttiinngg GGrroouupp ((LLIIFFGG))



((AAll--JJaammaa’’aahh aall--IIssllaammiiyyyyaahh aall--MMuuqqaattiillaa))


NEFA Senior Investigator Evan F. Kohlmann
(with NEFA Senior Analyst Josh Lefkowitz)

October 2007

[This document is based upon an expert witness report filed on behalf of
the Scotland Yard SO-15 Counter Terrorism Command and the United
Kingdom Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) during “Operation Cavern”
(Regina v. Al Bashir Mohammed al-Faqih). In July 2007, Mr. al-Faqih
pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing a document or record
containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person
committing or preparing an act of terrorism—specifically documents
demonstrating how to fabricate explosives and set up a terror cell.]



Part I: Origins in the 1980s


On September 1, 1969, a small group of ambitious military officers led by Captain
Muammar Qadhafi staged a coup d’état in the North African state of Libya, deposing the
former monarchy and establishing in its place an Arab nationalist regime. Though
Qadhafi claimed his revolution was aimed at achieving direct, popular democracy
through “Islamic socialism,” his regime nonetheless began to generate resentment
among dissidents who questioned his true
commitment to Islam and his compassion for the
Libyan people. As Arab nationalism—the primary
ideological foundation of Qadhafi’s regime—began
to wane in the 1970s and 1980s, Qadhafi faced
increasing opposition from thriving conservative
Muslim circles in Libya who considered his
pragmatic integration of Islam and socialism as
religious heresy. These Islamists were further
emboldened by events in nearby Egypt, where
hardline jihadist cells had succeeded in assassinating
President Anwar Sadat in revenge for his diplomacy
with Israel and the West.

Although the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) did not officially announce its
formation until 1995, the roots of the movement are closely linked to the “‘first group’ of
Libyans who fought and declared their ‘jihad’ against [Libyan President Muammar]
Qadhafi’s regime during the 1980s.”1 During their early years of existence, distracted by
“disagreements and rivalries,”2 the Libyan mujahideen (“holy warriors”) were not yet
organized in a single group and engaged in only limited confrontations with forces loyal


1 “The Roots of the ‘Libyan Fighting Group’… the story of the failure of the ‘jihad movement’ during the
eighties.” April 11, 2006. http://www.al-boraq.com/showthread.php?t=7247.
2 “Interview with Noman Benotman, former member of the LIFG Shura Committee.” Jamestown
Foundation. March 15, 2005. http://www.jamestown.org/news_details.php?news_id=101.

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to Qadhafi.3 The few confrontations they did manage to provoke often ended in
misfortune. In 1986, following the assassination of a key official in the Libyan
government, Qadhafi’s security forces quickly rounded up all nine members of the
Islamist cell responsible for the plot and sentenced them to death.4

Despite these disheartening failures, the Libyan mujahideen volunteers remained
committed to their jihad against the “apostate” Qadhafi. Fighters began to band
together under Commander Awatha al-Zuwawi, a student of Islamic law in Tripoli who
formed an underground jihadist organization in Libya in 1982.5 According to Noman
Benotman, a former member of the LIFG’s Shura (“Advisory”) Council, “most of the
founding leaders and cadres of the Fighting Group” were members of Zuwawi’s
clandestine organization.6 By 1985-1986, “Zuwawi had many sophisticated and
university educated people around him, in particular Abu Munther al-Saadi,” who served
as the LIFG’s spiritual leader.7 In 1986, Zuwawi further bolstered his credentials by
visiting mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan for several weeks before returning to Libya.8
Three years later, in 1989, Zuwawi was arrested in Benghazi by Libyan security forces
and “his group was dismantled.” 9 Following Zuwawi’s arrest in 1989 and the quelling of
Islamist demonstrations in Benghazi, those Libyans who were drawn to the “jihadi way
of thinking” migrated en masse to Afghanistan, where they “joined their Arab
companions under the banner of Afghani mujahideen groups in fierce battles against…
the central communist government in Kabul.”10

At first glance, no one could have imagined the lasting significance of the Soviet
military invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Rather than achieving a quick
victory against forces threatening the local communist regime in Afghanistan, the Soviets
found themselves surrounded by a relentless guerilla adversary. Countless numbers of
Afghanis joined the Islamic resistance, which was organized into several native
mujahideen organizations with headquarters in Peshawar, Pakistan. The Afghan
cauldron also provided unprecedented opportunities to disparate transnational Muslim
dissident groups for unification of thought, purpose, and infrastructure. It was then,
while in exile in Pakistan and Afghanistan, that the LIFG began to morph into an
identifiable organization.11 Former LIFG Shura Council member Noman Benotman notes
that by 1992 “the Muqatilah [LIFG] was well and truly established” and committed to
“overthrow[ing] Mu’ammar Qadhafi and replac[ing] his regime with a hard-line Islamic


3 “The Roots of the ‘Libyan Fighting Group’… the story of the failure of the ‘jihad movement’ during the
eighties.” April 11, 2006. http://www.al-boraq.com/showthread.php?t=7247.
4 “The Roots of the ‘Libyan Fighting Group’… the story of the failure of the ‘jihad movement’ during the
eighties.” April 11, 2006. http://www.al-boraq.com/showthread.php?t=7247.
5 “The Roots of the ‘Libyan Fighting Group’… the story of the failure of the ‘jihad movement’ during the
eighties.” April 11, 2006. http://www.al-boraq.com/showthread.php?t=7247. See also: “Interview with
Noman Benotman, former member of the LIFG Shura Committee.” Jamestown Foundation. March 15,
2005. http://www.jamestown.org/news_details.php?news_id=101.
6 “Interview with Noman Benotman, former member of the LIFG Shura Committee.” Jamestown
Foundation. March 15, 2005. http://www.jamestown.org/news_details.php?news_id=101.
7 “Interview with Noman Benotman, former member of the LIFG Shura Committee.” Jamestown
Foundation. March 15, 2005. http://www.jamestown.org/news_details.php?news_id=101.
8 “Interview with Noman Benotman, former member of the LIFG Shura Committee.” Jamestown
Foundation. March 15, 2005. http://www.jamestown.org/news_details.php?news_id=101.
9 “The Roots of the ‘Libyan Fighting Group’… the story of the failure of the ‘jihad movement’ during the
eighties.” April 11, 2006. http://www.al-boraq.com/showthread.php?t=7247.
10 “The Roots of the ‘Libyan Fighting Group’… the story of the failure of the ‘jihad movement’ during the
eighties.” April 11, 2006. http://www.al-boraq.com/showthread.php?t=7247.
11 “Treasury Designates UK-Based Individuals, Entities Financing Al Qaida-Affiliated LIFG.” U.S.
Treasury Department Press Release. February 8, 2006. http://www.treasury.gov/press/releases/js4016.htm.

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federal court in 2001 about Turabi’s decision to expel the Libyans at the behest of
Qadhafi:


“There was a pressure from the Libyan government on the Sudanese government that all
the Libyans must leave the country, and they informed Usama Bin Laden that if you have
some Libyans you have to let them get out from the country. And Usama Bin Laden
informed these guys and he told them that you have to leave, because if you don't leave,
you will be responsible for yourselves, and if somebody caught you, I am not responsible.
What I can do for you is I can give you twenty-four hundred bucks, plus a ticket with you
and your wife if you want to live somewhere, but the Libyans, most of them, they refused
the offer of Usama Bin Laden. They were very upset and angry because they couldn’t
protect them, and they had a meeting… [and] they gave a letter to Usama Bin Laden that
they are leaving al Qaeda, and they took that money and tickets and some of them they
left. Some of them [went to Libya].”66


Those few LIFG members who remained in Sudan between 1995 and 1996 were
instructed “not to instigate attacks” in Libya and “were only authorized to defend
themselves against the regime’s armed onslaughts.”67

Most of the LIFG activists who returned to Libya from Sudan did not stay for long.
Upon their arrival, they were confronted by a major internal crackdown by Libyan
security services and the LIFG leadership decided “to save as many people as possible.
Therefore, the order was given to the most important people to leave the country [Libya]
immediately.”68 Many LIFG members—such as Al-Qaida associate Abu Anas al-Liby—
moved on to political asylum in the United Kingdom, where the organization established
a robust underground support network. Others eventually fled “to various Asian, Persian
Gulf, African, and European countries,” as well as to Afghanistan.69 By 1998, the nation
of Afghanistan had once again become the preferred venue for LIFG recruits seeking
extremist indoctrination and military training.

Upon their return to Afghanistan, LIFG leaders managed to put aside some of
their past frustrations with Al-Qaida. Not long after the LIFG delegation in Khartoum
was forced to leave Sudan, Hassan al-Turabi had likewise turned on Bin Laden and his
Egyptian cohorts and angrily ordered them out. Despite their occasional quarreling, Al-
Qaida and the LIFG had grown up from the same roots, had shared the same bases and
training camps, and—in the process—had become remarkably kindred spirits. Not long
after it re-appeared in familiar Afghan mujahideen haunts, the LIFG “expanded its goals
to include anti-Western jihad alongside Al Qaeda,” according to the U.S. Director of
National Intelligence, John Negroponte.70

Added to this assessment, the U.S. State Department noted that, by the late
1990s, the LIFG began to display a “close association with Al Qaeda. Some senior
members of LIFG are believed to be or have belonged to Al Qaeda’s senior command




66 Trial Transcript, February 22, 2001. U.S. v. Usama Bin Laden, et al. S(7) 98 Cr. 1023 (LBS). United
States District Court, Southern District of New York. Pages 1280-1282.
67 “Interview with Noman Benotman, former member of the LIFG Shura Committee.” Jamestown
Foundation. March 15, 2005. http://www.jamestown.org/news_details.php?news_id=101.
68 “Interview with Noman Benotman, former member of the LIFG Shura Committee.” Jamestown
Foundation. March 15, 2005. http://www.jamestown.org/news_details.php?news_id=101.
69 U.S. State Department. Country Reports on Terrorism. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism.
April 28, 2006.
70 Testimony of John D. Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, Before the Senate Armed Services
Committee. February 28, 2006. http://www.dni.gov/testimonies/20060228_testimony.htm.

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structure.”71 One such individual is LIFG spiritual leader
Abu Munther al-Saadi, who first joined the jihad in
Afghanistan in 1988. A decade later, after fleeing the
catastrophe in North Africa, al-Saadi returned to
Afghanistan and established various educational and
charitable enterprises on behalf of the ruling Taliban
movement. In appreciation for al-Saadi’s efforts, Taliban
supreme commander Mullah Mohammed Umar
reportedly bestowed upon him the title of “the Shaykh
of the Arabs in Afghanistan.”72 Al-Saadi was reputed for
delivering stern speeches to Arab fighters training in
Afghanistan, admonishing them to strictly follow the
laws of the Taliban as long as they remained in the
country.73

The LIFG and Al-Qaida increasingly came to
share human and material resources during the second
phase of their involvement in Afghanistan between Abu Munther al-Saadi
1997-2001. Captured 9/11 mastermind and former Al- Qaida operations chief Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed has told interrogators that he provided assistance to the LIFG on
“computer and media projects” between 1997 and 1998.74 Using propaganda outlets
like Al-Fajr Magazine, the LIFG helped widely distribute writings from influential Al-Qaida
associates, including Abu Musab al-Suri (a.k.a. Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, Omar Abdel
Hakeem).75 Meanwhile, according to U.S. military sources, Al-Qaida also used the LIFG’s
“black market contacts” in Pakistan to obtain false travel documents for terrorist
operatives.76
On August 21, 1998—in response to Al-Qaida’s embassy bombings in East
Africa—the U.S. military launched retaliatory missile strikes on suspected training camps
in southern Afghanistan, including the Salman al-Farisi base frequented by LIFG
operatives. Four days later, the LIFG issued a statement in response to the missile strikes.
Rather than distancing themselves from Al-Qaida, the group instead boasted:


“The arrogant American government has committed a historic act of stupidity… This act
strengthens the feelings of hostility and hatred among Muslims as well as the desire for
revenge against this arrogant American bullying that deals with others only by means of
force. The blatant American attack against Muslims in Sudan and Afghanistan, the killing
of the innocent, the spread of fear terror among those who are safe, and the targeting of
civilian and industrial facilities without any solid proof or evidence, confirms that the
American Administration has chosen the path of hostility toward our Islamic nation, and


71 “State Department Announces Steps to Reduce Terrorist Threat.” U.S. State Department. December 28,
2004, http://usinfo.state.gov/is/Archive/2004/Dec/29-379809.html.
72 “The Shaykh of the Arabs in Afghanistan Al-Saadi who was handed over to Libya by the Americans.”
Al Hayat (London). February 16, 2005.
73 “The Shaykh of the Arabs in Afghanistan Al-Saadi who was handed over to Libya by the Americans.”
Al Hayat (London). February 16, 2005.
74 The 9/11 Commission Report. Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States. July 22, 2004. Page 489.
75 “ABUMUSAB.CJB.NET: About this site.”
http://www.carriagehouseglass.com/peepingcam/peeping/index.php. January 2005.
76 “Testimony of Detainees Before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal.” U.S. Defense Department
Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) and Administrative Review Board (ARB) documents
released on March 3, April 3, and April 19, 2006. Page 3127.
http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/foi/detainees/csrt/Set_46_3096-3129.pdf.

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Appendix A: Enlistment Form for the “Abu Yahya al-
Liby Training Camp”

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Appendix B: Translation of Enlistment Form for the
“Abu Yahya al-Liby Training Camp”


“In the Name of God the Merciful the Compassionate”

“Dear brother, welcome to you at the Camp of the martyr Sheikh Abu Yahya, may God bless his
soul. We ask God, be He exalted, to accept from you your migration in the path of God and your
revival of the obligation of preparation and jihad in fulfillment of God and His Messenger’s
command. This introductory form is no more than a beginning of acquaintanceship and co-
operation in righteousness and piety. We ask God to assist you and us on His obedience.”

“Surname:”
“Nationality and Marital Status:” “Age:”
“Date of arrival: -142 Hijra or / / 200 ”
“Expected Iength of stay: (days/months)”
“Recommended by:”
“Route to Afghanistan:”
“Educational level:”
“Previous occupation:”
“Military courses previously taken:”
“How much Quran do you memorize:”
“Religious courses taken:”
“Skills or experience acquired:”
“Languages spoken:”
“Are approved and listed in the Camp List:”

“Date form completed: / / 2001”


“Camp Management”

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