Britain and France Showered Funds on the Rebels even after the General’s Murder
That an al Qaeda-linked hit team murdered the Libyan rebel commander Maj. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Younis Thursday, July 28, is an open secret among circles in the know.
This accusation by Libyan government spokesman Ibrahim Musa's Friday, July 29 was not news either for Benghazi, the rebels' Western helpers and advisers, Tripoli, Washington, London or Paris, because all their intelligence agencies had reached the very same conclusion.
They had also discovered that the killers, mostly members of the Al-jamaa Al-islamiya Al-Mokatila organization, had sped out of Benghazi as soon as the deed was done. They went to ground in the port town of Darnah in the rebel-controlled eastern sector of Libya which they virtually rule among a population of 200,000.
In the latter part of the 1990s, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terror sources report, Al-Mokatila jihadis attended Osama bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan. A group returned to Libya ahead of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States to fight for Muammar Qaddafi's overthrow.
Some were captured over the years and released after undergoing the same kind of brainwashing ("rehabilitation) at the hands of Libyan security agents as al Qaeda penitents receive in Saudi Arabia and pledging not to go back to terrorism.
Others remained incarcerated in Qaddafi's prisons. When the revolt against him erupted seven months ago, the Libyan ruler deliberately opened the prison doors and let the Al-Mokatila members walk free, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources report.
Still helping al Qaeda in North Africa
He knew exactly what he was doing. These Islamists assembled in Darnah and formed up behind the rebels and from the outset of their uprising contributed its most able armed force. Before long, at least eight were sitting in influential positions on the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council-TNC. Their clout derived from willingness to place at the disposal of TNC leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil the best-trained and armed military force in rebel ranks.
Jalil was not bothered when one of its most prominent leaders, Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, announced candidly that the organization's mission was to establish an Islamic emirate in all of Libya after Qaddafi's downfall.
Although Al-islamiya Al-Mokatila leaders claim their ties with al Qaeda belong to the past, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terror sources stress that in the present too, this group actively helps al Qaeda funnel arms to AQIM and its cells in Egypt and Sinai.
(More about this in a separate article in this issue.)
All this was grist to the Libyan ruler's mill; it enabled him to back up the allegations he made in March that al Qaeda was an integral part of the rebel army and that by supporting that army, the West was helping al Qaeda grab Libya and its oil. Libya would be a second Afghanistan, Qaddafi warned, providing AQIM -The Al-Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb – with a logistical base for striking African and European countries.
Qaddafi toughens terms for a settlement
But no one in Washington, London, Paris, Rome or NATO headquarters was listening. In March and even April, they were all unshakably confident of their military ability to sweep the Libyan ruler out of power in a matter of weeks and take Tripoli before Al-islamiya Al-Mokatila had a chance to reach the capital from Darnah and Benghazi.
This miscalculation set off a chain of military setbacks: After backing the rebels to the hilt for five months, neither NATO nor the rebels are still anywhere near Tripoli and Muammar Qaddafi is still going strong – so much so that Tuesday, August 2, his son and spokesman Saif al-Islam went back on the very terms for ending the conflict that he had accepted just a week ago in secret contacts with Moscow and Paris – and through them with Washington.
Then, he agreed to transfer power in stages in the course of negotiations for establishing a new government in Tripoli – provided that NATO halted its air strikes.
Now, Saif al-Islam caught Washington and Moscow by surprise by announcing government forces would fight on even after NATO attacks ceased.
Qaddafi's confidence was much enhanced by the assassination of Maj. Gen, Younis at the hands of al Qaeda. This exposed the disunity and disarray in rebel ranks and their ties with the most extremist elements of al Qaeda. At last, the Libyan ruler believed he could reap the benefits of letting the radicals out of jail in February by telling the West: I told you so.
Libya's rebels and al Qaeda both sought the general's demise
Al-Mokatila had its own reasons for getting rid of the rebel commander, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence and counterterrorism sources report:
In the first place, he had built up an independent military force which challenged the radical group's influence in Benghazi.
In the second place, Al-Mokatila, TNC chief Mustafa Jalil and others felt threatened by his ties with the top level of the Qaddafi regime (he was Muammar's cousin). They feared he would emerge from negotiations on Libya's future as the strongman of government in Tripoli.
Western intelligence agencies began to understand that TNC leader Jalil had been in cahoots with the Islamist radicals – or at least bound to them by a tacit understanding that they would both be better off if the general was out of the way. Hence, the foot-dragging in Benghazi over the investigation and attempts to point accusing fingers away from the al Qaeda-linked group.
The TNC was helped by such statements from Western officials as: "The top rebel military commander was killed in circumstances that have yet to be explained."
Clearly, the Western capitals which had honored Jalil and recognized him as the head of Libya's legitimate government were reluctant to admit the evidence that he had been playing ball with al Qaeda and used the partnership to torpedo US-Russian diplomacy for ending the Libyan war.
Funds released by France and the UK will reach al Qaeda
The first to acknowledge the pact and react were the Berber rebels of the Nafusa Mountain range of western Libya who are fighting Qaddafi's army for independence. They broke off ties with Benghazi and dumped the rebel flag. From the start, they have resented NATO statements lumping their separatist cause with the Benghazi rebellion.
However, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron brushed their own intelligence reports of this pact aside and ordered more than $300 million transferred to Benghazi out of Qaddafi's frozen bank assets. They made this gesture to demonstrate that the Younis murder had not weakened their support for the rebels – just the opposite.
This curious reaction to the assassination is a direct continuation of the initial miscalculation which landed NATO, London, Paris and other Western allies in a fruitless war.
From the outset, they sponsored a hopelessly dysfunctional rebel entity lacking political, military or financial cohesion. Now, they are compounding the error by allocating funds to its main component, the TNC, knowing that some of the money will fall into the hands of an Islamist organization tied to al Qaeda as its fee for what was almost certainly a contract killing.
Muammar Qaddafi gains strength from Western mistakes, while the French and British leaders will sooner or later be placed in the unenviable position of having to explain why they erred.