The Arab Spring may quickly become an Islamist Winter in Libya, reads a new report circulated among federal law enforcement and written for policymakers on Capitol Hill.
An advance copy of the report entitled “A View to Extremist Currents In Libya” and obtained by Fox News, states that extremist views are gaining ground in the north African country and suggests a key figure emerging in Libya formerly tied to al Qaeda has not changed his stripes.
“Despite early indications that the Libyan revolution might be a largely secular undertaking … the very extremist currents that shaped the philosophies of Libya Salafists and jihadis like (Abd al-Hakim) Belhadj appear to be coalescing to define the future of Libya,” wrote Michael S. Smith II, a principal and counterterrorism adviser for Kronos LLC, the strategic advisory firm that prepared the report.
On Nov. 3, 2007, senior al Qaeda leaders announced that LIFG had officially joined Usama bin Laden’s network, according to the State Department which designated LIFG as a terrorist organization.
Belhadj, who joined the group at its inception, had fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. He was arrested in Malaysia in February 2004, reportedly interrogated by the CIA, before he was sent home to Libya. He was released from prison in 2009 as part of a rehabilitation program.
“Libyans have been featured prominently in the history of core al Qaeda. Libyan LIFG member Abu Yahya al-Libi is regarded as core al Qaeda’s top Sharia official and many analysts anticipated he would be appointed bin Laden’s successor. His brother is Abd al-Wahad al-Qayid, a founding member of the LIFG who was one of the six LIFG leaders who authored the group’s corrective studies while imprisoned in Libya.”
The Kronos report says that “Libya is of such strategic interest” to al Qaeda that for years it was its own entity separate from its north Africa affiliate — al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Libya was considered important to al Qaeda because of its geographic proximity to Egypt and its perceived ability to “affect the jihadist political situation in Egypt.”
For this reason, among others, al Qaeda’s new leader Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri in April 2011 called on jihadis to prepare to mount an insurgency against any Western forces in Libya.
I guess I should have written as Libya goes, so goes Egypt.