Al Qaeda leader sends veteran jihadists to Libya

Al Qaeda`s emir Ayman al-Zawahiri has personally sent a veteran fighter and other experienced jihadists to Libya.

Updated: Dec 30, 2011, 19:23 PM IST

Cairo: Al Qaeda`s emir Ayman al-Zawahiri has
personally sent a veteran fighter and other experienced
jihadists to Libya who have formed a 200-strong terror group
in the country, according to a media report on Friday.

The jihadists include one veteran fighter who had been
detained in Britain on suspicion of terrorism. A Libyan
source, briefed by Western counter-terrorism officials,
described the terrorist as a committed person to al Qaeda`s
global cause and to attacking US interests.

The source told a news channel that al-Zawahiri personally
dispatched the former British detainee to Libya earlier this
year as the Gadhafi regime lost control of large swathes of
the country.

The man arrived in Libya in May and has since begun
recruiting fighters in the eastern region of the country, near
the Egyptian border. He now has some 200 fighters mobilised,
the source added. Western intelligence agencies are aware of
his activities, according to the source.

Another al Qaeda operative, of dual European-Libyan
nationality, was arrested in an unnamed country on his way to
Libya from the Afghan-Pakistan border region.

The individual now trying to establish a bridgehead for
al Qaeda in Libya is known as "AA." His name has not been made
public because of UK law on terrorist suspects who are
detained but not charged, the report said.

"AA" has been close to Ayman al-Zawahiri since the 1980s
and first traveled to Afghanistan in the early 1990s to join
mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation.

"AA" later moved to the United Kingdom, where he began
spreading al Qaeda`s ideology to younger Muslims. He was an
admirer of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who emerged as leader of al
Qaeda in Iraq after the US invasion.

In recent times, Western intelligence agencies have
voiced concern in public and privately about the potential for
Islamist extremists and especially al Qaeda to gain a foothold
in Libya.

The al Qaeda leadership has included several Libyans --
among them Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was killed in August, and
Abu Yahya al-Libi.

Militant groups have long had a presence in eastern
Libya, even if they were ruthlessly suppressed by the Gadhafi
regime. Al Qaeda documents discovered in Iraq in 2006 showed
that many of the fighters who had joined the insurgency had
come from eastern Libya.