Al Qaeda leader sends veteran jihadists to Libya
Last Updated: Friday, December 30, 2011, 19:23
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.


First Published: Friday, December 30, 2011, 19:23

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