Secret MI6 documents warn about al-Qaeda-linked Libyan rebels

Abdel Hakim Belhaj

Abdel Belhaj

A secret intelligence report, found in the British ambassador’s abandoned residence in Tripoli, warns that some of Libya’s most active anti-Gaddafi rebels have direct links with al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups. The 58-page document, authored by MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency, includes complete profiles of a dozen senior members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) based in Britain. It is widely believed that, in 2007, LIFG merged with al-Qaeda; but at least two of its members, Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, currently hold leading positions in Libya’s National Transitional Council —the group that rules the country following the Muammar Gaddafi’s demise. Belhaj, also known as Abdullah al-Sadiq, revealed in September this year that in 2004 he was snatched by a CIA team in Malaysia and secretly transported to Thailand, where he says he was “directly tortured by CIA agents”. The CIA then renditioned him to Libya, where he says he was systematically tortured until his release from prison, in 2010. The documents discovered in the British ambassador’s Tripoli residence reveal that MI6 helped the CIA target several LFIG members after 2003; they also reveal that thee British intelligence agency  concluded that the kidnapping and torture of Belhaj and others was both tactically and strategically counterproductive. The report, which is marked “UK/Libya eyes only – Secret”, mentions that the abduction of senior LFIG members allowed even more extremist members to rise to the top of the group, and galvanized its fighters in Libya, Algeria, Iraq, and elsewhere. The new leadership shifted LFIG’s ideology “towards a more pan-Islamic agenda inspired by [al-Qaida]”. British newspaper The Guardian, which acquired the secret MI6 documents, contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. But the paper was told by a spokesman that “it is the government’s longstanding policy not to comment on intelligence matters”.

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