Did French intelligence agent kill Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi?

Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar GaddafiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Nearly a year after the sensational death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, sources in Libya have claimed that a French intelligence agent killed the Libyan leader acting under orders by the French government. The Libyan dictator was captured by armed fighters of the Libyan National Liberation Army on October 20, 2011, after his convoy was reportedly bombed by North Atlantic Treaty Organization aircraft. Videos showed Gaddafi being taken aboard a van alive; mysteriously, however, he was pronounced dead a few hours later. The Libyan National Transitional Council blamed the Libyan leader’s death on overzealous militia members, but this explanation did not satisfy the United Nations, which called for an investigation into the incident. But Mahmoud Jibril, a National Transitional Council member who was Libya’s interim Prime Minister during most of 2011, has said in an interview that Gaddafi was killed by a French intelligence officer. Speaking yesterday on Egyptian television, Jibril said that the agent “mixed with the revolutionary brigades” and killed Gaddafi by shooting him twice in the head from close range. Jibril’s comments came two days after one of Italy’s most reputable newspapers, Corriere della Sera, published a report claiming that the alleged French intelligence agent was acting under direct instructions by the French government. The paper said that the order had come down from the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. According to the article, Sarkozy was eager to prevent the possibility of Gaddafi standing trial, particularly after the Libyan leader had threatened to expose his alleged financial dealings with the French President. These refer to persistent rumors in France that the Libyan dictator had contributed millions of dollars to Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign. Read more of this post

Libyan militia arrests British journalists on spying charges

Faraj al-SwehliBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The commander of one of the largest armed militia groups in post-revolutionary Libya has announced the arrest of two British journalists accused of spying for an unidentified foreign country. The two journalists, named as Gareth Montgomery-Johnson and Nicholas Davies, are officially accredited reporters working for the London office of Iran’s English-language Press TV news channel. They were reportedly arrested on February 22 in Libya’s third-largest city, Misrata, located about 140 miles east of the capital Tripoli. Speaking to reporters at a hastily arranged press conference late on Sunday, Faraj al-Swehli, commander of Misrata’s Swehli Brigade, said that the two British journalists were arrested after they were observed filming around a “sensitive region” of Misrata. Following their arrest by forces loyal to the Swehli Brigade, the two Britons were officially detained after they failed to show their captors evidence of lawful entry into Libya. Commander al-Swehli alleged on Sunday that Davies and Montgomery-Johnson appeared to have entered the country without obtaining the necessary visas or passport entry stamps. Moreover, the Swehli Brigade leadership became suspicious after they found evidence of recent trips by the journalists to China and Israel, as well as photographs of the two men brandishing weapons. Commander al-Swehli also told journalists on Sunday that the two arrestees were found in possession of “[camouflage] uniforms and equipment manufactured in Israel”, but he did not elaborate. Two Reuters news agency correspondents in Libya noted that, due to the chaotic state of government services in Libya, foreign journalists “routinely enter the country without going through normal border procedures”, and they often collect random documents found scattered on the battlefield. Read more of this post

Maltese government secretly helped British spy operations in Libya

Libya and MaltaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In the 1980s, Malta was one of the world’s closest allies with the Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. For this reason, during the recent Libyan civil war, it was generally presumed that the island nation’s strong cultural and strategic links with Tripoli would prevent it from joining other European nations in actively supporting the Libyan opposition. But internal British government documents, which have been acquired by the BBC, show that Malta was secretly supportive of Western efforts to undermine the regime of Colonel Gaddafi, and went so far as to help smuggle British intelligence operatives into Libya. According to a recent exposé aired by the BBC’s flagship factual program Newsnight, the Maltese government took advantage of its active role as a hub for distributing United Nations humanitarian and logistical assistance to Libyan civilians during the war. In one specific case, Malta offered to work with British external intelligence agency MI6, to fly a group of British intelligence officers to an unspecified location in Libya. The British operatives’ ultimate goal was to meet up with leading members of the opposition Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), at a predetermined location near Libya’s second-largest city of Benghazi. According to the BBC, the Maltese government secretly authorized the transportation of the MI6 officers into Libya, using a Chinook helicopter, which took off in the middle of the night from Maltese territory. Unfortunately for the British, the mission was intercepted by NTC forces at the Benina International Airport, near Benghazi. Read more of this post

Ex-CIA officer points to al-Qaeda banners appearing in Libya

Charles S. Faddis

Charles S. Faddis

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Amidst the excitement in the West over the toppling of the late Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, few have been paying attention at the frequent appearances of the al-Qaeda banner in locations around Libya. The characteristic black flag bears the Arabic inscription of the shahada, the Islamic creed, which states that “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger [prophet]”. Within hours following the official pronouncement of the lynching of Colonel Gaddafi, al-Qaeda banners were flying over the de facto headquarters of Libya’s US-backed National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi, as well as in numerous other locations around the North African country. There have even been reports of threats leveled against reporters who were observed trying to photograph or film the unmistakable banners. Former CIA covert operations officer Charles Faddis, who spent several years working in the Middle East, has penned a new article urging Western policy makers to stop viewing the NTC as a force promoting some sort of Western-type democratic administration in Libya. Undoubtedly, he says, some NTC members do “wish for a Libya with a Western style democratic government”. But the NTC is an umbrella group bringing together “individuals from many walks of life in the opposition”, he says, including fighters motivated primarily by tribal and regional loyalties, as well as Islamist activists guided by distinctly conservative interpretations of the Qur’an. One such activist is Mustafa Abdul Jalil, leader of the NTC, who in his historic celebratory speech following the formal end of the civil war, told ecstatic supporters that, from now on, Libya would be “an Islamic state”, and that all legal provisions that conflicted with the Sharia —Qur’anic law— would be invalidated. Since that day, there have been reports of beauty salons closing and of women being forced to wear the hijab, says Faddis. Read more of this post

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

Abdel Hakim Belhaj

Abdel Belhaj

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
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. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #583

Chiou I-jen

Chiou I-jen

►►Ex-Akamai worker pleads guilty to spy charge. Elliot Doxer, an American employee of Massachusetts-based Akamai Technologies, is charged with providing inside company information to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli spy. Ironically, Israel may have helped the Bureau nab Doxer.
►►Taiwan ex-spy cleared of corruption charge. Chiou I-jen, Taiwan’s ex-spy chief and right-hand man of jailed former president Chen Shui-bian, was cleared Tuesday of embezzling diplomatic funds during Chen’s term in office. The former head of the National Security Bureau, was acquitted of pocketing $500,000 –earmarked for expanding Taiwan’s participation in international affairs– in 2005, due to a lack of evidence.
►►Wiretaps seen as key in hunt for Gaddafi. “There are some groups who are looking for him and also trying to listen to his calls. Of course he doesn’t use the phone, but we know the people around him who use the phones”. This is according to Hisham Buhagiar, a senior military official in Libya’s National Transitional Council, who is coordinating efforts to find Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Ex-Bush official advised Gaddafi until early August, documents show

Libya

Libya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Intelligence documents found at the headquarters of Libya’s abandoned spy agency appear to show that the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi enjoyed the support of an American diplomat who served in the Bush administration. Al Jazeera reports that David Welch, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the US Department of State between 2005 and 2008, met on August 2 with Gaddafi officials in the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. According to a Libyan intelligence memo from the meeting, Welch, who now works for Bechtel Corporation, gave the Gaddafi officials tips on how “to win the propaganda war” against the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC). He also instructed them to undermine Libya’s rebel movement by relying on several “confidence-building measures”, including controlled intelligence leaks aimed at manipulating the news output of Arab and Western media. The documents also reveal that Gaddafi maintained spies at the highest echelons of the rebel council, and that at least one of these spies offered to assassinate rebel leaders by “poisoning their food and water”. However, despite maintaining an ample amount of informants inside the NTC, the Gaddafi regime found it difficult to collect reliable and actionable intelligence during the civil war. Characteristically, many of the names of NTC’s central figures are misspelled in intelligence field reports, and one intelligence analyst complained recently that “the majority of those currently working for the intelligence administration are ill-prepared to carry out intelligence duties”. Despite these shortcomings, however, Gaddafi’s spies inside the NTC appear to have managed to intercept a large number of telephone messages and confidential emails between the NTC and foreign diplomats. Read more of this post

Was French mercenary a ‘spy for Gaddafi’?

Pierre Marziali

Pierre Marziali

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Back in May of 2011, The New York Times reported that the co-founder of one of France’s largest private security firms had been shot dead in rebel-held Benghazi. His name was Pierre Marziali, a former paratrooper, who in 2003 co-founded Secopex, described as France’s leading private security company. At first, the rebels blamed his death on “gangs that the old regime used”. But a few days later, a press release by the rebel National Transitional Council alleged that the dead Frenchman had been shot because he was among several French “spies hired by the Gaddafi regime”. The story gets murkier when one considers that, according to the Times, Marziali had gone to Libya “on a mission which, I believe, had been ordered by France”. This should not surprise anyone. As intelNews reported on August 23, Western governments have instructed Libya’s rebel authority to use Western-supplied funds to hire Western-based mercenary companies; this ensures plausible deniability on the part of the rebels’ Western allies, while allowing them to engage with boots on the ground outside the NATO command structure. But why would members of a private security firm based in France —a country that supports the Libyan opposition— be spying for Muammar al-Gaddafi? The case of Marziali’s death shows that not everything is what it seems in Libya. Nobody seems to have information about Secopex’s precise operational mission in the North African nation. But, according to Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, it appears that the Libyan rebels tried to apprehend Marziali and four other Frenchmen employees of Secopex, after noticing that their passports had Libyan entry stamps from Tripoli —an indication that they had entered the country with the blessings of the Gaddafi regime. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #576 (Libya edition)

Libya

Libya

►►Rebels seize Libyan intelligence service HQ. Rebel forces of the National Transitional Council have occupied the Tripoli headquarters of Libya’s intelligence service. Al Jazeera, which was given access to the building by the rebels, says that it is “full of confidential documents that could provide a valuable insight into what was one of the world’s most secretive regimes. But”, adds the report, “it will take weeks to sift through”.
►►Gadhafi’s loose weapons could number a ‘thousand times’ Saddam’s. This is the alarming assessment of Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who spent time on the ground in Libya during the uprising. He told Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog that “weapon proliferation out of Libya is potentially one of the largest we have ever documented —2003 Iraq pales in comparison— and so the risks are equally much more significant”.
►►The bewildering dance between Gaddafi and MI6. A well-researched article in The Independent newspaper, written by one of Britain’s most esteemed diplomatic correspondents, Gordon Corera. He argues that Britain and the Gaddafi regime “were not always the enemies they are now”.

Why Are Armed Groups Storming Foreign Embassies in Tripoli?

The new Libyan flag

New Libyan flag

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It is perhaps understandable that fighters of the National Transitional Council, Libya’s rebel umbrella group, have stormed locations in Tripoli that are associated with the regime of deposed Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. Strategic sites such as  Bab al-Aziziya, Gaddafi’s compound, government ministries, or even houses belonging to Gaddafi’s large and powerful family, may be deemed legitimate targets. But why are the rebels also selectively attacking foreign embassies in the Libyan capital? According to Yonhap, South Korea’s state-run news agency, the South Korean embassy in Tripoli was “attacked […] by an armed gang” of about 30 people late on Tuesday. The report, which could not be immediately confirmed by the Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cited anonymous sources, who said that embassy staff were “threatened at gunpoint”. At roughly the same period, another group of “armed persons” stormed the building of the Bulgarian embassy, according to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which said that it had yet to clarify “the circumstances around the incident”. On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that armed groups had “assaulted and totally looted” the Venezuelan embassy. A few hours later, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Libya, Afif Tajeldine, clarified that the attack took place at his official residence, which is located about 9 miles from the Venezuelan embassy. He told El Universal that armed groups broke into the ambassadorial residence and “searched the house asking for me”. They then “ransacked the house completely” and “left nothing in the house”. Read more of this post

Western spies, security contractors, won Libyan war for rebels

Libya

Libya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As I write these lines, celebratory gunfire is being heard all across Tripoli and the rebel National Transitional Council is appointing civilians to replace the crumbling administration of longtime Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. But a handful of news outlets discreetly remind us that the rebels’ claim to victory rests on vital covert assistance provided by several Western intelligence services. British daily The Independent notes that the victorious rebels were assisted on all levels by “an army of [British] diplomats, spooks, military advisers and former members of the special forces”, all of whom allowed “London to influence events in Libya beyond the activities of warplanes and naval vessels”. Early indications of Britain’s substantial covert involvement in the Libyan civil war emerged in March, when a secret operation involving a team of 20 Special Air Service (SAS) personnel was disrupted by a group of Libyan rebels, who thought the foreigners were employed by the Libyan government. Eight captured SAS members were soon released by the red-faced rebels, but not before the botched operation had made headlines all over the world. That experience prompted British intelligence planners to rethink their methodology. Eventually, notes The Independent, the British government decided to prompt the rebel National Transitional Council to use British funds to hire teams of former special forces operatives working for private security firms. This, according to the paper, accounts for the “small groups of […] Caucasian males, many with British accents [and] equipped with sunglasses, 4×4 vehicles and locally acquired weaponry, who [were] seen regularly by reporters in the vanguard of the rebels’ haphazard journey […] towards Tripoli”. Read more of this post