Blowback In Manchester And Why Quilliam Must Be Investigated

By Jonas Spooner and Jono Stubbings,

The Manchester Arena suicide bombing is a tragedy, but it’s just the latest in a series of tragedies which are a consequence of David Cameron’s 2011 Libyan regime-change which was justified by misinformation from politicians which was buttressed by the propaganda of a war-hungry and compliant media.

There is almost half a million Internally Displaced People in Libya. We have seen the black Tawergha minority ethnically cleansed while black Libyans have been held in cages and force-fed Libyan flags under threat of death. The Algerian oil facility hostage massacre carried out by Al Qaeda was a direct consequence of Cameron’s war. Likewise, the AQ-Tuareg-Malian conflict. Libyan arms seized by the “people” have fuelled conflicts and taken unknown numbers of lives in Syria, Somalia (Al Shabab), The Sinai and elsewhere.

David Cameron’s war has been a vital stepping-stone in the rise of ISIS and sections of Libya are now ISIS strongholds. Oil wells and Airports have been taken and the once regionally prosperous and secular (police) state is now being referred to as a “Jihadists Paradise”. ISIS have stated their intention to use its Libyan stronghold (a legacy of David Cameron’s so-called “success”) as a gateway to Europe and export the “unbearable atrocities and executions” he has delivered upon the Libyan people.

Proving Kissinger’s claim of there being “no permanent enemies only interests” true the British Government has had a murky on-off love-affair with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) since its founding. The Manchester blowback is a microcosm of the larger global jihadist blowback which began when Carter began arming and training the anti-Soviet Mujahideen in 1979 which ultimately led to Al Qaeda and 9/11. It follows the same pattern of short-sighted alliances with extremists to fight a common enemy, then comes the betrayal to be followed by the retaliation.

This is a brief explanation on the schizophrenic but crucial historical context of betrayal which will be omitted in the media:

The Manchester Connection

The Didsbury Mosque is a centre of political anti-Gadaffi militancy; not global jihad. While there is some blurring of the lines this distinction is critical. It has explicitly condemned the terror attack, held a minutes silence for the victims and along with Salman Abedi’s friends and family have reported Salman to authorities on various occasions.

A teenage Salman Abedi and his father Ramadan Abedi (an alleged LIFG militant) left Manchester for Libya in 2011 to be soldiers in the UK-backed revolution. Together they joined the Tripoli Brigade militia of the former Manchester resident Madhi al-Harati. It was here in Tripoli’s Nafusa Mountains that the eventual Manchester terrorist was trained in how to kill and in the use of explosives by UK-allies, the Qatari military.

Abedi’s Commander Al-Harati is a “close confederate” of the infamous Libyan jihadist Belhadj. Post-revolution he was to become his Deputy in the Tripoli Military Council, until stepping-down — apparently bribed by the National Transitional Council with $200,000 to do so. In a pattern of betrayal seen so frequently with the West’s footsoldiers in their dirty wars, al-Harati plummets from a heroes welcome on national TV to facing deportation over accusations of fundraising for ISIS in 2015.

The Manchester connections to the LIFG and the Libyan revolution are many and often involve the support of the UK Government. The leading Al Qaeda and LIFG Lieutenant Anas al-Libi was given asylum in Manchester from 1995–2000. Al-Libi was was apprehended in Libya in 2013 and charged with the 1998 US Embassy Bombings. Another notable former Manchester resident is Abdul Basit Haroun. Haroun left Manchester to command a battalion in 2011, is an admitted arms-smuggler, and claims to have know Ramadan Abedi from the LIFG. Abd al-Baset Azzouz is another LIFG leader to have resided in Manchester. Azzouz left the UK in 2009 and was personally dispatched by Al Qaeda’s al-Zawahiri to lead an anti-Gadaffi AQ cell in Libya.

Manchester has also been a centre of LIFG funding. Salah Mohammed Ali Aboaoba is an admitted fundraiser and and Tahir Nasuf had his assets frozen worldwide by the United Nations for his activities. Many more Libyan-Mancunians were to use the “rat lines” to fight on the front lines of Cameron’s war; most tragically Salman Abedi.

The Quilliam Connection

The Manchester Arena bombing is not the first case of Libyan-related blowback. The Quilliam Foundation have been entangled in. First there was the Benghazi Embassy murders by Ansar-al-Sharia:

September 12, 2012: Four Americans, including US Ambassador Stevens are brutally murdered in Benghazi in a terrorist attack co-ordinated by Ansar-al-Sharia

September 6, 2016: The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published the findings of its examination into the the UK’s 2011 intervention in Libya and the role this played into Libya’s subsequent collapse into a failed state. Regarding the UK intervention empowering Libyan jihadists the then Chief of Staff of The Defence Staff Lord Richards confirmed that the Foreign Office had been misled by “respectable Libyans”.

We asked Lord Richards whether he knew that Abdelhakim Belhadj and other members of the al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were participating in the rebellion in March 2011. He replied that that “was a grey area”.62 He added that “a quorum of respectable Libyans were assuring the Foreign Office” that militant Islamist militias would not benefit from the rebellion.63 He acknowledged that “with the benefit of hindsight, that was wishful thinking at best.”

One of these “respectable Libyans” was almost certainly the Quilliam Foundation’s President Noman Benotman. Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz had boasted of the influence both he and Benotman had over the Government.

Benotman is a veteran of the Cold War-era Afghan jihad and one time member of the Shura Council (leadership) of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The LIFG’s primary goal has been the overthrow of the “infidel” Gadaffi regime but they have aso been strongly linked to international terrorist attacks such as those in Madrid and Casablanca. Benotman was in London with an LIFG leader when he received a call from the besieged Madrid Attacks cell-leader Fakhet, just prior to his suicide, according to a West Point paper. By most reports Benotman left the LIFG in 2003 i.e. years after 9/11.

While Benotman has now renounced terrorism he remains “proud” to have fought alongside Osama Bin Laden whom he describes as “kind” and “humble”.

Through the intercession of (Government funded) Quilliam the “deradicalised” Belhadj was to be released from Libya’s Abu Selim prison in time to spearhead (with Al Qaeda fighters) the UK’s Libyan regime-change. He was appointed as the Military Commander for the National Transitional Council and today is a leading member of the Salafist Al Wattan Party who are demanding Shariah Law in Libya.

The LIFG has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, The UK and The USA and a recovered letter from an Al Qaeda leader to Bin Laden reveals that Al Qaeda celebrate Quilliam’s project to release their brothers.

“Brothers from the Libyan Fighting Group and others are out of jail…There has been an active Jihadist Islamic renaissance underway in Eastern Libya (Benghazi, Derna, Bayda and that area) for some time, just waiting for this kind of opportunity. We think the brothers’ activities, their names, and their ‘recordings’ will start to show up soon.”

In 2007 Benotman gave evidence before a Special Immigration Appeal concerning the fates of two LIFG-linked Libyans seeking asylum in Britain. There he played down the links between Al Qaeda and the LIFG. His claims were countered by a UK Security official witness identified only as “Witness D” who said this of Benotman:

Witness D did not accept that this was entirely honest: there were strong connections going back to Afghanistan between the LIFG and the Taleban, and between the Taleban and Bin Laden. There were connections between significant portions of the LIFG and Al Qa’eda in Afghanistan and elsewhere, although in 1992 the LIFG as a group would have been focused on Libya….Benotman’s criticism of 9/11 was not on moral grounds

Witness D’s assertion that Benotman wasn’t “entirely honest” was to be proven correct later that year as the LIFG swore loyalty to Al Qaeda.

Another to level the “not entirely honest” accusation against Quilliam was their much vaunted supposed success-story and then (and current) far-right leader Tommy Robinson who describes an “I use you. You use me deal” whereby Robinson would receive large monthly cash payments from Quilliam whilst incarcerated in return for being paraded around by Maajid Nawaz as a “reformed” extremist.

Quilliam’s deal with Robinson was to echo the earlier deals Quilliam were to help broker in Libya in the “deradicalisation” and subsequent release of the hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood and LIFG jihadists from Libya’s notorious Abu Selim prison. As a symbol of reconciliation Muanmar Gadaffi’s son Saif initiated dialogue between the State and jihadist leaders, with Quilliam’s Benotman and Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Ali al-Sallabi acting as intermediaries.

To much fanfare the jihadists, while not renouncing violence, did ostensibly revise their jihad “code” and were released in stages. All three parties: Quilliam, al-Sallabi and the MB/LIFG jihadists were to later stab Saif Gadaffi in the back metaphorically and his father literally — Al-Sallabi was to be the conduit for the Qatari’s 2 Billion dollar regime-change investment, the jihadists (including Al-Sallabi’s brother) were to fight on the front-lines while Benotman was in London portraying the jihadists as liberators and lobbying intensively for UK intervention in the media. As Quilliam founder Maajid Nawaz explains in his auto-biography, Radical:

Quilliam were “exposing crimes” that weren’t happening as The House of Commons investigation made abundantly clear.

The proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.

Exactly why the “anti-Islamist” Quilliam Foundation were such fervent supporters of a jihadist regime-change of a stable and secular police state remains a mystery. Yet demand regime-change they did, even issuing a press release calling for the targeted assassinations of Gadaffi family members.

All the while they were falsely assuring the public and apparently behind closed-doors the Government “ that militant Islamist militias would not benefit from the rebellion”.

Six weeks later three of Gadaffi’s grandchildren, all under twelve-years-old, were murdered instantly when a Nato F-16 launched three missiles onto their home in a so-called surgical strike.

Noman Benotman, James Brandon, Quilliam Foundation, Mar 24 20111

Quilliam’s claim of LIFG jihadists having “renounced violence” was utterly false. The LIFG had merely rebranded as the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change (LIMC) and its newly released manifesto entitled “Corrective Studies” maintained the group’s advocacy of violent jihad.

Quilliam’s list of radicals released included Islamist extremists such as the LIFG’s Emir Belhadj, the elder brother of Abu Yahya al-Libi, a leading Al Qaeda figure and the LIFG’s spiritual leader Shaykh Abu al-Mundhir who currently issues fatwas on topics as diverse as:

  • If it’s “permissible to blow up Synagogues in European countries”
  • “The investigation into the sanctity of burning”
  • “What is the ruling on a pregnant woman doing a martyrdom operation”

Arguably its most catastrophic “deradicalisation” and release was the case of Sufyan Ben Qumu/Sofiane Ibrahim Gammu — Bin Laden’s former driver and current leader of the Islamic terrorist organisation Ansar-al-Sharia.

Reuters reported the Al Qaeda trained Bin Qumu’s release through the Saif Gadaffi/Quilliam initiative on August 31, 2010. Less than two years later, four Americans were to brutally murdered in Benghazi by Ansar al-Sharia — A group Benotman would have us believe doesn’t exist

The US State Department disagreed. On January 10, 2014 it registered Ansar-al-Sharia and its leader Bin Qumu as specially designated global terrorists for its role in the Benghazi attacks:

Created separately after the fall of the Qadhafi regime, Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi and Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah have been involved in terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations, and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya, and the September 11, 2012 attacks against the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya. Members of both organizations continue to pose a threat to U.S. interests in Libya.Ahmed Abu Khattalah is a senior leader of Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi and Sufian bin Qumu is the leader of Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah.

Having being directly involved in Bin Qumu’s release Quilliam’s response to the Benghazi terrorist attacks of 2012 were predictably self-serving and duplicitous. Libyan jihadists, who according to Benotman were once “unlikely to re-adopt anti-Western militancy were now “ uncontrollable jihadist groups.“.

The Quilliam Foundation have never been held to account for their disastrous “wishful thinking at best” and Maajid Nawaz has disgracefully used the Manchester tragedy as an opportunity to raise money for his business.

Salman Abedi alone is responsible for his evil terrorist terrorist attack which took the lives of twenty-two others. Correctly identifying the path of radicalisation which led him detonating his IED while looking his victims in the eyes honours his victims. The extent to how much you grieve for the dead is not relative to the collective blame you wrongly place on Muslims. Abedi’s path is a perfect storm of blowback involving Islamophobia at home, US bombs abroad and a 2011 UK led regime-change in Libya where jihadists like Abedi were trained to kill and lauded as heroes in the British press.

People of Britain now have an opportunity to choose between Jeremy Corbyn who has voted against both the Iraq and Libyan blowback-inducing wars and Theresa May who voted for them. It is a choice between security and the benefits of Empire for the elite. Choose wisely.