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Inside Story

Libya: A safe haven for al-Qaeda?

As the country appears to be a new base for armed groups, we ask if it is in danger of descending into lawlessness.

Last Modified: 08 Oct 2013 14:42
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He has been wanted by the FBI for more than a decade and has a $5m bounty on his head. Abu Anas al-Liby, who is suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda and of planning the bombing of two US embassies in East Africa in 1998, was captured by US soldiers in Tripoli.

The US raid on foreign soil is drawing attention to al-Qaeda's growing presence in the country since the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

There is a bit of a concern in Washington as well as in Libya itself that the government is seen being ... too closely attached to the western powers that intervened militarily to overthrow Gaddafi and so it is better if in public, the government - like the Pakistani government - attacks the US for violence and sovereignty, even if in private they are collaborating with the United States...

Richard Weitz, Center for Political Military Analysis

Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is now demanding answers from Washington, describing al-Liby's capture as a kidnapping and insisting on an explanation for why American special forces carried out a raid on Libyan territory.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, defended the military operation and had this message for al-Qaeda:

"We hope that this makes clear that the United States of America will never stop in its effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror and those members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations literally can run but they can't hide. We will continue to try to bring people to justice in an appropriate way with hopes that ultimately these kinds of activities against everybody in the world will stop."

Since Muammar Gaddafi's death, almost every embassy in the country has been attacked.

But the most prominent assault took place last year against the US consulate in Benghazi. The raid resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other embassy staff.

What emerged from this is that it is not just the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group that is operating there - other groups were involved in the US embassy attack in Benghazi.

Up until earlier this year, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb used northern Mali as its base for operations but that changed after the French military intervened which left many people wondering where they had gone.

lt now appears that Libya, in particular southern Libya, has become a new base for al-Qaeda fighters. It is an area largely out of the reach of Libya's poorly equipped and unorganised security forces.

Al-Qaeda members now seem to be using their new location as a springboard to carry out operations across the entire Sahel region. In May, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb was blamed for a twin suicide attack in Niger that killed at least 20 people.

Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou has since warned that the group is planning more attacks from its stronghold in southern Libya against countries like Chad.

Why is Libya becoming a safe haven for a number of armed groups? And how much of a threat are they to the region?

Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, speaks to guests: Con Coughlin, the defence editor of the Daily Telegraph; Richard Weitz, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Political Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute; and Faraj Najem, the director for Salam Centre for Africa Research, a think-tank affiliated to the government of Libya.

"The government is helpless, I don't think they can do anything but it's furious it is being accused by its people that it is implicated in the kidnapping of a Libyan citizen on Libyan soil."

Faraj Nadem, a former National Congress candidate

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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