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Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Libya and Justice for All: The Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism Makes Strange Bedfellows by Ken Silverstein


A recent, little noted lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., promises fresh embarrassment for the Bush Administration, this time in regards to the administration's quiet alliance with Libya and Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi in the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism.”

In recent years the CIA and Libya have found reasons to discreetly work together, building a relationship based on a shared distrust of Islamic radicals. Qaddafi has turned over local radicals suspected of links to Al Qaeda to neighboring pro-American governments, and to return the favor the CIA sent a private jet to Tripoli and flew some of Qaddafi's intelligence officers down to Guantanamo Bay to interrogate Libyans held there.

Libya has been hoping that its cooperation can help get it off the State Department's soon-to-be released annual list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” where it has appeared since 1979. The Bush Administration has suggested that Libya might one day be removed, and the U.S.-Libya Business Council—founded and financed by oil giants including Chevron, Occidental, and Amerada Hess—has been lobbying on Qaddafi's side.

But a slight problem has arrived—in the form of a $10 billion lawsuit, filed on April 5, on behalf of the families of the 21 people killed during the 1986 attempted hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Pakistan by the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO). The five hijackers were captured and sentenced to jail terms in Pakistan, but one, Zaid Safarini, was brought to the United States after his release and in May 2004 was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison. Through that case, passengers on the Pan Am flight learned of Libya's sponsorship of the ANO and its direct support for the Karachi hijacking.

The international law firm Crowell & Moring, which represents the plaintiffs in the Washington lawsuit, sent me a number of documents that it has filed as part of the case. The documents, some previously classified, add to what was previously known about Qaddafi's support for the ANO. Three in particular are worth noting:

The first, a 1986 CIA report, said that Turkish authorities had once arrested four Libyans in Ankara carrying Bulgarian hand grenades acquired from the local Libyan embassy. Grenades from the same batch were used by ANO during four subsequent terrorist attacks, including the notorious December 1985 attacks on El Al ticket counters at the Rome and Vienna airports.

The second is an affidavit from Ali Rezaq, an ANO operative who hijacked Egypt Air Flight 648 in November 1985. (The hijackers shot five passengers in the head and dumped their bodies on the tarmac during that affair. Two of the five survived.) Rezaq said that he met with a Libyan official “on two separate occasions regarding the planned hijacking. The second meeting took place in a location where access was permitted only for diplomats . . . Only because of what the Libyan government official said and did was it possible for the hijacking to take place.”

The third is a statement from former senior U.S. intelligence official Pat Lang, who said that “Qaddafi's Libya was most eager to, and did, provide substantial material support for ANO, assisting with funds, facilities, apartments, airline tickets, free entry and exit of members of ANO, use of its 'diplomatic pouch' and diplomatic freight privileges, official documents of all kinds, and actual operational assistance in pre-positioning of people and supplies for the conduct of operations.”

It is hard to imagine a more textbook definition of “state sponsorship.” These documents do refer to old events, but the timing of the reminder of Qaddafi's past support for ANO might cause problems for the colonel's friends in Washington. “Libya has attempted to get off the list of state sponsors of terrorism and earn some sort of legitimate place in the world,” says Dr. Prabhat Krishnaswamy, whose father was killed by the Pan Am hijackers. “But the victims remember.” Even if the Bush Administration might prefer to forget.

Ken Silverstein is the Washington Editor for Harper's Magazine, and a regular contributor to both the print and web version of Harper's. He can be reached at ken@harpers.org. This article appears in Harper's Magazine.

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Libyans angry US keeps them on terror list by Sherwood Ross for the Middle East Times

In fact, the inability of Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem to get Libya off the list "helped insure his replacement" by hard-liner Baghdadi Al Mahmoudi, according to author Andrew Solomon in the May 8 issue of The New Yorker magazine.

"Deep down," the writer quoted one Libyan advisor as saying, "the Americans think that, if they normalize relations, [Leader Col. Muammar] Qadhafi will blow something up and make them look like fools."

The author says US Representative Tom Lantos of California told him, "Qadhafi has clearly made a 180-degree turn and we are turning around the aircraft carrier that is US policy."

But Lantos has been unable to muster Congressional support for a bill to strengthen bilateral relations between the two former antagonists, Solomon said.

Qadhafi's second son, Seif Al Islam Al Qadhafi, who has proposed Libya give up its military, clearly feels America will come to Libya's aid in the event of trouble. "If Egypt invades Libya, the Americans are going to stop it," Seif told the magazine. "Now that we have peace with America there is no need for terrorism, no need for nuclear bombs."

Seif said Libyans have been recruited by (Iraqi's Abu Mussab Al) Zarqawi to "create cells and attack American interests in Libya -- oil companies, American schools, and so on. It's a disaster for us, because we want the American presence."

"There aren't so many of these extremists, several dozen, but even that in a country like Libya is a big headache," Seif added.

He noted Libya is already "helping the American war on terror. It's happening and it's going to happen."

In 2004, two decades of US sanctions ended when Libya agreed to pay compensation for the victims of the 1988 downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and renounced use of weapons of mass destruction.

While an oil-driven economy has made some gains under his rule, author Solomon says there is no opposition press and "surveillance is pervasive".

"It is illegal to slander the Leader, and Law 71 makes a capital offense of any group activity opposed to the revolution, but this has been less strictly enforced lately," he wrote. "Libya has signed the UN Convention Against Torture, and the minister of justice has said that he will bring Libyan law in line with international human-rights standards."

One angry Libyan writer quoted in the article didn't think much of Qadhafi's reforms: "He has to go. This colonel has eaten the best years of my life, poisoned my soul and my existence, murdered the people I loved. I hate him more than I love my wife ... We have no souls left. Do not let yourself be fooled by this talk of reform. What kind of reform is it when this man is still sitting in Tripoli?"

"For the most part," author Solomon writes, "when Libyans talk of democratization they envision not elections but more personal privacy, greater educational opportunities, and expanded freedom of speech."

This article appears in The Middle East Times.


Tuesday, May 9, 2006

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