How Gaddafi’s Ouster Unleashed Terror

Exclusive: Hillary Clinton still sees the 2011 Libyan “regime change” as a feather in her cap as Secretary of State, but the violent ouster of Muammar Gaddafi turned Libya into a badlands for Islamic terrorists who have spread their killing sprees far and wide, just as Gaddafi warned, says Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

The bloody terrorist attacks in Paris had their genesis not only in the poor Muslim suburbs of France and Belgium, and on the battlefields of Syria, but also in NATO’s operation to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The Libyan strongman gave the West fair warning at the time that his ouster would give an enormous boost to radical jihadists. Because no one in power listened, thousands have died in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Mali and now France.

Among the many extremist groups running wild in Libya today is the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh). Headquartered in the city of Sirte, the late Col. Gaddafi’s hometown on the central Mediterranean coast ,the ISIS colony now hosts as many as 3,000 foreign fighters who enforce their iron rule over a 150-mile stretch of the country’s coast. ISIS also has a strong presence in northeastern Libya, around the towns of Derna and Benghazi.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

Since Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, Libya has exported thousands of its own extremists to support jihad in other countries. In Syria, one group of Libyan supporters of ISIS went by the name of Katibat al-Battar al Libi. One of its leaders was none other than Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected organizer of the recent Paris attacks.

His connection to those Libyan fighters in Syria was first established back in January, before the killings in Paris, by Belgian researcher Pieter van Ostaeyen. On Jan. 15, Belgian police killed two members of the radical organization in the town of Verviers, where they were said to be planning a major terrorist attack.

“After the foiled attacks in Verviers in Belgium,” van Ostaeyen wrote, “it became clear that the main suspect Abdelhamid Abaaoud can be linked directly to this group. His little brother Younes (aged 14 and hence probably the youngest foreign fighter in Syria) has been portrayed multiple times in the ranks of Libyan fighters in Syria.”

Photos posted on van Ostaeyen’s blog show grinning, bearded Belgian fighters posed for group portraits in Syria, as if on holiday. He recently observed that many Belgian jihadists were attracted to Katibat al-Battar because they emigrated from eastern Morocco, where they speak a dialect similar to that in Libya.

Last year, Washington researcher Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi called the group “the Libyan division of the Islamic State of Iraq.” He added, “Libya itself has been a big source of muhajireen in both Iraq and Syria over the past decade, so the fact that there is a battalion devoted to recruiting Libyan fighters should come as no surprise. The existence of Katiba al-Bittar al-Libi as a front group for ISIS perhaps reflects a wider pro-ISIS trend across central North Africa.”

Spreading Violence

A subsequent report by two members of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commented on the role of Libyan jihadists who returned home from Syria to commit atrocities on behalf of ISIS, including car bombings, attacks on hotels and embassies, and a brutal slaughter of Egyptian Copts. The analysts traced much of the violence to veterans of Katibat al-Battar, who were active in Derna and Benghazi:

“Libyans had already begun traveling to fight in Syria in 2011, joining existing jihadi factions or starting their own. In 2012, one group of Libyans in Syria declared the establishment of the Battar Brigade in a statement laden with anti-Shia sectarianism. The Battar Brigade founders also thanked ‘the citizens of Derna,’ a city in northeastern Libya long known as a hotbed of radical Islamism, for their support for the struggle in Syria.

“Later, the Battar Brigade fighters in Syria would pledge loyalty to the Islamic State, and fight for it in both Syria and Iraq, including against its al-Qaeda rivals. . . In the spring of 2014, many Battar Brigade fighters returned to Libya. In Derna, they reorganized themselves as the Islamic Youth Shura Council (IYSC). In September, an Islamic State delegation . . . arrived in Libya. After being received by the IYSC, they collected pledges of allegiance to the Islamic State’s self-appointed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, from . . . fighters in Derna. They then declared eastern Libya to be a province of the Islamic State.”

The estimated 800 Battar Brigade veterans in Derna proceeded to execute local judges, journalists, army officers and anyone else deemed un-Islamic. They sent suicide bombers to Tobruk, the temporary headquarters of Libya’s national parliament, to Benghazi, and to the embassies of Egypt and United Arab Emirates in Tripoli.

New Yorker correspondent Jon Lee Anderson reported that “a rival militia loyal to Al Qaeda” wrested control of Derna from the Battar Brigade veterans this summer. “The victors are said to have marched the captured ISIS commander through the streets naked before executing him. ISIS lost Derna, but in the past few months they have taken Qaddafi’s home town of Sirte and surrounding areas in Libya’s ‘Oil Crescent,’ and have begun attacks on the outer defenses of the city of Misrata.”

Back in March 2011, while battling foes of his regime, Col. Gaddafi warned that such mayhem could follow his defeat. He told a French newspaper, “I am surprised that nobody understands that this is a fight against terrorism.” If his opponents prevailed, Gaddafi predicted, “There would be Islamic jihad in front of you in the Mediterranean.” He was right.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy chose to ignore such warnings and, with British Prime Minister David Cameron, dragged a reluctant President Barack Obama into supporting NATO strikes against Gaddafi in the name of humanitarian motives.

But in blatant violation of the United Nations Security Council mandate approving the use of force only to protect civilians, Sarkozy, Cameron, and Obama admitted in an op-ed article on April 14, 2011, that their real agenda was to oust Gaddafi “for good” so that “a new generation of leaders” could take over.

Hillary Clinton’s Boast

NATO leaders were triumphant after opponents murdered Gaddafi on Oct. 20, 2011. In the infamous words of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, echoing Julius Caesar, “We came, we saw, he died.”

With the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails, we now know that she had learned from an adviser that France was stoking the uprising to impose a “new government of Libya to favor French firms and national interests, particularly regarding the oil industry in Libya.” France used humanitarian flights to shuttle executives from leading oil, construction and aerospace firms into the country to negotiate with the opposition so they could profit from the new order.

To this day, Clinton remains unapologetic about her strong advocacy of U.S. intervention. Yet Libya has become a lawless land fought over by 1,700 armed groups and militias. At least a third of the country’s population has been affected by the fighting and lacks adequate access to health services, according to the United Nations.

“Libya today, in spite of the expectations we had at the time of the revolution , it’s much, much worse,” one Mideast expert told PBS Frontline. “Criminality is skyrocketing. Insecurity is pervasive. There are no jobs. It’s hard to get food and electricity. There’s fighting, there’s fear. I see very few bright spots.”

Outside of Libya, the result of Western intervention was to spread jihadism and deadly weapons all over North Africa and the Middle East. Al Qaeda’s North African affiliate obtained vast stores of rocket-propelled anti-tank grenades, heavy machine guns, explosives, and even shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles from Gaddafi’s armories.

Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, said Islamist militias in the region became “armed almost to the extent of a small army” after the collapse of Libya.

In Mali, an affiliate of Al Qaeda used their new firepower to occupy the northern half of the country, impose strict Shariah law, and seize and destroy much of the historic city of Timbuktu. In November, Al Qaeda fighters stormed a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital, killing more than two dozen captives before French and Malian troops dislodged the terrorists.

Elsewhere in North Africa, reported Jon Lee Anderson, “Gunmen who trained with ISIS in Libya were involved in the murder of twenty foreign tourists at a Tunis museum in March, and thirty-eight more tourists, most of them British, at a seaside resort in Tunisia in June.”

And then there is Syria, where Libyans flocked to hone their fighting skills. In 2012 the Defense Intelligence Agency, which predicted the rise of ISIS in Syria, noted that after Gaddafi’s downfall, jihadists shipped weapons from former Libyan military stockpiles to Syria to arm Salafist rebels.

Indeed, one of the main jobs of the CIA station in Benghazi, before the devastating Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission there, was to track those arms shipments. The group behind that attack, Ansar al-Sharia Benhazi, was blacklisted by the United Nations in 2014 for “links to Al-Qaeda and for running camps for the Islamist State group,” according to the Daily Telegraph.

First Iraq, then Libya, now Syria: Western leaders, along with their allies in the Arab states and Israel, have created multiple monsters that will threaten our societies for years to come. By all means, let us condemn those terrorists’ crimes against innocent civilians, wherever they live. But let us not forget our leaders’ complicity in helping to unleash them against us.

Jonathan Marshall is an independent researcher living in San Anselmo, California. Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; and Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.” ]

14 comments for “How Gaddafi’s Ouster Unleashed Terror

  1. L C Hager
    December 7, 2015 at 20:06

    If I am not mistaken, Libya toward the end of the Gaddafi era had the best indices of well-being of any country on the African continent. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the data, but I believe health care levels, educational levels and other indicators were remarkable. I’m disappointed that Mr. Marshall did not mention this. Our destabilization of such a well-ordered country is shameful, and those who talk about the chaos there now should contrast it with the high levels of well-being of a few years ago. The world should get the facts about what we destroyed; what a tragedy.

  2. Brendan
    December 1, 2015 at 15:19

    Years before the NATO overthrow of Gaddafi and the emergence of the Islamic State in Syria, a large number of Libyan islamist militants travelled to Iraq to fight the US-led forces there. That turned out be a useful training ground for later attacks in Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

    Robert Parry wrote in April this year about those Al-Qaeda militants:

    “Al-Qaeda Hotbed

    Similarly, there was scant U.S. media attention given to evidence that eastern Libya, the heart of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, indeed was a hotbed for Islamic militancy, with that region supplying the most per-capita militants fighting U.S. troops in Iraq, often under the banner of Al-Qaeda.

    Despite that evidence, Gaddafi’s claim that he was battling Islamic terrorists in the Benghazi region was mocked or ignored. It didn’t even matter that his claim was corroborated by a report from U.S. analysts Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman for West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

    In their report, “Al-Qaeda’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” Felter and Fishman analyzed Al-Qaeda documents captured in 2007 showing personnel records of militants who flocked to Iraq for the war against the Americans. The documents showed eastern Libya providing a surprising number of suicide bombers who traveled to Iraq to kill American troops.

    Felter and Fishman wrote that these so-called Sinjar Records disclosed that while Saudis comprised the largest number of foreign fighters in Iraq, Libyans represented the largest per-capita contingent by far. Those Libyans came overwhelmingly from towns and cities in the east.

    “The vast majority of Libyan fighters that included their hometown in the Sinjar Records resided in the country’s Northeast, particularly the coastal cities of Darnah 60.2% (53) and Benghazi 23.9% (21),” Felter and Fishman wrote, adding that Abu Layth al‐Libi, Emir of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), “reinforced Benghazi and Darnah’s importance to Libyan jihadis in his announcement that LIFG had joined al‐Qa’ida.” ”

    The findings of that 2007 report were confirmed by Libyan contacts of the US embassy in Tripoli. Chris Stevens, who was one of those killed in the Benghazi attack in 2012, sent a number of cables on that subject, which were made public by Wikileaks.

    In 2008 he wrote that one of those contacts “noted that a majority of those in Derna who raised the issue appeared to take pride in the fact that their small city had contributed disproportionately to the jihad against coalition forces in Iraq.”

    This all sounds very familiar. Islamic extremists, with battle experience in Iraq, financial support from the Gulf states and military support from the USA, are presented as moderate rebels trying to free themselses from a dictator who massacres his own people.

    The western media and politicians might not notice the similarities between Libya and Syria, but the Russians do.

  3. Dave Webb Sr.
    December 1, 2015 at 13:45

    The ironic thing is I do not really believe he is gone.
    I think he is in hiding and I do not blame him one little bit about hiding.
    I think they killed his double. The dental records are the key to this.
    He was right about one thing. The vacuum left by his leaving produced the current mess.
    He was a very powerful, ruthless individual, that did what was needed to keep things together. Even to the execution of members of his own family.
    That man had a tiger by the tail and any attempt to get loose from that situation was fatal. That was the nightmare.
    If he is alive, I am certain he has no desire to return to power.
    The hope of justice for all of this? Not in this lifetime.
    The power group behind the democrats still thinks Hilliary can win and become President of this country. Otherwise it would be all over with and she would be in jail. The alternative from the Republican side will not make it with the public as things stand. If it is Donald Trump, all hell is about to break loose.
    If it is someone more conservative? Who knows what happens after they are confirmed in office. More of the same?
    All of this is with the background of a very unstable world of terrorist religious fanatics willing to do just about anything, any where and any time.
    There are 4 world powers out there right now and the fourth one is responsible for most of the terror. I suggest before it is over with, that the three most powerful countries on the planet will get together and go against the terrorists.
    I have never seen a religion destroyed before in my lifetime.
    But that is what is about to happen.
    That religious group is using a brain washing technique to produce terrorists all over the planet. It has been in place since the group started in the 9th century or thereabouts. Approximately 1/8th of the population of the planet believes it.
    The third country in this list is China. And when they get into the conflict, all hell will break lose.

  4. onno
    December 1, 2015 at 10:09

    Great article, it shows again the destabilizing forces of USA/NATO just to liquidate a head of state because he didn’t follow Washington’s objectives in case of Libya especially his socialistic benefits for the people of Libya, he loved and took care of them unlike the ‘American Way’ Just to name a few benefits that would make ANYBODY in the world jealous, especially Americans:
    – Unemployment benefits $730,00 a month
    – salary nurse $ 1000,00 a month
    – young family start-up aid $ 65,000,00
    – Aid for business start-up $ 20,000,00
    – education incl. university FREE
    – Health Care FREE

    Unlike US 1% rich who are getting richer over the nation’s poor and workers, Gaddafi shares oil receipts with his people. A bad example for US DEMOCRACY slogans and for that reason he had to be killed. Libya will never be the same again and are suffering from a civil war that only benefits Corrupt officials, US Defence industry, US presidents and lobbyists. However, people pay with their lives in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Ukraine.

  5. Lusion
    November 30, 2015 at 18:48

    A very curious fact about the “rebellion” against Gaddafi and its immediate priorities has been repeatedly reported:

    I have never before heard of a central bank being created in just a matter of weeks out of a popular uprising. This suggests we have a bit more than a rag tag bunch of rebels running around and that there are some pretty sophisticated influences.
    Robert Wenzel, Economic Policy Journal

    In a statement released last week, the rebels reported on the results of a meeting held on March 19. Among other things, the supposed rag-tag revolutionaries announced the “[d]esignation of the Central Bank of Benghazi as a monetary authority competent in monetary policies in Libya and appointment of a Governor to the Central Bank of Libya, with a temporary headquarters in Benghazi.”
    Alex Newman, New American

    Newman quoted CNBC senior editor John Carney, who asked, “Is this the first time a revolutionary group has created a central bank while it is still in the midst of fighting the entrenched political power? It certainly seems to indicate how extraordinarily powerful central bankers have become in our era.”

    It makes sense to call the late Colonel Gaddafi a strongman, I suppose –
    but he had a Revolution to protect.

    “Even” Wikipedia sort of can’t help to laud the success of his economic policies:

    Something else now unprotected is Gaddafi’s so called Great Manmade River project, started in 1984 and drawing on large resources of fossil water from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System; it was pumping large amounts of water to both urban populations and new irrigation projects around the country, but was meant to benefit the wider region as well.

    Surely financial interests have primacy over this project now, too.
    It will turn out to be a powerful geostrategic factor, once the system is repaired.
    With further climate deterioration, this water might become Libya’s most precious future commodity, before oil and anything else.

    But it will not be in the hands of the Libyan people anymore.
    Also – nobody seems to know who stole the Colonel’s 144 tonnes of gold…

    • Brad Owen
      December 1, 2015 at 06:08

      Don’t forget that we are living on a water planet. When we, the people of Planet Earth, decide to use our wits, our science and technology, and cooperate to supply our needs for life and thriving, and turn away from geopolitical war-fighting on this planet (since there is no actual NEED for war), we’ll have all the water we need, and everything else too. The war is a war against the ideal of a modern, progressive, secular, democratic, peace-loving, Republic, waged against the people EVERYWHERE, by the Deep State Oligarchy. They wish to turn us ALL, into mere commodities (human resource) in their portfolios of Imperial Power…a new-age Feudalism is struggling to be reborn, and it’s a very rough beast too.

  6. Pablo Diablo
    November 30, 2015 at 18:01

    Gotta keep the war machine well fed so they can continue to buy the politicians who support war. See: Hillary Clinton. “Regime change” has gone as well in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, and Syria as it went in Korea, Vietnam, Chile, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

  7. bfearn
    November 30, 2015 at 16:44

    The only way that all the American instigated violence makes sense is to realize that the military industrial complex and their profits come first.

    The killing of millions simply don’t matter.

  8. Abe
    November 30, 2015 at 13:41

    A more honest and accurate title would be “How Unleashed Terror Ousted Gaddafi”.

    In 2003, we saw how unleashed terror ousted Hussein in Iraq. The people of Iraq have suffered wave upon wave of terror ever since.

    The terror unleashed upon Iraq by the United States and its “coalition of the willing” allies was an asymmetric warfare hybrid of “shock and awe” military attacks and the darkest side of COIN (counter-insurgency).

    Counter-insurgency is conducted as a combination of conventional military operations and other means, such as propaganda, psy-ops, and assassinations. Counter-insurgency operations include many different facets: military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken to defeat opposition.

    It should be noted that the sheer size of the American military means that all U.S. wars may be reasonably classified as asymmetric warfare and all opposition to American military hegemony (including domestic and foreign “allied” social and political opposition) may be classified as insurgency subject to COIN measures.

    The various iterations of al-Qaeda were and are a counter-insurgency project of the American military establishment. U.S. and allied civilian and military casualties obviously are deemed a necessary investment in this project.

    In 2013, we saw how unleashed terror ousted Yanukovich in Ukraine.

    Since 2011, unleashed terror has attempted to oust Assad in Syria, with escalating COIN operations in European capitals.

    Got GLADIO?

  9. Joseph D'Urso
    November 30, 2015 at 13:14

    Not only has Hillary boasted of her criminal support for Qaddafi’s murder, but she has been a key part of the lying cover-up of the attack on Benghazi on Sept., 11, 2012, in which three Americans were killed. Going along with the fake narrative about a “demonstration gone bad,” at Obama’s request, she, along with Susan Rice and others, knowingly provided, a false picture to the American public, rather than the actual premeditated assault by the jihadis with whom they had allied.

    • JimBob53
      December 1, 2015 at 08:20

      The Obama/Clinton capers in Libya were “smart power at its best” according to Hillary.

      Seriously, she said that at the debates … and neither Bernie nor the also-rans challenged her.

      Can there be any doubt that she is insane? And that Bernie is, at best, an addled debater and incompetent to conduct foreign policy? The Republicans in the main are little better: few opposed the Libyan policy of Obama/Clinton except to argue that it was not aggressive enough for their murderous tastes. The only exception is Rand Paul, but even he kowtows to the elites of the military-industrial complex.

      • Guest
        December 1, 2015 at 18:19

        Hillary insane? No. Dangerous? Definitely.

        I honestly think a Hillary presidency would be worse than any Republican in the White House.

        The Republicans will feed us shit.

        Hillary and the Democrats will also feed us shit – but they’ll coat it with honey first to make it go down better.

        The reason why I’m not squarely behind Sanders are his foreign policy positions and his agreement to support Hillary after he loses the nomination.

    • Eileen K.
      December 2, 2015 at 22:26

      Led by the “neocons” running the USG, NATO launched airstrikes on Muammar Gaddhafi’s convoy, rendering it vulnerable to their Jihadi mercenaries’ ambush .. while Obama, Biden, Hillary, et al , watched it all unfold on the TV screen in the Situation Room in the basement of the White House. When Gaddhafi was captured by these terrorists and brutally tortured to death, Hillary cackled like the Wicked Witch of the West from the movie “The Wizard of Oz”, while stating “We came, we saw, he died”.
      If you think Obama’s bad .. which he is .. just imagine Hillary as President .. she’d be far worse. She’s already one of the worst Secretaries of State in American history, outdoing even Madeleine Albright, Hillary’s behavior during the terrorist attack on the US Consulate was absolutely criminal .. ordering the military to stand down, then lying about it, telling the citizenry and the world the attack on the Consulate was revenge for a “video” that was released, defaming Islam and its Prophet – Mohammed.
      Hillary belongs behind bars, not campaigning for the White House, for all the crimes she has committed, including the e-mail scandals. The NATO air attack on Libya, followed by Gaddhafi’s ouster and murder, has unleashed untold terror on Libya ,, once the most advanced, wealthiest nation in North Africa .. and, now a nation in ruins, with Islamic State gaining ground and making matters worse.

      • rexw
        December 4, 2015 at 21:51

        “Led by the “neocons” running the USG”, as above, from Eileen

        All actions such as these will continue until people everywhere stop calling the perpetrators of all these crimes, yes, all of them neocons and they are called what they really are, Zionists, one and all.

        Behind every decision that makes the USA a lesser country by the day, are due to the Zionists, the fifth column, the AIPAC sycophants and the fellow travellers where Clinton ticks every box as do probable 60% of the Congress of the United States.

        In 50 years, the USA has become owned, totally by a parasitic middle eastern state

        That 60%in Congress has to be named, their backers, the Adelson’s, Koch, Goldman Sachs and all the corrupted public servants being paid by American taxes, the Mayors such as Emmanuel in Chicago, the film industry and their endless propaganda and the members of the pathetic Zionist-controlled Senate.

        Now when you get to that stage, you have a chance. Until then, the US will continue to be raped by Israel, day in and day out. They know it but do nothing.

        In the past, the Libyan ‘regime change, the USS Liberty scandal and US Humiliation Day, March 3 2015,( AIPAC / Netanyahu’s triumphant conference,) when the US confirmed its status as Israel’s #1 puppet, have all been the defining moments in the fall of the once-respected USA. No longer respected, never again and now irrecoverable.

        Apathy now reigns supreme.

        Just look at who is running as the Democratic candidate and the reason becomes clear. It’s America, 2015, a shadow of its former self.

        The people need to realise that the psychotic state of Israel is the world’s #1 evil .

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