Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
Terrorist Profile: Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
Aliases: Listed in Terdman (2005)’s analysis of the group, the group is also known in the following names: the Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-
Muqatilah bi-libya, the Libyan Fighting Group, the Libyan Islamic Group or the Fighting Islamic Group. It is collectively known as the LIFG in the international community.
Founded: There is no particular date noted on when the group was founded but it is estimated to be somewhere around 1992-1995.
Areas of Operation: Most of the group’s bases are found in Northeastern Libya and in the lesser ruled Eastern borders, they are also known to have bases in Afghanistan, Iraq and even in UK but this is not proven by any communiqué by the group.
Source of Funds: The group gains its sources through private donations, from loyalist NGOs and from their own criminal activity.
Strength: The group is said to have 100 to 2,500 men scattered in each region but the exact number is unknown due to their allegiances to other rebel groups.
Known Activities: The group is well known in the 1996 assassination attempt of Mohammad Gadhafi, numerous skirmishes against the Libyan military and partnership attacks against US Embassies in Africa alongside the al-Qaida.
Ideology/Goal: For the LIFG, they wish to create an Islamist Libyian state in which they would rule and overthrow Mohammad Gadhafi from office.
According to Stewart of the STRATFOR group (2011), Libyans have taken part in many rebel operations in other Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq in the belief that their cause promotes freedom and justice from dictators that have reigned over the country for almost a couple of decades. Around the 1990s, a large group of Libyan jihadists left Afghanistan and returned to Libya to overthrow Mohammad Gadhafi out of office. Terdman (2005) traces the group’s known history but an exact year of its foundation is quite vague due to the extensive history of Libyan jihadist groups around the Middle East. He notes, however, that the LIFG was established sometime around 1982 and has been taught by other jihadists from notable Middle Eastern groups. Members of the LIFG are proficient in any type of fight and warfare and have been taught the Islamist code by Abdallah Azzam. Upon returning to the country, they began to plot their strategy against Mohammad Gadhafi and continued to recruit members.
There are many factors that have led to the creation of the LIFG and these factors reflect the undesirable effects of Gadhafi’s reign over the country. The first factor is Gadhafi’s own version of Islam as written in his “green book”, as a pure Islamic group, the LIFG believes that Gadhafi’s Islam is against the traditional words of their religion and must be stopped in going main stream. The second factor that contributed to the foundation of the group is the steadily weakening and chaotic government the country has. The third factor is the continuous rise of unemployment, food shortage and economic weakness caused by the sanctions posed to the country in 1992. With these factors in play, the group decided to take over the government and correct these mistakes.
Their first known attack as the LIFG happened on June 1995 as militants dressed as Gadhafi’s Revolutionary Committee stormed major government installations such as hospitals, prisons and high-profile areas and freed their members. The government did not like the taunting very lightly as they immediately fought off against the members of the LIFG when the rebels attacked Benghazi in September 1995.
Weeks later, the group formally announced their presence through the form of a communiqué issued by Libyan Afghan veterans who have been granted asylum in Britain. The group then tried to attempt their one of their big operations by assassinating Gadhafi in February 1996 but this was not successful as the group were only able to kill some of Gadhafi’s bodyguards. Many prison breaks continued to happen in 1996 and many of these escapees fled to the mountainous regions of the northeast. By June, rebels attacked policemen in Derna while on training. The government retaliated by issuing arrest warrants against the rebels and launched full-scale attacks on LIFG bases. Around November, they attempted to assassinate Gadhafi again on his visit to Brak but he escaped yet again.
Inside the LIFG are small committees that organize the group’s inner mechanism. The Majlis Shura or the consultative committee rules the group and decides any form of action and strategy that the group would partake.. The al-Lajnah al-Shar’iyyah or the judicial committee decides on any dispute that may happen in the group and is in charge of the education of all its members. The judicial committee is also tasked to monitor the Libyan society and decide the necessary actions the group can take and write commentaries on their own perspective. Due to the important task of the judicial committee, the committee has three branches that handle research and study, propaganda and judicial issues to maintain balance throughout the group. The group is also assisted by a third body which handles information distribution and handling. This group, the information bureau, ensures that the Libyan people are aware of their position and their struggle against the government.
The propaganda, ideology and goal of the LIFG stand behind their belief in Islam and express their belief that their jihad against the Libyan government would provide order and “to save the Libyan Muslims from the oppression, tyranny and from the deviation of Gadhafi’s Islam from the true Islam they must believe in”. The group stresses that they are an Islamic group that fights against the enemies of Allah and his Islam. For the group, the restoration of a strong Islamic government in the country would take place under the group’s leadership. They also believe that the Libyan people must be allowed to bear arms as long as they are against the ideologies of the Gadhafi regime. The method of the group is also well-coordinated as it is based on five aspects that would ensure the group’s continuous activities: preparations for possible actions against the Libyan government, secret activity in and out of the country, undertaking Jihad against the current regime, openly supporting other jihadist groups around the globe and financing the group from its trusted sources.
The group’s ideology is also broadcasted around the globe with its website detailing how important it is for Muslims to fight against their enemies like how the group intends on defeating them. A book was published detailing the group’s ideology and its position against the religion’s known heretics, namely Gadhafi. The book also explains why the LIFG was founded and the fundamental facts on why it must remain to exist. Upon closer inspection in the various publications of the LIFG, it reveals that most of this information is connected to war, holy war and issues on religion. Terdman notes that this is called a fatwas. With this light, the LIFG is not just a domestic rebel group but a radical Islamic chain.
After a couple of years, the attacks of the LIFG were still consistently done against military and police installations but they were considerably losing support and power because of the government’s martial law announcement in some of the towns where most of the groups bases are located. Each town subjected to martial law were also subjected into torture tactics and make them submit to the demands of the government in revealing the location of LIFG members. If this was not enough, the group has lost many of its top commanders such as Salah Fathi bin Salman in one of their skirmishes with the government and by 1998, the government managed to round up their supporters and destroy some of the group’s remaining hideouts. Many surviving members of the LIFG fled the country and joined in other terrorist organizations outside the country. After 9/11, the group was cited as a terrorist organization by the United States government despite its unclear threat in Libya.
Steward states that the LIFG has officially sent its first official message since they left the country that they have joined the al Qaeda in November 3, 2007. This was no surprise to most members of the international community considering the long history of Libyan fighters fighting alongside the al Qaeda before the LIFG disbanded. On 2008, the US State Department announced that the government is concerned with the growth of radicalism in Eastern Libya. The author of the said announcement cites that with this growing trend in the particular part of the region, it many led to more Libyans to be inspired by the cause and eventually fight alongside most of the members of the Al-Qaeda.
The author of the said announcement of the US State Department noted that Iraq may become the main reason for these jihadist groups to attack the US. Should this happen, members of the LIFG and active civilians may be more than willing to serve their cause and become suicide bombers. Steward also noted that it is important to watch over the changes that may happen in Libya in the next few months as one late move can alert Jihadists and try their very best in attacking America when it is at its most vulnerable point.
At present, there is no definite implication that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is still mobilizing from the shadows and has already invaded America undetected. However, upon the announcement of the US government that the group is to be considered as a terrorist group, several important US Homeland Security policies would be applied to the group should any member be caught guilty in attacking the country.
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 would be one of the most binding policies of the US Government considering the scope and capacity of the said act in the problem of homeland security and possible terrorist threats in the region. In a summary written by Ritter and Ball for the Kirkpatrick and Lockhart Group (2003), the Homeland Security Act of 2002 was signed into law on November 25, 2002 in light of the recent events in 9/11. The goal of the policy is to defend the country and its citizens from the dangers of the new revolution. Through this particular act, the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security will combine 22 important agencies that deal with foreign affairs and immigration and serve as the main department that would handle in the judicial and legal aspect of how the country would accept foreign tourists, workers or new citizens. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 became active on January 24, 2003 and administered the creation of the DHS. By January 24, 2004, the 22 important agencies that must be included in the DHS have officially been merged to the DHS. The DHS has been set to do a couple of objectives upon its creation:
Prevent terrorist attacks within the country
Reduce the country’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks
Assist in recovering from domestic attacks and reducing the damages it may inflict in the country
Organize the operations of all 22 agencies that has been transferred to the department
Ensure the economic security without worrying of the effects done by the government's security efforts and programs.
The HSA also establishes seven functions that must be done by the department in addressing the problem of terrorism in the country.
Information analysis and infrastructure protection
Advancement of science and technology and procuring of newly developed items to support homeland security attempts
Border and transportation security
Emergency preparedness and response
Coordination with federal, state and local governments alongside private sectors in the issue of homeland security
Establish the National Homeland Security Council
Titles VII and VIII of the HSA outlines the capacity of the Act in maintaining the operation of all the institutions under the DHS and monitor each activity of these institutions. The two acts also maintain the coordination efforts of all the major institutions that work with the DHS in maintaining security of the country from possible threats. The rest of the titles of the HSA outline how could private corporations such as those who run major and minor transportation carriers such as airlines, trains and bus companies would be able to protect their pilots, crew and their passengers should there be a threat by a possible terrorist bomber on board. The Act also addresses how the government would be able to handle management and organization strategies to be implemented to the DHS and to the Act should it be amended.
Despite the assurances that the Homeland Security Act of 2002 would be able to cover up all the lapses that may arise when it comes to homeland security, there are many who ask for the legitimacy of the act when it comes to the human rights violations that may happen upon the implementation of the said act. In a six-page analysis done by Talanian (2003) the HSA violates a right to a person’s privacy as the Act would open up a person’s private activity such as credit card transactions, bank deposits, telephone calls and travels without the consent of the person. The departments that would handle a person’s case may also mismatch the information they have gotten from a particular person and may use it on other issues that they can pin on the suspected person. With the files of every citizen and tourist open to the government, the government may now use this chance to do clandestine activities that can be hidden by the information they have gotten from the people they are investigating. Talanian also points out that the HSA protects the government especially in funding their special interests in waging a war against the Middle East.
Given the important fine points that the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to possible threats caused by terrorist groups such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, the Act is capable in countering the group’s attempts in terrorising the country if it does make an appearance in the American borders even if the attempt is assisted by al-Qaeda. For the LIFG to properly function in the US considering the five aspects that would ensure its function, the Homeland Security Act may be able to contain it through the various sections under the Act. Due to the information gathering and analysis capacity of the Department of Homeland Security, it may be able to trace information regarding the actions of the group as each channel of communication is closely monitored by the DHS. Before a member of the rebel group would be able to be accepted inside the country, special operatives may get a tip off regarding a person and track the person’s worthiness in entering the US.
This same setup is used when assessing the worthiness of refugees if they should be allowed to relocate to the US and gain the country’s protection. In the article written by Tardman, the CIA has been informed of the identities of all the members of the LIFG and should there be any chance that they may stall in a different identity. Any form of clandestine activity may also be traced as all types of transactions done by any foreigner or citizen of the country that may help the LIFG will also be open for the government to procure should there be a suspected terrorist tip off. Since the US is advanced in countering any type of attack due to its state-of-the-art weaponry and machinery, any form of attack in selected communities may be reduced to a minimum due to the response time and assessment training done by members of the law-enforcement bureaus. The Act would also protect those who are working in the transportation sector as the Act would enable proper training and exercise to crew members in dealing with possible threats on board.
The only setback of the Act in terms of reducing the chances of the LIFG from surfacing in the country is the ability of these terrorist to enter undetected by home security officers as their capability of espionage is at par with the capabilities of the members of the Al Qaeda. The threat that the group poses to the US government is also unclear since its disbanding and alliance to the Al Qaeda. But with the growth of radicalism and fanaticism, the HSA may be able to determine any possible form of entrance of these jihadists to the country even before they could file their application for access.
Ritter, J., & Ball, A. (2003). The Homeland Security Act of 2002. Pittsburgh: Kirkpatrick and Lockhart LLP.
Stewart, S. (2011). Jihadist Opportunities in Libya. Austin: STRATFOR Global Intelligence.
Talanian, N. (2003). The Homeland Security Act: The Decline of Privacy; the Rise of Government Secrecy. Northampton: Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
Terdman, M. (2005). The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Project for the Research of Islamist Movements Occasional Papers, 3(2), 1-9.