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Libyan Islamic Fighting Group lays down arms

By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 22/07/09

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Terrorism experts in the Maghreb suggest that the recent announcement by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) that it would sever its ties with al-Qaeda indicates a real problem with morale inside the terrorist network's Maghreb operation.

The Libyan terrorist group made its announcement in an open letter on July 3rd. The statement's eight points also denounced armed violence, declaring it an "unsuccessful option".

The letter – published on numerous Islamist websites – uncovered a history of dialogue between the LIFG and the Libyan regime dating back more than two years.

After evaluating their previous experiences, LIFG leadership determined that violence against the regime and the public did not achieve the desired results, which remain "removal of injustice against people and realisation of the important Sharia interests".

The LIFG is distinct from other fighting groups, the letter states, in its compliance with Sharia and "alienation from many wrong practices, such as... arbitrary bombings, sabotage of public and private property and targeting of civilians".

Therefore, the letter concludes, "we back the decision to stop all military acts inside Libya, and we adhere to the policy of not opening any external fronts, whatever the reason".

Monia Ferjani, a Tunisian specialist on Islamic groups, said the group's decision suggests serious divisions within the movement.

"Their choice of talks, rather than violence, is an indication of their weakness," she told Magharebia. "They never believed in talks before. The Libyan regime has cracked down on them by arresting their leaders, and their image in the West has been affected."

"They have nothing left but reconciliation with the regime," she continued, "but this reconciliation will cost them certain concessions which will drive away supporters."

The declaration was preceded by a release issued last March by the imprisoned emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Abdelhakim Belhaj, aka Abu Abdallah Al Sadek. In the statement, Belhaj praised efforts by Seif al-Islam al-Kadhafi to create an atmosphere of trust between the LIFG and the state that facilitated the difficult talks.

Abu al-Laith al-Libi created controversy within the LIFG in 2007 when he advocated an alliance with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. LIFG leaders initially rejected the decision and called for its revision, but al-Libi was killed in a US air raid in the Pakistani province of Waziristan in 2008 before the completion of the talks.

"The announcement of the LIFG represents a huge moral blow to many violent groups," said one Libyan journalist and expert in radical groups.

"It's more of a symbolic blow to al-Qaeda than a tactical loss on the ground," he continued, "as the LIFG has never been a source of real threat to the regime. I think that the move comes at the right time, given the increase of regional movements to stop the spread of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which seems to have made a forward base in Mali to hit the interests of the region's countries."

One signatory was asked to comment on the "letter to stop jihad" in Libya Al-Mostakbal. The former LIFG member wrote: "Practically speaking, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is over; it has very few members. Although this reality is painful, it remains the undeniable truth."

"The fact that Abu Yahya or Abu al-Laith [al-Libi] appear now and then in the media doesn't mean that the group still exists," he continued. "Since its formation, the group was known to operate in the Libyan arena only; it never entered into regional alliances, and will never do."

He also dispelled rumours that the members who signed the letter were coerced. "[T]he release was signed by brothers the group trusts and whose opinions it respects. It has asked them more than once to write, but it was only possible after a long period of examination and discussion. I was one of the signatories to the release, and I know quite well the details of the dialogue and its circumstances. It is not true that the brothers signed it under any pressure."

Tunisian political analyst Borhane Besais said the decision of the LIFG to sever ties with al-Qaeda and to lay down arms is "an indication of the retraction of the influence of violent takfirist groups in the Maghreb region and the drop of their ability to further recruit or manoeuvre".

Twenty-nine Libyans wanted by the authorities for their affiliations with extremist groups returned home from overseas exile last week, after the Libyan government passed a law granting amnesty in return for repentance. The Al Gaddafi Foundation paved the way for many of these repatriations.

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    Mohamed Ali Ender 2012-4-23

    LOL, Qaddafi has come to an end, Lets turn the page and move on with our real life's, Thank God the wart has died..... :)) Libyans now can live free and say what the truly want to say. Al-Hamdurallah ya Rubby


  2. Anonymous thumb

    boblulf 2011-8-26

    Here is a honourable act that gives me some hope that we will manage to be self-respecting. God will be glorified if these humans succeed in setting themselves back in the light. May you always be deaf to the call of the obscure.


  3. Anonymous thumb

    حلمي القيرواني 2009-9-2

    Congratulations to the Libyan people on the occasion of Al Fateh Day. Praise be to God for the repentance of this aberrant group and return to the right path. Our Maghreb people have endured so much from colonization. It is high time for union and learn sciences. The road of knowledge is the best way to combat the west. Congratulations to the prince of Maghreb people not just the Libyan, Seif Al Islam for his role in establishing the environment of tolerance. He is by God a sword of Islam.


  4. Anonymous thumb

    المسلاتى 2009-8-27

    Praise be to God who made our country one of the safe countries free of extremists and terrorists thanks to God and Colonel Kadhafi may God protect him. As to my dear Libyan brothers, sons of the country who followed the movement of extremism and deviation, praise be to God who guided them and made for them a path of goodness and light by returning to their families, people and country. For the dear brothers who relinquished their positions, return to the country and people, this is an audacious attitude. Salutations to them and to all honourable people. Those who don’t know dear Libya, we invite to our country, live in it and watch its people. We welcome all Arabs in particular and all the world in general. As to what is said about Libya without any knowledge of the reality and watching people, this is ignorance of the sceptic. Finally, I say to my Libyan brothers and Maghreb brothers in general from Cairo to Marrakech, happy holiday. God willing our countries and nations will be safe until God takes hold of earth and everything on it.


  5. Anonymous thumb

    WILD ABDULLAH 2009-7-29

    In addition to what was said by Mr Mohamed. I also want to add Western Sahara to the list of States. No one recognizes sovereignty of Morocco over the Sahara. Moreover, it is a member of the African Union and it has a permanent observer.


  6. Anonymous thumb

    محمد/ الجزائر 2009-7-26

    Your site has many positive things. But there is one negative point. It is the choice of the name “Magharebia”. The name of the site makes the reader think it is a site of the kingdom of Morocco. This makes us think about intentions and directions of the site especially because we see more topics about the sisterly kingdom of Morocco more present in comparison with Algeria. I suggest you change the name to make it associated directly with North Africa and not with the Moroccan kingdom.


  7. Anonymous thumb

    واحد دايخ فى زمن بايخ 2009-7-24

    Praise be to God. First and foremost, I would like to say to this group may God reward you with good for clearing your conscience by quitting this terrorist organization. I hope God accepts your repentance. We in Libya and I would even say in all the Maghreb only hear about these names and currents. For us they don't exist except what we hear of them. They are foreign to us because our societies are peaceful by their nature, open to the world, oppose terrorism and killing innocents under any name. But unfortunately, I say this has come to us from the imams of the reactionary backward thought who have instituted themselves as guardians of Islam. But it disowns them. They forgot that Islam is a religion which has liberated man and urged him to use the mind. It urged him to learn and communicate with other people regardless of their religion. Islam ordered us ti be good neighbours. Even if your neighbour is an infidel you must respect the right of neighbourhood. This is Islam as it was communicated by our master Mohamed, peace and prayer be upon him. He is the best example for us to follow. I hope from God that other followers of this organization will follow the example of their brothers in Libya and come back to reason.


  8. Anonymous thumb

    وليد 2009-7-23

    May God protect Libya from every harm. Libya is the only country in which there have never been any martyrdom acts or attacks. The Libyan Fighting Group took this decision by conviction and after long dialog with the Libyan scholar Ali Sellabi. We say to the Tunisian analyst it seems that your information about Libya is simple. Liby my dear sister never experienced terrorist acts.


  9. Anonymous thumb

    Mohamed Ali Ender 2009-7-22

    I would first like to congratulate the LIFG and there hard working members of the front by denounced armed violence and declaring a stop to all military acts inside Libya (and against the Libyan Government). Violence is truly injustice to the people of the free worlds and it is injustice to Islam and injustice to Judaism and Christianity. I don't think that their choice of talks is an indication of their weakness, But I believe it is called bravery and should be honoured, This is an Indication of reality and love for there country and the world, This group is truly open minded and willing to talk to the Libyan government to establish a peaceful move on combating corruption and promoting good governance in Libya and hopefully returning the rights of many Libyans and the rights to there properties back. I truly believe that Seif al-Islam al-Kadhafi was and still is a major key Political roll player in this huged jump to peace. Thank you Seif Al Islam you are the true Young Libyan prince that should hopefully soon take control of Libya.