Unshocking if True: The Head of ISIS in Libya is an Ex-US Ally (& Torture Victim)

I’ve seen two reports — here and here — that ISIS’s head in Libya is none other than Abdelhakim Belhaj. If true, this is the latest turn in the amazing career of a man who perfectly embodies US foreign policy.

He was among the “Afghan Arabs” who fought with the Mujahideen against the Soviets with the financial backing of Saudi Arabia and the United States. Later, he connected with Bin Laden and trained with Al Qaeda, before returning to Libya, where he helped to form — and became emir of — the Libya Islamic Fighters Group. In a recent piece for Jacobin, I touched on the group’s exploits in the nineties.

LIFG tried to kill Muammar Qadhafi three times in 1995–96. British Intelligence sponsored one of the attempts, according to former agent David Shayler. Former French intelligence agents confirmed the claim and said it was this secret that led Britain to thwart the arrest of bin Laden after Qadhafi had issued (and Interpol approved) a warrant in 1998.

But when Libya became a temporary US ally in the “war on terror,” the CIA captured Belhaj and turned him over to Qaddafi — but not before torturing him and his pregnant wife at a black site in Bangkok. Then during the US-backed effort to overthrow Qaddafi in 2011, he emerged as an opposition leader (the Libya Islamic Fighting Group had reconstituted itself as the Libyan Islamic Movement). After the murder of Qaddafi, he was in position of power. Here’s how the New York Times described him in September of 2011.

Now this man is in charge of the military committee responsible for keeping order in Tripoli, and, he says, is a grateful ally of the United States and NATO.

If indeed he’s now with ISIS, it would be a logical development in the US’s love-love-hate-love-hate relationship with this resilient killer. If the United States were sincerely interested in combating “violent extremism,” it would stop funding and arming violent extremists like Belhaj.

But wait there’s more: in 2011, he traveled to Turkey to meet with leaders of the…Free Syrian Army.

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One comment on “Unshocking if True: The Head of ISIS in Libya is an Ex-US Ally (& Torture Victim)
  1. Tettodoro says:

    Its me again, David. I’m not really picking on you, its just that I’ve just discovered your site and you have been posting on issues that I have also been dealing. Thought you might like some robust discussion.
    I’m disappointed to see you post a story with such flimsy foundations (although I’ll give you credit for your occasional “if’s”) I hate to be the one to break the news – but its *not* true (indeed anyone who knew Belhaj’s whole story would know it was absurd – which is why I got on to it). It originates with a tweet by a journalist, Sara Carter, who simply said she had it from “sources”. Its foundation is as slender as that (the fifth law of thermodynamics tells us that no matter how many times something is repeated on the internet it still has the same amount of mass as the first time). Carter was promptly challenged by a French journalist who was in the process of interviewing Belhadj at the time and said it was nonsense. (The interview is out – but you have to pay for it). You can check all this on Carter’s twitterfeed, including a query from me as to whether she had confirmed her sources (no reply).

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