Libyan Islamic Fighting Group

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was a Sunni militant organization operating in Libya until 2010.

AT A GLANCE

Overview

Brief Summary of the Organization's History.

Organization

How does a group organize? Who leads it? How does it finance operations?

Strategy

How does a group fight? What are its aims and ideologies? What are some of its major attacks?

Major Attacks

What are the group's most famous attacks? What are some key attacks in the group's evolution?

Interactions

What is the group's relationship with the community? How does it interact with other groups?

Maps

What is the group's relationship with other militants over time?

Key Statistics

1995 First Recorded Activity
1995 First Attack
2010 Last Recorded Activity

Contact

mappingmilitants [at] lists [dot] stanford [dot] edu

How to Cite:

Mapping Militant Organizations. “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Stanford University. Last modified July 2018. <https://internal.fsi.stanford.edu/content/mmp-libyan-islamic-fighting-group>

Overview

Brief History

    Overview
  • Overview
  • Narrative

Overview

Formed1995
Disbanded2010
First AttackMay 1995: A LIFG commander in Libya launched a rogue operation to liberate a wounded member held in a hospital. This operation alerted Libyan authorities of the LIFG’s presence and forced the group to formally declare its existence (Unknown casualties).
Last AttackMay 2003: The LIFG allegedly helped plan a series of suicide bombings in Casablanca, Morocco (45 killed, 100+ wounded).
UpdatedJuly 22, 2018

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was a Sunni opposition group, created in 1995 in Libya to overthrow Muammar el-Qaddafi. The LIFG was preceded by a secret Libyan group in the 1980s, of which a faction left to fight in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. This faction returned in the early 1990s to help establish the LIFG. The group officially announced its existence in 1995 and was led by Abdelhakim Belhadj. The group was most active in the eastern Libyan region of Cyrenaica and was known for assassination attempts against Qaddafi, bombings in Morocco in 2003, and violent clashes with the Benghazi police. The LIFG was allegedly tied to Al Qaeda and had hostile relations with the Groupe Islamique Arme (GIA). In the late 1990s, the LIFG lost strength after repeated military campaigns against them by the Qaddafi regime; they disbanded in 2010.

Narrative

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was a Sunni opposition group and designated militant organization established to overthrow Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government in Libya. The LIFG drew regional support from those who supported the Sanusi monarchy, which ruled Libya between 1951 and 1969.[i] The Sanusi monarchy drew its political legitimacy from Islam and its goals to purify Islam from European influences.[ii] The LIFG sought to reinstate purification of Islam in Libya in response to Qaddafi’s apostasy.[iii] Analysts believe that the LIFG was led by Abdelhakim Belhadj, also known as Abdullah al-Sadeq.[iv] Before the LIFG was formally created in the 1990s, it was preceded by a secretive jihadist movement with no official name, led by Emir Awatha Al-Zuwawi in the 1980s.[v] This group remained underground to amass weapons to overthrow the Qaddafi regime but was discovered by the regime in 1989. Many members, including Al-Zuwawi, were arrested. Some members who were not arrested fled to Afghanistan to join the Afghan resistance against the Soviets.[vi]  These members gained fighting experience and developed friendly relationships with members of Al Qaeda (AQ) and other fighting groups. Known as the “Libyan Afghans,” these fighters returned to Libya in the early 1990s to establish the LIFG.[vii]

While the group had intended to remain underground to recruit and train new members, they formally announced themselves in 1995 after a mission to rescue one of its members from a hospital went awry and alerted the Qaddafi regime of its presence.[viii] In the mid to late 1990s, the LIFG was most active in the eastern province of Cyrenaica; the group was involved in violent clashes with the Benghazi police and attempted to assassinate Qaddafi.[ix]  The LIFG sent fighters to at least two military training camps in Sudan in 1996 in which AQ was also present, helping the group establish contacts with AQ affiliates.[x] The Qaddafi regime responded to the LIFG’s continued violence in eastern Libya by imposing martial law, cutting off water and electricity supplies in regions where the LIFG had local support, killing one of the LIFG’s top commanders in October 1997, and arresting over 150 LIFG members in 1998.[xi]

As a result of Qaddafi’s crackdown, many LIFG members fled into exile predominately in the United Kingdom, but also in Afghanistan, Iran, and China.[xii]  LIFG members who fled to the United Kingdom became politically active and created an underground support network for the LIFG.[xiii]  By the end of the 1990s, LIFG activity had slowed drastically and it was no longer acknowledged by analysts as a credible fighting force in Libya. By this time, many LIFG members had relocated to join AQ.[xiv]  Yet the LIFG was not known to condone AQ’s strategy of targeting the West. The LIFG refused to join Osama bin Laden’s attacks against the West in 1998, did not congratulate AQ for its 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, or the attacks on September 11, 2001, and reportedly warned Osama bin Laden against a large-scale attack against the U.S.[xv]

In May 2003, the LIFG allegedly worked with the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) to plan five synchronized suicide bombings that killed 45 people in Casablanca, Morocco.[xvi]  In response, the U.S. State Department listed the LIFG as a foreign terrorist organization on December 17, 2004.[xvii] In addition, the British police arrested nine people in the UK involved with the LIFG in February and May of 2006, crippling LIFG’s financial and logistical support in the country.[xviii]

The LIFG’s relationship with AQ was in the news again in November 2007 when Abu Yahya al-Libi, a member of the LIFG, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, now AQ’s leader, announced an alliance between the LIFG and AQ.[xix]  However, LIFG leadership rejected this alliance and claimed that Libi did not have the authority to declare allegiance to AQ.[xx]

In 2007, Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, began meeting with militant group leaders including imprisoned LIFG leaders as part of an effort to initiate discussions with militant groups.[xxi] Following a series of talks over two years, the LIFG released a new religious code, known as “Revisionist Studies of the Concepts of Jihad, Verification, and Judgment of People.” The document denounced killing women, children, elderly people, priests, messengers, traders, and other civilians, promoted the ethical treatment of prisoners of war, and denounced indiscriminate bombings.[xxii] The code also questioned AQ’s objectives. After the release of this document, two hundred and fifty LIFG members were released from prison, which some speculate was negotiated in return for the LIFG change in ideology.[xxiii] Shortly thereafter, in 2010, the LIFG officially announced its disbandment.[xxiv]

Some experts have speculated that the LIFG rebranded itself as the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change (LIMC) after a core group of former LIFG members fled to Misrata from Tripoli with Abdelhakim Belhadj on February 15, 2011.[xxv]



[i] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[ii] Takeyh, Ray. “Qadhafi’s Libya and The Prospect of Islamic Succession.” Council on Foreign Relations, 1 Feb. 2000. Web. Jan. 2016.

[iii] Solomon, Hussein. “Political Islam and the state in Africa: the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Religious ideas and Institutions: Transitions to Democracy in Africa. Eds. Edmond Keller and Ruth Lyob. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2012. 138; Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[iv] Gunaratna, Rohan and Oreg, Aviv. The Global Jihad Movement. Maryland: Rowan and Littlefiedl, 2015. 217; Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[v] Solomon, Hussein. “Political Islam and the state in Africa: the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Religious ideas and Institutions: Transitions to Democracy in Africa. Eds. Edmond Keller and Ruth Lyob. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2012. 135; Pargeter, Alison. “Political Islam in Libya.” The Jamestown Foundation, 24 March 2005. Web. Jan. 2017.  

[vi] Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016; Pargeter, Alison. “Political Islam in Libya.” The Jamestown Foundation, 24 March 2005. Web. Jan. 2016.

[vii] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016.

[viii] Solomon, Hussein. “Political Islam and the state in Africa: the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Religious ideas and Institutions: Transitions to Democracy in Africa. Eds. Edmond Keller and Ruth Lyob. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2012. 135; Pargeter, Alison. “LIFG: An Organization in Eclipse.” The Jamestown Foundation, 3 Nov. 2005. Web. Jan. 2017; Abedin, Mahan. “From Mujahid to Activist: An Interview with Libyan Veteran of the Afghan Jihad.” The Jamestown Foundation. 22 March 2005. Jan. 2017.

[ix] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016; Pargeter, Alison. “Political Islam in Libya.” The Jamestown Foundation, 24 March 2005. Web. Jan. 2017.

[x] Gunaratna, Rohan and Oreg, Aviv. The Global Jihad Movement. Maryland: Rowan and Littlefiedl, 2015. 217.

[xi] Solomon, Hussein. “Political Islam and the state in Africa: the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Religious ideas and Institutions: Transitions to Democracy in Africa. Eds. Edmond Keller and Ruth Lyob. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2012. 142-143.

[xii] Pargeter, Alison. “LIFG: An Organization in Eclipse.” The Jamestown Foundation, 3 Nov. 2005. Web. Jan. 2017.

[xiii] Gunaratna, Rohan and Oreg, Aviv. The Global Jihad Movement. Maryland: Rowan and Littlefiedl, 2015. 217.

[xiv] Gambill, Gary. “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” The Jamestown Foundation, 5 May 2005. Web. Jan. 2017.

[xv] Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016; Fitzgerald, Mary. “Islamic militant group pledges support to anti-Gadafy rebels.” The Irish Times, 29 March 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016.

[xvi] Maghraoui, Abdelslam. “Morocco’s Reforms after the Casablanca Bombings.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 26 Aug. 2008. Web. Feb. 2017.

[xvii] “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” U.S. Department of State. Web. Dec. 2016; Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.  

[xviii] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[xix] Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016; Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[xx] Blair, David. “Extremist group announces split from al-Qaeda.” The Telegraph, 9 July 2009. Web. Dec. 2016; Cilluffo, Frank and Evert, Jordan. “Reflections on Jihad: A Former Leader’s Perspective.” Interview with Noman Benotman, Homeland Security Policy Institute. George Washington University, 16 Oct. 2009. Web. Dec. 2016; Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016.

[xxi] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; Robertson, Nic and Cruickshank, Paul. “New jihad code threatens al Qaeda.” CNN, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. Dec. 2016. 

[xxii] “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016; Robertson, Nic and Cruickshank, Paul. “New jihad code threatens al Qaeda.” CNN, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. Dec. 2016; Black, Ian. “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - From al-Qaida to the Arab spring.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 5 Sept. 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[xxiii] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[xxiv] Black, Ian. “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - From al-Qaida to the Arab spring.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 5 Sept. 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[xxv] Benotman, Noman and Jason Pack and James Brandon. “Islamists.” The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future. Ed. Jason Pack. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

 

Organizational Structure

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Abdelhakim Belhadj (1995 to 2010)
  • Sami al Saadi (1995 to 2010)

Leadership

This section describes various leaders, their deputies, and other important officials in the militant organization.

In the early 1990s, the LIFG created an organizational structure that consisted of four main parts: the political bureau, which supervised the group’s political and military activities; the consultative committee, a smaller committee which made binding decisions for the group; the judicial committee, which educated LIFG members on religion and propaganda; and the information bureau, which was responsible for communicating with the Libyan public.[i]  The consultative committee, also known as the Majlis Shura, was responsible for any decisions to dismantle the group, merge with another group, or change the group’s name.[ii] The size of the Shura council is unknown, but experts speculate it had 12 to 15 members.[iii]



[i] Solomon, Hussein. “Political Islam and the state in Africa: the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Religious ideas and Institutions: Transitions to Democracy in Africa. Eds. Edmond Keller and Ruth Lyob. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2012. 138.

[ii] Cilluffo, Frank and Evert, Jordan. “Reflections on Jihad: A Former Leader’s Perspective.” Interview with Noman Benotman, Homeland Security Policy Institute. George Washington University, 16 Oct. 2009. Web. Dec. 2016.

[iii] Fitzgerald, Mary. “Islamic militant group pledges support to anti-Gadafy rebels.” The Irish Times, 29 March 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; Solomon, Hussein. “Political Islam and the state in Africa: the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Religious ideas and Institutions: Transitions to Democracy in Africa. Eds. Edmond Keller and Ruth Lyob. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2012. 138.

 

Abdelhakim Belhadj (1995 to 2010)

Belhadj, also known as Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, was the Emir of the LIFG. In 1998, when LIFG members fled to Afghanistan to help the Taliban, Belhadj developed close relationships with Taliban Chief Mullah Omar and AQ leaders. After the disbanding of the LIFG, Belhadj served as a brigade leader for the National Transition Council in Tripoli to bring down Qaddafi in 2011. After Qaddafi’s fall, Belhadj became active in politics, and in 2012, ran as a candidate for the Nation Party.[i]



[i] “Libya’s Belhadj quits military post for politics.” BBC World News, 15 May, 2012. Web. Dec. 2016; “Profile: Libyan rebel commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj.” BBC World News, 4 July 2012. Web. Dec. 2016; “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016; Black, Ian. “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - From al-Qaida to the Arab spring.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 5 Sept. 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

 

Sami al Saadi (1995 to 2010)

Saadi was the spiritual leader and most senior Shariah authority in the LIFG. He was a member of the secret group under Al-Zuwawi that served as a precursor to the LIFG. He fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980s and then lived in the UK from 1994 to 1997. After meeting with Osama bin Laden twice in 2000 and 2001, he reportedly argued that the 9/11 attacks did not conform with Shariah law. Saadi worked with other LIFG core leaders to write “Revisionist Studies of the Concepts of Jihad, Verification, and Judgment of People” in 2009. [i]



[i] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016; “Sami al-Saadi.” The Rendition Project. The University of Kent. Web. Feb. 2017.

 

    Name Changes
  • Name Changes
  • Size Estimates
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations

Name Changes

There are no recorded name changes for this group.

Size Estimates

  • 1990s: 1000 active members (The Guardian).[i]
  • 2011: Several hundred (Global Security).[ii]


[i] Black, Ian. “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - From al-Qaida to the Arab spring.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 5 Sept. 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[ii] “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016.

 

Resources

The LIFG predominately drew local recruits from eastern Libya and often attempted to seize weapons from the regime’s military and security depots.[i]

The LIFG developed logistical support systems in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s.[ii] However, LIFG activity in the UK ceased in May 2006 after the British police arrested nine people involved in LIFG support.[iii]

There were reports of the LIFG pursuing financial support in Iran; however, little information exists on the type of business that was conducted in the country.[iv] The LIFG allegedly received up to $50,000 from Osama bin Laden as compensation for each member killed on the battlefield.[v]



[i] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016.

[ii] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[iii] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[iv] Joscelyn, Thomas. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group leader ambushed by Qaddafi’s forces.” FDD’s Long War Journal, 21 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[v]  Gambill, Gary. “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Terrorism Monitor, Volume 3, Issue 6. The Jamestown Foundation, 24 March 2005. Web. Dec. 2016.

 

Geographic Locations

Disclaimer: This is a partial list of where the militant organization has bases and where it operates. This does not include information on where the group conducts major attacks or has external influences.

The LIFG was initially active in the Libyan region of Cyrenaica and expanded its operations throughout eastern Libya.[i]  The LIFG attempted to work with the Groupe Islamique Arme (GIA) and helped plan the suicide bombing with the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group in Casablanca, Morocco in May 2003.

Some analysts have also speculated that the LIFG worked in Iraq with AQI.[ii]



[i] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016.

[ii] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

    Ideology and Goals
  • Ideology and Goals
  • Political Activities
  • Targets and Tactics

Ideology and Goals

The LIFG was a Sunni jihadist group that aimed to depose Qaddafi and reestablish an Islamic state in Libya.[i] In its first communiqué in 1995, the LIFG accused Qaddafi’s government of apostasy and stated its goal of establishing Shariah law in Libya. While the LIFG demonstrated solidarity with other jihadist groups around the world, its aims were primarily nationalist rather than transnational.[ii] The LIFG never publicly supported a global jihad or AQ’s strategy of targeting the west.[iii]

In 2007, Muammar Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, began meeting with imprisoned LIFG leaders to open dialogue with Libyan militant groups.[iv]  In 2009, after two years of talks with Qaddafi, the LIFG released a new religious code, known as “Revisionist Studies of the Concepts of Jihad, Verification, and Judgment of People,” that denounced killing women, children, elderly people, priests, messengers, traders, and other civilians, promoted the ethical treatment of prisoners of war, and denounced indiscriminate bombings.[v]



[i] Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016.

[ii] Solomon, Hussein. “Political Islam and the state in Africa: the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Religious ideas and Institutions: Transitions to Democracy in Africa. Eds. Edmond Keller and Ruth Lyob. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2012. 138.

[iii] Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016.

[iv] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; Robertson, Nic and Cruickshank, Paul. “New jihad code threatens al Qaeda.” CNN, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. Dec. 2016.

[v] “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016; Robertson, Nic and Cruickshank, Paul. “New jihad code threatens al Qaeda.” CNN, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. Dec. 2016; Black, Ian. “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - From al-Qaida to the Arab spring.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 5 Sept. 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

 

Political Activities

There are no recorded political activities for this group.

Targets and Tactics

The LIFG’s goal was to depose Qaddafi, but the group remained underground until 1995 so it could train new members. LIFG senior members strategized to simultaneously take over and secure key locations and institutions throughout Libya once the LIFG had enough training and power.[i] After they announced their existence in 1995, the LIFG engaged in small clashes with the police in Benghazi and operations against Libyan security forces. The LIFG also allegedly attempted to assassinate Qaddafi four times and helped plan the Casablanca bombings with the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group in May 2003.[ii]

Following its ideology shift in 2009, the LIFG declared that tactics of indiscriminate bombings and targeting of civilians were not in agreement with its objectives.[iii]



[i] “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016; Fitzgerald, Mary. “Islamic militant group pledges support to anti-Gadafy rebels.” The Irish Times, 29 March 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; Abedin, Mahan. “From Mujahid to Activist: An Interview with Libyan Veteran of the Afghan Jihad.” The Jamestown Foundation. 22 March 2005. Jan. 2017.

[ii] “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016; Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[iii] Blair, David. “Extremist group announces split from al-Qaeda.” The Telegraph, 9 July 2009. Web. Dec. 2016.

 

Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

Major Attacks

Disclaimer: These are some selected major attacks in the militant organization's history. It is not a comprehensive listing, but captures some of the most famous attacks or turning points during the campaign.

  1. May 1995: A LIFG commander in Libya launched a rogue operation to liberate a wounded member held in a hospital. This operation alerted Libyan authorities of the LIFG’s presence and forced the group to formally declare its existence (Unknown casualties).[i]
  2. February 14, 1996: The LIFG attempted to assassinate Qaddafi using a grenade while he visited a Libyan desert town. 6 innocent bystanders were killed when a bomb detonated under the wrong car (6 deaths, unknown casualties).[ii]
  3. November 1996: The LIFG attempted to assassinate Qaddafi (Unknown casualties).[iii]
  4. November 1998 The LIFG attempted to assassinate Qaddafi (Unknown casualties).[iv]
  5. May 2003: The LIFG allegedly helped the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) plan a series of suicide bombings in Casablanca, Morocco in May 2003 (43 killed, unknown wounded).[v]


[i] Abedin, Mahan. “From Mujahid to Activist: An Interview with Libyan Veteran of the Afghan Jihad.” The Jamestown Foundation. 22 March 2005. Jan. 2017.

[ii] Solomon, Hussein. “Political Islam and the state in Africa: the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Religious ideas and Institutions: Transitions to Democracy in Africa. Eds. Edmond Keller and Ruth Lyob. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2012. 135.

[iii] Solomon, Hussein. “Political Islam and the state in Africa: the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Religious ideas and Institutions: Transitions to Democracy in Africa. Eds. Edmond Keller and Ruth Lyob. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2012. 135.

[iv] Solomon, Hussein. “Political Islam and the state in Africa: the case of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.” Religious ideas and Institutions: Transitions to Democracy in Africa. Eds. Edmond Keller and Ruth Lyob. Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2012. 135.

[v] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016; Maghraoui, Abdelslam. “Morocco’s Reforms after the Casablanca Bombings.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 26 Aug. 2008. Web. Feb. 2017.

 

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

    Designated/ Listed
  • Designated/ Listed
  • Community Relations
  • Relationships with Other Groups
  • State Sponsors and External Influences

Designated/ Listed

  • U.S. State Department Foreign Terrorist Organizations: December 17, 2004 to December 9, 2015.[i]
  • UNSC “ISIL (Da'esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List”: October 6, 2001 to Present.[ii]


[i] “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” U.S. Department of State. Web. 2 November 2015.

[ii] “Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb.” Australian National Security, May 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

 

Community Relations

The LIFG drew support in eastern Libya from civilians who supported the Sanusi monarchy, which ruled Libya between 1951 and 1969.[i]



[i] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

 

Relationships with Other Groups

The relationship between the LIFG and Al Qaeda (AQ) remains unclear. While both share similar ideologies and LIFG members often joined AQ, the LIFG never condoned AQ’s strategy of targeting the west.[i]  Unlike other AQ-affiliated groups, the LIFG never congratulated AQ for its 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, or the attacks on September 11, 2001.[ii] On the contrary, LIFG leaders reportedly warned Osama Bin Laden against a large-scale attack against the U.S.[iii] It was rumored that the LIFG formally merged with AQ in November 2007 after an announcement by Abu Yahya al-Libi and Ayman al-Zawahiri; however, senior leaders of the LIFG refused to acknowledge the merger and claimed that Libi did not have the authority to declare allegiance to AQ.[iv]  The distinctions between the LIFG and AQ grew after the LIFG published its 2009 “Revisionist Studies of the Concepts of Jihad, Verification, and Judgment of People” that directly challenged AQ strategies and objectives.[v]

LIFG fighters may have also cooperated with Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). The LIFG condemned the U.S. for its occupation of Iraq and agreed with AQ that a defensive jihad against the U.S. was necessary.[vi] Documents seized in Sinjar, Iraq, claim that over 100 Libyans from LIFG strongholds in eastern Libya moved to Iraq to join AQI between 2006 and 2007.[vii] It is unclear whether LIFG leadership directed this movement.[viii]

The LIFG had limited interaction with other groups, but it did attempt to work with other militant groups in the region. It attempted unsuccessfully to work with the Groupe Islamique Arme (GIA) in the early 1990s. Relations between the two groups turned hostile when the GIA allegedly killed a group of LIFG fighters sent to work with the GIA.[ix]  The LIFG successfully worked with the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) to plan the May 2003 Casablanca bombings.[x]



[i] Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016; Fitzgerald, Mary. “Islamic militant group pledges support to anti-Gadafy rebels.” The Irish Times, 29 March 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[ii] Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016.

[iii]Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March, 2012. Web. Dec. 2016.

[iv] Blair, David. “Extremist group announces split from al-Qaeda.” The Telegraph, 9 July 2009. Web. Dec. 2016; Cilluffo, Frank and Evert, Jordan. “Reflections on Jihad: A Former Leader’s Perspective.” Interview with Noman Benotman, Homeland Security Policy Institute. George Washington University, 16 Oct. 2009. Web. Dec. 2016; Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016.

[v] Robertson, Nic and Cruickshank, Paul. “New jihad code threatens al Qaeda.” CNN, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. Dec. 2016.

[vi] Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016.

[vii] Witter, David. “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Understanding War. The Institute for the Study of War, 8 April 2011. Web. Dec. 2016.

[viii] Zelin, Aaron and Lebovich, Andrew. “Assessing Al-Qaida’s Presence in the New Libya.” Combating Terrorism Center, 22 March 2012. Web. Dec. 2016.

[ix] Pargeter, Alison. “LIFG Revisions Unlikely to Reduce Jihadist Violence.” Combating Terrorism Center, 3 Oct. 2009. Web. Dec. 2016.

[x] “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Global Security. Global Security, 3 March 2014. Web. Dec. 2016.

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

The British government allegedly helped support the LIFG’s campaign against the Qaddafi regime, though there has not been independent confirmation of these claims.[i] According to David Shayler, an ex-MI5 officer, British Intelligence were aware of the February 1996 plot to assassinate Qaddafi and may have provided financial backing for the plot.[ii]



[i] Gambill, Gary. “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Terrorism Monitor, Volume 3, Issue 6. The Jamestown Foundation, 24 March 2005. Web. Dec. 2016.

[ii] Gambill, Gary. “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Terrorism Monitor, Volume 3, Issue 6. The Jamestown Foundation, 24 March 2005. Web. Dec. 2016; Bright, Martin. “MI6 ‘halted bid to arrest Bin Laden.’” The Guardian, 9 Nov. 2002. Web. 5 July 2018; Sloan, Alastair. “Libya and the Manchester connection.” Al Jazeera, 29 May 2017. Web. 5 July 2018.

 

Maps

The project develops a series of interactive diagrams that “map” relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. The user can change map settings to display different features (e.g., leadership changes), adjust the time scale, and trace individual groups.

Evolving Militant Interactions

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