Merchant of Death
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Press Releases

U.S. Designates Libyan al Qaeda Affiliate
The Treasury Department's OFAC designation today of leaders and entities affiliated with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) is an important step in at least tracking and identifying the leaders of lesser-known al Qaeda affiliates. It will have little real economic impact because the group does not have assets in the United States, but if the measure is extended to the UN, it could make it more difficult for the group to operate.

The LIFG was formed in Afghanistan in 1995, tried to overthrow Moamar Gadaffi in Libya in 1996 and then decamped into exile, largely in Great Britain, when Libyan security forces cracked down. There, the LIFG has served as a part of the hub of organizations that have been facilitating the movement of money, false documents and couriers to al Qaeda affiliates around the world.

One of the most interesting people designated was Abd al-Rahman al-Faqih, a senior leader of the LIFG and one of the chief purveyors of false passports and money to LIFG organizations in different parts of the world. He also appears to be a key link between LIFG and the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group (GICM). The GICM carried out the May 16, 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca that killed more people and injured more than 100.

Al-Faqih has been tried and found guilty in absentia by the Rabat, Morocco Criminal Court of Appeals for his involvement in those bombings.

As the Treasury statement notes, Al-Faqih has a history of GICM-related activity, notably representing the LIFG during meetings held in Turkey in the late 1990s with GICM. During these meetings, LIFG agreed to host weapons training and jihad indoctrination at LIFG camps in Afghanistan for Moroccans.

The LIFG highlights the simultaneous phenomena of independence and interdependence among the new generation of al Qaeda affiliated groups. While autonomous, they are often in communication and help each other, while at the same time engaging in heated theological and tactical debates. This simultaneous decentralization and increased communication creates an enemy that is more difuse, more adaptable and more specialized, because as one organization can draw on the expertise of others in the network and not have to create all its own specialists.

Britain seems to have been the home to much of the networking that these groups conduct, but that may be changing in the face fo the conviction of Abu Hamza al Masri. The Muslim Brotherhood has also set up new front companies and corporations there. It will be interesting to see how far Britain and other European havens will be willing to go in tracking these groups, and what the next generation of al Qaeda spawn will look like.

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