Ansar al Sharia Libya relies on al Qaeda ideologues to guide followers

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Feb. 2, 2016:

Jihadist groups around the globe denounced Saudi Arabia’s execution of more than 40 men in early January. Some of those sentenced to death had taken part in al Qaeda’s first campaign to disrupt the kingdom between 2003 and 2006. It was only natural, therefore, that al Qaeda, its regional branches and other affiliated groups would decry the House of Saud’s decision to follow through on the death sentences.

However, Ansar al Sharia Libya’s response was especially noteworthy. In a three-page statement released via Twitter on Jan. 15, the group compared those executed to senior al Qaeda leaders killed in America’s drone campaign.

“Al Salul [a derogatory reference to the Saudis] recognizes the importance of the true righteous scholars who control jihad with the correct provisions from the book of Allah Almighty and the sunna of His messenger, peace and blessing be upon him, and the impact of the absence of these scholars on the jihadist arena,” Ansar al Sharia Libya’s officials wrote, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal.

The jihadists claimed that the Saudis’ “message in this regard” is similar to “the acts of the head of global nonbelief, America, which has killed righteous scholars.”

Ansar al Sharia then listed eight such “scholars,” all of whom were al Qaeda leaders killed in US airstrikes: Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, Ibrahim Rubaish, Anwar al Awlaki, Nasir al Wuhayshi, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Abu Yahya al Libi, Atiyah Abd al Rahman (referred to as “Atiyatallah”), and Khalid al Husainan.

The list is no accident. Ansar al Sharia regularly promotes sermons delivered by some of these same ideologues. Web banners used to advertise the speeches, which were first produced by al Qaeda, can be seen at the end of this article.

Throughout December and January, the organization’s radio station, Ather al Madinah, posted clips on social media of lectures by Nadhari and Rubaish, two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) clerics who were killed in 2015.

One of Nadhari’s talks was divided into seven parts. He covered various theological issues, including the concept of tawheed (or the oneness of Allah). Nadhari explained in another sermon why Muslims should answer the “call to jihad.”

Several lectures by Rubaish, a former Guantanamo detainee who became an influential AQAP theologian after he was released from US custody, covered similar themes. In one, Rubaish advised Muslims to avoid selling out their religion for the pleasures of this world. Still another featured Rubaish and Nadhari together.

Abu Yahya al Libi’s speeches have also been rebroadcast by Ather al Madinah. Al Libi blasted the supposed false “idol” of democracy in a talk disseminated online in December.

Al Libi was one of al Qaeda’s most prominent ideologues at the time of his death in June 2012. On Sept. 10 2012, al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri confirmed al Libi’s death in a video released online. Zawahiri also called on Libyans to avenge his fallen comrade. Ansar al Sharia Libya and other al Qaeda groupsattacked an American diplomatic mission and the CIA’s so-called Annex the following day.

Screen-Shot-2016-02-02-at-1.27.36-PM-300x168Ansar al Sharia continues to refer to the Benghazi assault in its propaganda. In a short video released in December, for instance, the group’s fighters are shown chanting: “O tell lowly America that we will free Abu Khattala.”

Abu Khattala is the lone suspect from the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi raids in American custody. A screen shot of the fighters who chanted in the video can be seen on the right. The video was shot at a training camp named after Mohammed al Zahawi, Ansar al Sharia’s first emir (or leader), who died as a result of injuries in either late 2014 or early 2015.

After Zahawi’s death was confirmed in January 2015, Nadhari released a eulogy for the slain jihadist. Nadhari explained that Zahawi had personally met with Osama bin Laden in the 1990s in Sudan and adopted al Qaeda’s methodology at that time.

Although Ansar al Sharia Libya was initially portrayed by some as purely a local jihadist group, it has been a part of the al Qaeda network since its inception in 2011. The Long War Journal has documented the organization’s ties to al Qaeda and its branch in North Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), on multiple occasions.

And the group now openly promotes al Qaeda clerics to its followers on a regular basis.

Ansar al Sharia Libya’s banner ads promoting the lectures delivered by al Qaeda ideologues

Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, an AQAP official killed in January 2015:

15-12-25-Nadhari-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x277

16-01-25-Nadhari-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x316

Ibrahim Rubaish, an ex-Guantanamo detainee who became an AQAP official and was killed in April 2015:

15-12-23-Ibrahim-Rubaish-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x277

16-01-30-Ibrahim-Rubaish-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x277

Rubaish and Nadhari together:

15-12-20-Nadhari-and-Rubaish-Ansar-al-Sharia-Libya-audio-768x277

Abu Yahya al Libi was a senior al Qaeda ideologue until his death in June 2012:

16-01-30-Abu-Yahya-al-Libi-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x277

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

Why Was a Key Benghazi Suspect Free?

harzi1Weekly Standard, by Thomas Joscelyn, June 23, 2015:

On Monday, the Pentagon announced that Ali Ani al Harzi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Mosul, Iraq. For those who have followed the public reporting on the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attack  closely, al Harzi’s name will ring a bell. He was one of the first suspects to be publicly identified by name. Eli Lake, then of The Daily Beast, got the scoop in October 2012.

A key question in al Harzi’s story remains unanswered: Why wasn’t he in custody since late 2012?

U.S. intelligence officials discovered early on in their investigation that al Harzi used social media to provide an update on the raid. It was based on this freely-available intelligence that al Harzi was detained in Turkey and deported to his native Tunisia.

In December 2012, the FBI was granted only a few hours to question al Harzi. Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, the al Qaeda-linked group responsible for the September 14, 2012 assault on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, stalked the FBI agents who questioned him. Ansar al Sharia Tunisia posted the FBI agents’ pictures on Facebook. This was intended to intimidate the FBI agents.

The following month, January 2013, a judge in Tunis ordered al Harzi released.

Senior Obama administration officials, including then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Brennan, who was about to become the head of the CIA, were asked about this during Congressional testimony at the time. Both of them vouched for al Harzi’s release.

On January 23, 2013, Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She told senators that the Tunisians had “assured” the United States that Harzi was “under the monitoring of the court.”

“Upon his release, I called the Tunisian prime minister. A few days later Director Mueller met with the Tunisian prime minister,” Clinton explained. She continued: “We have been assured that he is under the monitoring of the court. He was released, because at that time — and — and Director Mueller and I spoke about this at some length — there was not an ability for evidence to be presented yet that was capable of being presented in an open court. But the Tunisians have assured us that they are keeping an eye on him. I have no reason to believe he is not still in Tunis, but we are checking that all the time.”

During a separate hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, then Congressman Tom Cotton asked Clinton if she found “it distressing that the Tunisian government has released that gentleman [al Harzi] in light of the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid we’ve given them over the last two years?”

Clinton responded: “At this point, Congressman, I do not for two reasons. First, I had a long conversation with high-ranking Tunisian officials about this, as did Director Mueller of the FBI when he was there in person. We have been assured there was an effort to have rule of law, judicial process, sufficient evidence not yet available to be presented, but a very clear commitment made to us that they will be monitoring the whereabouts of the — Harzi and we’re going to hold them to that and watch carefully.”

Obviously, the Tunisians’ assurances didn’t pan out. In fact, the Tunisian government accused al Harzi of participating in the assassinations of two prominent politicians. One of them was killed on February 6, 2013, just weeks after al Harzi was released. And al Harzi was, quite obviously, able to travel from North Africa to the heart of the Middle East on behalf of the terrorist organizations he served.  The Pentagon says he was working for the Islamic State at the time of his death.

In February 2013, Brennan echoed Clinton’s claims regarding the evidence against al Harzi. Brennan told Congress that the US government “didn’t have anything on” al Harzi and, therefore, his release was not worrisome.

The argument made by Clinton and Brennan – that there wasn’t sufficient evidence against al Harzi and/or the available evidence couldn’t be introduced in court – doesn’t make sense.

First, the initial evidence against al Harzi came from his social media postings – this isn’t the type of intelligence that needs to be excluded from court proceedings. Second, the U.S. government had enough on al Harzi to have him detained in Turkey, deported to Tunisia, and then questioned by the FBI. To say, as Brennan did, that the U.S. government “didn’t have anything” at all al Harzi is clearly false.

Third, the reaction of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia to al Harzi’s imprisonment was quite telling. Again, the group that had just ransacked the U.S. Embassy in Tunis agitated for al Harzi’s release. Al Harzi was a member of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, which the State Department subsequently designated as a terrorist organization for, among other things, its ties to al Qaeda’s international network. Fourth, al Harzi had already built a dossier of terrorist connections prior to the 9/11/12 attack. He had been detained and imprisoned “for planning terrorist acts in 2005 in Tunisia.” And his brother was also a known facilitator for al Qaeda in Iraq, demonstrating that jihadism was quite likely the family’s business.

Perhaps most importantly, al Harzi’s ties to the Benghazi attack have never really been disputed. In April of this year, the UN’s al Qaeda sanctions committee added al Harzi to its list of sanctioned individuals. The UN’s designation page reads: “Planned and perpetrated the attack against the Consulate of the United States in Benghazi, Libya on 11 Sep. 2012.”

According to the Pentagon, justice has finally been served in Ali Ani al Harzi’s case.

But we are left to wonder: Why did it take so long?

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Also see:

UN recognizes ties between Ansar al Sharia in Libya, al Qaeda

Ansar al-Sharia in Libya (ASL)

Ansar al-Sharia in Libya (ASL)

Long War Journal, By

The United Nations Security Council today added Ansar al Sharia in Libya to its al Qaeda sanctions list. “As a result of the new listings,” the UN announced, “any individual or entity that provides financial or material support to” Ansar al Sharia Libya, “including the provision of arms or recruits, is eligible to be added to the Al Qaeda Sanctions List and subject to the sanctions measures.”

The UN notes that the Ansar al Sharia chapters in Benghazi and Derna are associated with one another, but lists them separately under a heading that reads, “Entities and other groups associated with Al Qaeda.”

Despite their separate listings, the two Ansar al Sharia groups operate together and have published their propaganda under a shared brand. Ansar al Sharia fighters from both Benghazi and Derna participated in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the US Mission and Annex in Benghazi. Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed during the assault.

According to the UN, both Ansar al Sharia groups in Libya are “associated” with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an official branch of al Qaeda that remains loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri. They are both also tied to Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia, which orchestrated the assault on the US Embassy in Tunis on Sept. 14, 2012.

The UN added Ansar al Sharia Tunisia to its al Qaeda sanctions list in September. The UN found that, like its sister organizations in Libya, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia has “links to” AQIM.

There are well-established ties between Ansar al Sharia in Libya and Tunisia. The UN notes in its designation that Ansar al Sharia in Libya has a “support network in Tunisia.”

In addition, the Benghazi chapter is tied to Al Mourabitoun, which is led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a former AQIM commander who established his own jihadist group. Belmokhtar is openly loyal to Zawahiri and, according to a previous designation by the UN, still works with AQIM despite his differences with the group’s leadership.

Earlier this month, Agence France Presse obtained a copy of a dossier that was submitted to the UN to justify today’s action. The documents provided to the UN show that 12 of the 24 jihadists who participated in the January 2013 siege of the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria were trained in Ansar al Sharia camps in Benghazi.

Belmokhtar commanded the terrorists responsible for the In Amenas siege and claimed responsibility for the raid on behalf of al Qaeda.

Britain, France, and the US moved to have Ansar al Sharia Libya added to the UN sanctions list earlier this month, and all 15 members of the UN Security Council had until today to agree to the sanctions. A consensus was reached and the sanctions were approved.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond praised the UN’s decision in a statement. Hammond said that the Ansar al Sharia groups in Benghazi and Derna both “have links with Al Qaeda and are responsible for acts of terror in Libya, including bomb attacks, kidnappings, and murder.”

Ansar al Sharia camps in Derna and Benghazi have been used to funnel foreign fighters to Syria, according to the UN. The camps in Benghazi have also shipped jihadists off to Mali.

Today’s action by the UN confirms The Long War Journal’s reporting and analysis. Numerous pieces of evidence tie the Ansar al Sharia organizations in Libya and Tunisia to al Qaeda’s international network. See, for example, LWJ reports:

State Department designates 3 Ansar al Sharia organizations, leaders
Senate report: Terrorists ‘affiliated’ with multiple al Qaeda groups involved in Benghazi attack
Ex-Guantanamo detainee remains suspect in Benghazi attack
Al Qaeda and the threat in North Africa
From al Qaeda in Italy to Ansar al Sharia Tunisia
Al Qaeda ally orchestrated assault on US Embassy in Tunisia
Al Qaeda’s plan for Libya highlighted in congressional report

State Dept: US Embassy in Libya Held by Jihadists is “Secure”

 

Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield:

This seems to be some usage of the word “Secure” that I was not familiar with. Neither was Ambassador Stevens who was assured that the Benghazi facility was secure.

A senior State Department official said Sunday that the U.S. Embassy in Libya’s capital is believed to be secure after reports that an Islamist-allied militia group took over the compound.

“We’ve seen the reports and videos and are seeking additional details,” said the official. “At this point, we believe the Embassy compound itself remains secure but we continue to monitor the situation on the ground, which remains very fluid.”

Considering that the Libya Dawn, a coalition that includes Ansar al-Sharia, responsible for the Benghazi attack, and Feb 17, which was meant to be providing security, holds the residential compound, not to mention the Libyan government, what basis is there for believing it’s secure?

But then again admitting what is really going on would damage Obama’s image and so everyone immediately goes into cover up mode.

That’s what happened in Benghazi and with virtually every event in Libya. Considering that Obama implemented regime change and that the whole thing badly fell apart, the country is a black hole of media coverage.

Now Jihadists are swimming in the pool of the residential compound of the “secure” US Embassy.

Showdown in Libya Between Opposition and Islamist Militias

 

Libyan militias travel in a convoy toward oil ports. (Photo: © Reuters)

Libyan militias travel in a convoy toward oil ports. (Photo: © Reuters)

Brotherhood victories in the Arab Spring have triggered a backlash against Islamist rule. Now the Libyan people are joining that revolt.

BY RYAN MAURO:

The Libyan population, fed up with radical militias and an Islamist-led parliament, are supporting a counter-revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic extremists. It began with the launch of “Operation Dignity” by General Khalifa Hifter and it sparked the scheduling of new elections on June 25.

Hifter and the secular opposition view the dysfunctional, Islamist-led parliament as being in league with radical militias and terrorists. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Libyan branch, the Justice and Construction Party, lost the 2012 parliamentary elections in a landslide. However, it has brought independents over to its side, giving them a functional majority.

This unpopular interim parliament was supposed to expire in February, but it gave itself another year. The Islamist bloc thenchose Ahmed Matiq as Prime Minister on May 4, the third Prime Minister since Qaddafi’s fall, in a hotly contested vote.

Secularists argue that Matiq is illegitimate because he only won 113 votes in the initial session, seven short of what is required. After the session was officially adjourned, voting resumed and opponents argue that parliamentarians who were not present were illegally allowed to vote. More recently, the Islamist-led parliament voted in his cabinet.

The revolt is about much more than the performance of the interim parliament, though. It is part of a regional backlash against the Islamist movement, and it was triggered by the Libyan people who are fed up with instability caused by Islamic extremist militias and terrorists.

“There is one enemy and that is the Muslim Brotherhood, the malignant disease which is seeking to spread throughout the bones of the Arab world,” Hifter said.

When asked about whether he wants to eliminate the group entirely, he answered, “Yes…completely. I am not looking for reconciliation.”

Read more at Clarion Project

State Department designates 3 Ansar al Sharia organizations, leaders

By THOMAS JOSCELYN:

The US State Department announced today that it has added three chapters of Ansar al Sharia, as well as three of the groups’ leaders, to the government’s terrorist designation lists. Ansar al Sharia groups in Benghazi, Derna, and Tunisia were designated as foreign terrorist organizations, as well as specially designated global terrorist entities.

The three Ansar al Sharia leaders, Sufian Ben Qumu, Ahmed Abu Khattalah, and Seifallah Ben Hassine (a.k.a. Abu Iyad al Tunisi), were also added to the list of specially designated global terrorists.

Ben Qumu is described as “the leader” of Ansar al Sharia Derna, while Khattalah is “a senior leader” of Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi. Seifallah Ben Hassine is the founder of Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia.

The State Department says that Ansar al Sharia “is ideologically aligned with al Qaeda and tied to its affiliates, including AQIM” (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb). The designation confirms The Long War Journal’s reporting on Ansar al Sharia Tunisia’s connections to the al Qaeda network.

Attacks on US Mission and Annex in Benghazi, US Embassy in Tunis

AQAP's tenth edition of Inspire magazine featured the September 2012 assaults on US diplomatic facilities.

AQAP’s tenth edition of Inspire magazine featured the September 2012 assaults on US diplomatic facilities.

All three Ansar al Sharia organizations were involved in assaults on US diplomatic facilities in September 2012.

The Ansar al Sharia groups in Derna and Benghazi were both “involved” in the “September 11, 2012 attacks against the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya,” the State designation said.

US intelligence officials have previously told The Long War Journal that some of Ben Qumu’s men took part in the Benghazi attack. The US government has reportedly issued a sealed indictment against Khattalah because of his alleged role in the assault.

Three days later, on Sept. 14, 2012, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia was “involved” in the “attack against the US Embassy and American school in Tunis, which put the lives of over one hundred United States employees in the Embassy at risk.”

The State Department previously reported on Ben Hassine’s role in the Sept. 14 attack in Tunis. In its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, published in May 2013, Foggy Bottom noted that Ben Hassine “was implicated as the mastermind behind the September 14 attack on the US Embassy,” which involved “a mob of 2,000 – 3,000” people, “including individuals affiliated with the militant organization Ansar al Sharia.”

Al Qaeda has praised the September 2012 assaults on US diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Cairo, Sanaa, and Tunis. In November 2012, al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri released an audio message praising the assaults as “defeats” for the US.

“They were defeated in Iraq and they are withdrawing from Afghanistan, and their ambassador in Benghazi was killed and the flags of their embassies were lowered in Cairo and Sanaa, and in their places were raised the flags of tawhid [monotheism] and jihad,” Zawahiri said in the message, which was translated the SITE Intelligence Group.

The 10th edition of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine celebrated the September 2012 attacks. The cover picture showed a black flag, similar to those used by al Qaeda-affiliated groups, being raised in front of one of the embassies. The feature article was titled, “We Are All Usama,” a reference to the chant heard in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere.

None of the suspected terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi or Tunis have been brought to justice. In its new designation, the State Department says the US government “is committed to taking all appropriate actions against the organizations and individuals responsible for the attacks against the US diplomatic facilities in Libya and Tunisia.”

Al Qaeda-tied biographies

Two of the three jihadists named in today’s designation, Sufian Ben Qumu and Seifallah Ben Hassine, have had strong ties to the al Qaeda network throughout their careers. Both have been previously profiled by The Long War Journal. [See, for example, LWJ reports Al Qaeda ally orchestrated assault on US Embassy in Tunis and Ex-Gitmo detainee reportedly tied to consulate attack.]

Read more at Long War Journal

The Gitmo Detainee the Times Just Denied Was in Benghazi . . . Was in Benghazi

Sufyan bin Qumu  (Image from defense.gov)

Sufyan bin Qumu (Image from defense.gov)

By Patrick Brennan:

U.S. officials have told the Washington Post that they believe that former Guantanamo Bay detainee and al-Qaeda-linked militant Abu Sufian bin Qumu was involved in the September 11 terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya — a claim specifically denied in the New York Times’ report last week about the tragedy. Rumors have flown about bin Qumu’s involvement in the attack for a long time: Fox News reported the connection just a week after the attack in 2012, and 60 Minutes’ ridiculously thinly sourced report this winter about the attacks repeated the claim, though without any evidence of further sourcing. Back at the time of Fox’s original report, the Obama administration denied the connection, and this was reasonable enough — it honestly seemed like a few too many connections a little too quickly.

The group that we knew at the time had played a large part in the attack on the diplomatic facility is called Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi, and as the Times reported last week, it’s led by a man named Abu Khattala, who’s been indicted for the attack, and who professes a great deal of admiration for al-Qaeda but denies that he’s connected to the group. Meanwhile, there is a group of the same name, Ansar al Sharia, in Derna, a relatively nearby town, and that’s the militia led by bin Qumu.

So it’s understandable how the connection may have been made erroneously — but now we know it’s about as reliable as can be: Bin Qumu’s group is about to be listed as a terrorist organization by the United States for their role in the Benghazi attack. There’s a semi-understandable reason why Fox’s report seemed like a stretch back then, but doesn’t now: At the time, the consensus of observers was that the two Ansar al Sharias in eastern Libya were actually pretty much separate organizations, so one group’s involvement in the Benghazi attack didn’t imply the other’s. But as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies’ Tom Joscelyn explained to me last week, over the last year, it’s become increasingly clear this distinction was a false one, and the two probably are pretty much part of the same organization (he explains more about the issue at The Weekly Standard). It’s therefore unsurprising now to find out that the two groups were both somehow involved in perpetrating the attack — and that the al-Qaeda connections are undeniable.

Why is bin Qumu’s involvement important? Well, superficially, his links go straight to the heart of al-Qaeda — “core al-Qaeda,” the Arabs based in Afghanistan and Pakistan who perpetrated 9/11 and whose organization the Obama administration has repeatedly claimed to have effectively eliminated. Bin Qumu traveled to Afghanistan in the 1990s to train with bin Laden, fought the U.S. there in the 2000s, and then was captured and sent to Guantanamo Bay. When he was released from Guantanamo Bay, he was turned over to the Libyan government, who held him for a while and then released him (Qaddafi wasn’t a bad counterterrorism partner, but he wasn’t the best). And these connections could go further: The Post also reports that Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia will be listed as a terrorist group; some maintain that that group and al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate can all be closely connected to the operations in Libya. It also confirms that they would like to question a man named Faraj al Chalabi, whom they describe as “a Libyan extremist who may have fled the country” — but who may also be a direct connection between Libyan militias and al-Qaeda in Pakistan, as Tom Joscelyn explains this evening. That may suggest the terrorist networks that the Arab Spring has seen thrive in North Africa are stronger and more interconnected than thought.

Read more at National Review

Also see:

New York Times hailed Libyan terror leader behind Benghazi consulate attack as “U.S. ally, of sorts”

P. Poole tweet