Poole: Libyan Army Spox Says Obama, Clinton “Abandoned the Libyan People to the Terrorists”

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 11, 2017:

In an exclusive interview with PJ Media, the Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman, Col. Ahmed al-Mesmari, says that President Obama and Hillary Clinton “abandoned the Libyan people to face these terrorists alone,” and implicates the Obama administration in supporting terrorist militias.

With the continuing crisis between several Arab nations, including the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives, and Qatar, Col. al-Mesmari discusses Qatar’s role in arming and financing terrorist militias in Libya.

He also ties the Muslim Brotherhood militias that have been fighting against the LNA with al-Qaeda and ISIS elements operating in the country.

Col. al-Mesmari also claims that the February 17th Martyrs Brigade hired by the State Department to protect the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi cooperated with Ansar al-Sharia in attacking the consulate compound on September 12, 2012,which led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Libyans celebrated last week when after three years of battle the LNA finally liberated Benghazi from all terrorist groups in the city.

And over the past month Col. al-Mesmari has publicly charged Qatar with direct support of terrorist groups operating in Libya.

The following is an exclusive interview I conducted by email earlier today with Col. Ahmed al-Mesmari, official spokesman for the Libyan National Army:

Read more

Shocking Footage Reveals Cultural And Demographic Transformation Of Italy (VIDEO)

Gateway Pundit,  by Damien Cowely, June 27, 2017:

Not Islamabad or Karachi but Italy.

A short video published online and spreading on social media offers a glimpse of the dramatic cultural transformation underway in Italy.

Purportedly filmed in Monfalcone, a manufacturing hub not far from Trieste, in Friuli Venezia Giulia province (Northern Italy), the video shows a large crowd of men leaving celebrations for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. The month-long fast observed by Muslims ended on Sunday.

Previously unknown to most Europeans, Ramadan and the celebration of Eid al-Fitr have become an increasingly significant part of the cultural landscape with socialist politicians in certain countries even calling for the Muslim celebration of Eid to be added as a state holiday.

A stream of men in traditional Islamic garb can be seen leaving the celebration, an uncontroversial sight for the Islamic world but remarkable given that the location is Northern Italy.

As with many European countries outside of France and the United Kingdom, mass immigration is a relatively new phenomenon to Italy, and is increasingly transforming its towns and cities. In a similar pattern to Ireland and Denmark, large scale immigration essentially began in the 1990s, with numbers exploding in the 2000s.

Meanwhile, on Italy’s southern coastline, huge numbers of African migrants continue to arrive daily, many ferried directly from the Libyan coast by well-funded NGOs and European naval vessels. Over 3,000 arrived on Sunday alone, followed by 5000 more on Monday.

Official statistics show the cultural and religious impact of Italy’s porous borders; while only 2,000 Muslims lived in Italy in 1970, the figure had risen to nearly 2 million by 2015, with a rapid increase since that time.

Excluding EU citizens, Italy counted just under 4 million foreign residents as of January 2016, out of a total population of 60 million. This figure also excludes illegal immigrants.

Worryingly for Italy and its Catholic heritage, the country now has one of Europe’s lowest fertility rates at 1.35 children per woman, well below the replacement level of 2.1 required to maintain a stable population.

Video clips such as the one below are increasingly causing scandal amongst Italians, frequently circulating on social media and fueling a nationalist movement which seeks to stem the tide of arrivals.

Also see:

5 Lessons for Us From the Manchester Bombing

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, May 30, 2017:

Suspects continue to be arrested following the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena, with 13 people arrested in the U.K. and Libya at the time of this writing. One person detonated the explosive but the attack was the product of a global Islamist insurgency—and insurgencies can be defeated if we learn from their operations.

Here are 5 lessons from the bombing and follow-up investigation, in no particular order:

  1. Manchester is a hub in the Islamist insurgency network.
    Items left in memorial for the victims of the Manchester attack.
    Items left in memorial for the victims of the Manchester attack. (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

    It was a single bomb set off by a single jihadist, but he belonged to a hub in the Islamist insurgency. Apparently, independent Islamists often exist in geographic clusters that are linked together through a multilayered infrastructure. South Manchester is one such cluster.

    Earlier this year, The Guardian found that 16 convicted or killed terrorists lived within a 2.5-mile space in southern Manchester. That was before the bombing and the subsequent arrests in the area.

    Salman Abedi is believed to have links to ISIS recruiter Raphael Hostey, who was killed in Syria. Hostey acted as a “central node” in the Manchester jihadist network; a person whom others gravitate to and are somewhat directed by.

    In 2000, Abedi also lived on the same street as Abd al-Basset Azzouz, a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), explosives expert for al-Qaeda, and al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s leader of Libyan operations. After they separated from the same street in 2000, the two were never more than a mile apart in Manchester.

    Azzouz traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009. Zawahiri then dispatched him to Libya. He is suspected of involvement in the 2012 Benghazi attacks. He was reportedly captured in Turkey in 2014 and then transferred to Jordan.

    The United Nations sanctioned him as a “key al-Qaeda operative” in February 2016. The U.N. says he recruited 200 terrorists in eastern Libya. Some U.S. officials put the number higher, estimating his Libyan network’s strength to be 200-300 as of 2014. It is very possible that Abedi learned how to make the bomb used at the Manchester Arena from this al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya.

    Manchester became a hub for the global Islamist insurgency because Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) members fled there to escape the wrath of then Libyan dictator Qaddafi. The LIFG developed an infrastructure in Manchester and other parts of the UK to continue the jihad away from Qaddafi’s grip.

    One such member was Ramadan Abedi, the father of the Manchester bomber, Salman. Ramadan fled Libya in 1993 to Saudi Arabia and, from there, was granted asylum by the United Kingdom. He moved to London and then southern Manchester.

    In 2011, when Salman Abedi was only 16 years old, he reportedly moved to Libya to fight against Qaddafi’s forces alongside his father. A member of the Didsbury Mosque claims he personally saw Ramadan Abedi fighting as a member of the LIFG. The associate did not say that he saw Salman.

    The mosque attendee, who claims to have known Ramadan since the early 1990s, said the LIFG had so many recruits from Manchester that their unit was known as the “Manchester fighters—we even had our own logo. Three-quarters of the fighters at the beginning of the revolution were from Manchester.”

  2. Islamists who condemn ISIS are still part of the problem—and that includes the Didsbury Mosque in Manchester.
    Didsbury Mosque, Manchester.
    Didsbury Mosque, Manchester. (Photo: OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty Images)

    Yes, the imam of the Didsbury Mosque, also known as the Manchester Islamic Center, is said to have condemned ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia (the al-Qaeda affiliate linked to the Benghazi attacks), which enraged Salman Abedi. The mosque banned Abedi after he confronted the imam, accusing him of talking “bullocks” [sic] and says it reported him to the proper authorities.

    It’s still not good enough.

    Salman Abedi got his Islamist foundations from some place and there is nowhere more influential in his life than the mosque he and his family attended. The family is “very religious” and a member of the Libyan community in Manchester said the boys “learned the Quran by heart.”

    Salman Abedi’s father, a known member of the al-Qaeda-linked LIFG, was a long-time mosque official who led the call to prayer. Salman’s brother, who has since been arrested, is a teaching assistant for Arabic classes at the mosque’s school.

    The Islamism of the LIFG and the mosque is only a hair’s breadth away from that of the more aggressive Islamism of al-Qaeda and ISIS. They are all acting upon the same fundamental principles, albeit in different ways.

    The Quilliam Foundation, a moderate Muslim organization, says those who originally formed the Libyan community in Manchester attended the Didsbury Mosque because it was Arab and run by the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The top leadership is part of the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas apparatus. Its imam and its supervisor of its Sharia Department are also officials in international Brotherhood/Hamas groups led by Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential extremists in the world. His support for suicide bombing, violent jihad, theocracy, anti-Semitism and other ISIS-like beliefs are well-known.

    According to the Global Muslim Brotherhood Watch, a former trustee is a “known Hamas activist.” He was present during a pivotal secret Brotherhood/Hamas meeting in Philadelphia in 1993 to set up the U.S. branch of the Brotherhood.

    Anti-Semitic tweets from another trustee, Fawzi Haffar, have been discovered. The content is so ferocious that it would lead any Muslim who trusts his word to believe they are obligated to engage in violent jihad.

    The mosque’s imam personally engaged in violent jihad in Libya against Qaddafi’s forces in 2011. There is a video that purportedly shows him in military attire discussing plans for attack, with militants loading bombs and discussing upcoming operations. He previously claimed he was only helping his family members to escape the violence.

    In 2005, a member of the al-Qaeda-linked LIFG was arrested in Libya. He said he was granted asylum by the U.K. and moved to Manchester. He said he then began fundraising for LIFG through the Didsbury Mosque. When asked about it, a mosque spokesperson blatantly lied by saying they hadn’t even heard of the LIFG, much less the arrested individual.

    The mosque also has a history of choosing guest lecturers who spout radicalism of the vilest nature.

    One Muslim says he began attending the mosque in 1994 but left in 1999 after it repeatedly invited Abu Qatada to teach its congregants. Qatada’s extremism was well-known and present in a lecture to an audience of 300 that this Muslim says he attended. The individual confronted Qatada and had repeated arguments with other mosque members which escalated into assaults. The former attendee says his nose was broken in one fight.

    One blogger noticed at least three other extremist speakers who were brought into the Didsbury Mosque as authorities the audience should hear. Their preaching includes ferocious anti-Semitism; advocacy for Sharia-based theocracies; condemnations of secular-democracy; wild conspiracy theories; glorifying of violent jihad and executing adulterers, homosexuals, those who leave Islam and those who commit blasphemy against Islam.

    Other teachings that the preachers are known for include condemning Jewish and Christian influence on Muslims and that Muslims cannot be close friends with non-Muslims. Non-Muslims are not deserving of true respect. Jews are orchestrating the spread of homosexuality, engineering a conspiracy through the media and will be part of the Antichrist’s army.

    One speaker preached that women do not belong in the workplace and should only leave the home when it is unavoidable. Other quotes from the selected speakers include statements that Muslims cannot help those who converted to Christianity to escape from countries like Iran where apostasy is punished with death. One condemned secular and liberal Muslims as the “biggest danger” to the community.

    With this type of preaching, it isn’t hard to see how Abedi could be motivated to take that extra step to join ISIS or al-Qaeda or why at least two other ISIS recruits worshipped at the mosque.

  3. We must dismantle the Islamist ideological infrastructure that produces violent jihad and its prerequisite radicalism.
    British soldiers outside the House of Parliament in London in the wake of the May 2017 Manchester terror attack.
    British soldiers outside the House of Parliament in London in the wake of the May 2017 Manchester terror attack. (Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP / Getty Images)

    Notice the overlaps in membership and brands of Islamism in the above lesson. Because jihadist groups are just a manifestation of the Islamist ideology, group membership is fluid. A recent study found that half of the most prominent violent jihadists came from tamer Islamist movements not directly engaged in violence.

    A mosque operated by the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas was a centerpiece in setting up the LIFG’s network in Manchester, even though LIFG was aligned with al-Qaeda, supposedly a rival of the Brotherhood and Hamas. This same network produces ISIS recruits, even though the mosque imam condemns ISIS, as does the Brotherhood and other parts of the LIFG network.

    One possible associate of Abedi from the Manchester hub joined a Libyan Islamist group called the 17 February Martyrs’ Brigade, which was disastrously chosen to protect Americans in Benghazi. This individual later became an advocate for ISIS after returning to the UK.

    Ramadan Abedi may also have fought for an Islamist group in Libya and been injured in 2014.

    That is why the common thread—the Islamist ideology and the factories producing it—must be the focus of our efforts. As Elliot Friedland wrote about, a Muslim woman called into BBC’s Question Time program and warned that Saudi-trained clerics were coming into her community and promoting Wahhabism to children as young as seven.

  4. The anti-Islamists are your allies, not the “moderate” Islamists.
    Police cordon off an area in Moss Side Manchester to carry out investigations.
    Police cordon off an area in Moss Side Manchester to carry out investigations. (Photo: JOHN SUPER/AFP/Getty Images)

     The investigation into the Manchester bombing is resulting in scrutiny of the LIFG network in the U.K. that spawned so many al-Qaeda and ISIS recruits. It’s worth pointing out that our Egyptian and Libyan allies are fighting that same network and have been asking for U.S. help in defeating them since the civil war began in 2011.

     After Libyan dictator Qaddafi fell, a very predictable civil war between “moderate” Islamist militias and secular-democratic forces began. ISIS gained a foothold and fought both. The civil war became a proxy war between the anti-Islamist secularists backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and a coalition of Islamists backed by Qatar, Turkey and Sudan that includes al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia, the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood and the successors to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group—the group whose network bred the Manchester terror hub.

     The anti-Islamist forces, spearheaded by General Khalifah Haftar’s Libyan National Army, are the most popular and strongest of the approximately 1,700 militias in Libya. It is successful, openly disdains Political Islam, vows to separate mosque and state. Haftar wants to ban the major Islamist forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, as terrorist organizations.

    There are some reports that Salman Abedi himself might have been injured in 2014 fighting as a member of an Islamist militia battling Haftar’s forces.

    “From day one, the Muslim Brotherhood has served as a Trojan horse, bringing foreign combatants into Libya after they had received training in regional and Western capitals and cities…The Muslim Brotherhood provided them with entry visas or Libyan identity papers, furnished them with weapons and offered logistical support,” Haftar says.

    They openly sought an alliance with the U.S. and Europe, only to be disappointed. The Libyan and Egyptian governments viewed the Obama Administration’s neutrality and urging of a unity government as a pro-Muslim Brotherhood position.

    Egypt and its Libyan allies continue to demand a change in policy. We should remember that they are fighting the same Islamist network whose tentacles in Manchester sparked the May 22 bombing.

  5. The Western security agencies are not on the ball.
    Police escort concert goers from the site of the Ariana Grande concert following last nights attack. (Photo: Dave Thompson/Getty Images)

    MI5 has 500 active investigations and 3,000 subjects of interest. There are reports that there’s an additional 20,000 considered to pose a “residual risk” because they were previously investigated. It appears that Abedi was considered a “residual risk.”

    Abedi was reported to the government 5 times over 5 years by people who felt he posed a serious terrorist threat. This count presumably includes two friends who separately reported him in 2012 and 2016 after he justified suicide bombings and expressed support for terrorism. Members of his own family warned he was “dangerous.”

    He was still able to travel to Libya and Turkey (where he may have entered Syria) without questioning upon his return. He also visited Germany, and the Germans say he did not appear on any watch lists.

    Now it’s being reported the U.S. government told MI5 in early January that Abedi was part of a North African cell of ISIS members plotting an attack on a political target, which was thought to be an assassination. According to the unconfirmed report, the U.S. put Abedi on a watch list in mid-2016 after intercepting some of his communications.

    In another blunder, the U.K. designated the LIFG as a terrorist group in 2005. Ramadan Abedi, a member of LIFG, didn’t move to Libya until 2008. He was never arrested. Perhaps this is because of the difficulty in proving that someone is a “member” of a terrorist group instead of just a “supporter.”

    Ramadan Abedi denies being a member of the LIFG. He says, “I condemn anyone who says I belong to the LIFG, but I praise them.”

    Terrorists are often recruited by family members or close friends. The Abedi family’s ties to LIFG, involvement with a radical mosque, location near so many other terrorists in Manchester, the father’s move to Libya and involvement in the fighting, and various tips should have put him higher up on the priority list.

    When Salman Abedi spent three weeks in Libya, it should have triggered alarm bells in the intelligence system so he’d at least be questioned upon his return to the UK. That didn’t even happen. He committed a suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena shortly thereafter.

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s Shillman Fellow and national security analyst and an adjunct professor of counter-terrorism. He is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. To invite Ryan to speak, please contact us.

***

Also see:

UK officials still investigating ‘wider conspiracy’ behind Manchester attack

LONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | May 28, 2017

Law enforcement and counterterrorism officials are still investigating the possible “wider conspiracy” behind the May 22 Manchester Arena bombing, according to a statement released by the Manchester Police. Twelve men have been arrested in connection with the investigation and remain in custody. It is not known if charges will be brought against any or all of them. Two people, including one woman, were detained earlier, but released without charge.

Authorities have released images (seen above) captured by CCTV of Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old who detonated the bomb. The images are part of an effort to obtain more evidence regarding Abedi’s movements between May 18, when he returned to the UK from his travels abroad, until his night of terror days later. Forensic experts identified Abedi as the perpetrator within two hours of the attack. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the act.

The Manchester police released an infographic, seen on the right, summarizing key events to date.

Officials have discovered a flat where Abedi, and possibly his co-conspirators, may have assembled the bomb.

“The investigation is making good progress and we know one of the last places Abedi went was a city centre flat and from there he left to make his way to the Manchester Arena,” Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the Senior National Coordinator for UK Counter Terrorism Policing, said in a statement released online. “The flat is highly relevant as a location which we believe may be the final assembly place for the device.”

“In the past five days we have gathered significant information about Abedi, his associates, his finances, the places he had been, how the device was built and the wider conspiracy,” Hopkins and Basu said yesterday.

Authorities have not publicly confirmed that Abedi had co-conspirators, although that is the clear implication of their statements. “This is still a live investigation which is not slowing down,” Hopkins and Basu added. “Our priorities are to understand the run up to this terrible event and to understand if more people were involved in planning this attack.”

During an interview on BBC News with Andrew Marr, British interior minister Amber Rudd was asked about members of the “large group” surrounding around Abedi who have been arrested, and whether “some” members are sill at-large.

“Potentially, I mean it’s an ongoing operation” that is still at “full tilt,” Rudd responded.

Marr asked Rudd about possible security lapses in the lead up to Abedi’s bombing, including tips that authorities reportedly received, and failed to act on, beforehand. Rudd wouldn’t comment on the specifics, but defended the UK government’s counterterrorism record in general. She said that 18 plots have been foiled since 2013 and highlighted the “scale of the problem” Britain faces, especially from the Islamic State, which is trying to “weaponize young people in our society.”

Marr also inquired how many “serious potential jihadis” there were “across the country.” Citing figures provided by MI5, Rudd responded that the security services are “looking at 500 different plots” with 3,000 possible terrorists on the “top list” and 20,000 “underneath that.”

“But that’s all different layers, different tiers, and it might be just a question mark about one of them” that leads to inclusion on the “top list,” she explained. In other words, British authorities do not think that all of the people on MI5’s lists are necessarily terrorists in waiting. But officials are having a difficult time determining which individuals will follow Abedi’s path.

The British government has previously warned that the Islamic State threat is “unprecedented.” [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Why the UK launched its first targeted drone strike ever.]

The Manchester investigation is massive effort, requiring significant resources all by itself. Approximately 1,000 members of the British security services and law enforcement have been involved.

Outside of the UK, officials are looking into Hashim and Ramadan Abedi (Salman’s brother and father, respectively), both of whom were detained in Libya last week. Libya’s Special Deterrence Force, Rada, alleges that Hashim Abedi has admitted foreknowledge of the plot and that he and his brother were both members of the Islamic State. The senior Abedi’s ties to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a designated terror group linked to al Qaeda, are also being explored. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: Analysis: UK investigating possible ‘network’ behind Manchester attack.]

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

***

Analysis: UK investigating possible ‘network’ behind Manchester attack

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, May 25, 2017:

Note: This article was first published at the Weekly Standard.

The investigation into the Manchester Arena bombing quickly turned to the possibility that the bomber, 22-year-old Salman Abedi, had accomplices. “I think it’s very clear that this is a network that we are investigating,” Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Manchester Police told reporters yesterday. The U.K.’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office was more circumspect, cautioning that “at this stage it is still not possible to be certain if there was a wider group involved in the attack.”

But the dragnet has only widened since Monday evening, and now stretches from the U.K. to Libya.

Authorities are looking into Abedi’s travels abroad, including to his parents’ native Libya, and whether he met with terrorist operatives. The bomb he deployed was well-crafted, with shrapnel packed around a powerful explosive charge. The jihadists have disseminated literature on how to construct similar devices, but bomb experts have yet to determine if it was an exceptional home brew, or professionally built.

As of this morning, according to Manchester police, eight men, including one of Abedi’s brothers, have been arrested in the U.K. It remains to be seen if charges are brought against any or all of them. One woman who was detained as part of the investigation has since been released.

Meanwhile, in Tripoli, another one of Abedi’s brothers and his father, Ramadan, have both been detained by Rada, Libya’s Special Deterrence Force.

Rada posted a picture of Hashim Abedi, Salman’s younger sibling (seen above), on its Facebook page along with a message saying that he had incriminated himself. Rada alleges that Hashim admitted he was aware of all of the details of the Manchester Arena plot and that the two brothers had joined the Islamic State. U.K. and U.S. officials are seeking to verify the claim.

Earlier yesterday, Ramadan Abedi insisted that his son Salman was innocent during an interview with the Associated Press. “We don’t believe in killing innocents. This is not us,” the Abedi father told the AP. “We aren’t the ones who blow up ourselves among innocents. We go to mosques. We recite Quran, but not that.” It was shortly after that that Rada detained Ramadan in Tripoli for questioning. They did not bring charges.

The Abedi family is from Libya; the 2011 uprising in that country brought the parents back to their native land. A family friend, Akram Ramadan, provided some background information to the Guardian. Akram Ramadan says that he fought alongside Ramadan Abedi during the revolution against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. The senior Abedi was apparently a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which failed in its attempt to overthrow Gaddafi during the 1990s. The LIFG has been designated a terrorist organization in the U.S. because of its ties to al Qaeda. Senior LIFG figures fought alongside al Qaeda in pre-9/11 Afghanistan and a number of them merged with Osama bin Laden’s enterprise. In fact, some LIFG members went on to serve in al Qaeda’s most senior roles.

Gaddafi’s regime imprisoned numerous LIFG members through the years, but many of them were released from prison both before and during the 2011 revolution. One of them, Sufian ben Qumu, went on to lead Ansar al Sharia (an al Qaeda-affiliated group) in Derna, a city in eastern Libya, and was linked to the September 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi.

Other former LIFG figures decided to play politics in post-Gaddafi Libya, and this led to heated criticism from the Islamic State.

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s international organization rejects any form of politics. Only the top-down, authoritarian implementation of sharia law is legitimate for governance, according to the group’s ideologues. All other forms of rule are prohibited. Thus, the Islamic State has blasted Abdelhakim Belhadj, one of the most prominent former LIFG leaders, as an apostate. Belhadj, who reportedly knew Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, has joined one of Libya’s rival governments in Tripoli. There have been erroneous reports saying that Belhadj joined the Islamic State, but this is clearly false.

The Islamic State made Libya the third most important country in its caliphate between late 2014 and 2016. The group captured the coastal city of Sirte, portraying it almost on par with Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq–the two capitals of Baghdadi’s nascent state. But the jihadists lost Sirte in December of last year, forcing them to regroup elsewhere.

In January, the U.S. bombed two Islamic State training camps south of Sirte. Importantly, the Pentagon said that the airstrikes had targeted the Islamic State’s “external plotters,” who had been tied to terrorist planning in Europe. CNN then revealed that some of these same terrorists had connections to the December 19, 2016, Christmas market attack in Berlin, which was carried out by an Islamic State member from Tunisia.

This raises the possibility that the Manchester terrorist, Salman Abedi, met with the Islamic State’s “external” operatives during his time in Libya. Authorities are still piecing together a picture of his travels, but it appears that Abedi spent time in Libya just prior to returning to Manchester. Other, unconfirmed reports say he also traveled to Syria.

The investigation has led to tensions between U.K. officials and their counterparts in the U.S. The two countries have a robust intelligence-sharing relationship, but details are being leaked to the American press shortly after being transmitted by the Brits. For instance, photos and granular details about the bomb used in the attack were published by the New York Times yesterday.

The leaking has led the U.K. government to complain at multiple levels. Prime Minister Theresa May reportedly will raise the issue with President Donald Trump during NATO meetings in Brussels later today.

The U.K. National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) issued a statement that is scathing, at least by British standards.

“We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement and security partners around the world,” the NPCC statement reads. “These relationships enable us to collaborate and share privileged and sensitive information that allows us to defeat terrorism and protect the public at home and abroad.”

The NPCC statement continues: “When that trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families. This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorised disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter terrorism investigation.”

That investigation is focused on Salman Abedi’s possible co-conspirators. And the leaks complicate efforts to roll up what may be a much larger network in play.

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

***

Also see:

Senior Lawmakers Urge U.S. Engagement in Libya

Libyans take part in a celebration with fireworks marking the sixth anniversary of the Libyan revolution / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, Natalie Johnson, April 25, 2017:

Senior lawmakers on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump’s declaration that the United States has “no role” in Libya, citing the threat of regional instability to U.S. national security interests.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and ranking Democrat Ben Cardin (D., Md.) said Libya’s ongoing battle over power and access to natural resources has created a permissive environment for extremist groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Cardin, during opening remarks for a hearing assessing U.S. policy options in the war-torn nation, said it is vital to U.S. security interests that the Trump administration work with the international community and local forces to craft a political solution that creates a representative government.

“The United States must be engaged,” Cardin said. “When we don’t have representative governments … it creates a void and that void is filled by ISIS, as we’ve seen in northern Africa, and it’s filled by Russia, which we’re seeing Russia’s engagement now in Libya.”

“I think this hearing is an important indication by Congress that we do expect a role to be played,” he added.

Trump raised concerns Thursday when he rejected calls from Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni to maintain America’s “very critical” role in Libya. The United States currently is working to build political consensus around the fragile United Nations-backed government in Tripoli. Trump said during the joint press conference with Gentiloni that the U.S. priority in Libya is counterterrorism efforts to degrade ISIS.

Moscow in recent months has ramped up support for Libyan military commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who controls large swaths of eastern Libya, including Benghazi. Haftar’s forces do not recognize the UN-backed Government of National Accord, posing a significant challenge to international efforts to unify the country.

Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told lawmakers Tuesday that U.S. disengagement from the embattled nation would widen the opening for Russian involvement and create conditions likely to perpetuate the spread of ISIS.

U.S. Africa Command released its 2017 posture statement in March, declaring instability in Libya and North Africa the “most significant near-term threat” to the United States and its allies in the region. The command warned that Libya’s precarious security situation has created spillover effects in Tunisia, Egypt, and most of western North Africa, enabling the flow of foreign fighters and migrants to Europe.

“The notion of the problems of Libya spilling over is really profound—we’re talking about a number of U.S. interests in the region. [It’s] really this epicenter that effects the surrounding region.” Wehrey testified.

The Truth Behind Media’s New Favorite Euphemism: ‘Muslim-Majority Countries’

Breitbart, by John Hayward, March 9, 2017:

Both versions of President Trump’s executive order have been caricatured as a “Muslim ban,” even though they applied to only six or seven specific countries, leaving 90 percent of the world’s population out of the mix.

The fallback euphemism is to say that Trump is “banning” immigration (they never say it is conditional and temporary) from several “Muslim-majority” countries. This is also misleading because those countries are not merely inhabited by a majority of Muslims. They are Muslim countries, period. They all have some form of Islamic law written into their legal codes.

With Iraq removed from the equation, the remaining nations affected by the order are Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia. The original executive order did not list the affected nations; it merely referred to Obama-era legislation that named them as nations of particular concern. The revised version of the order does name the affected nations because it explains why each of them is on the list.

The first version of the order did not mention Islam at all. The revised version does, but only to explain why the first order did not because this is not a “Muslim ban”:

Executive Order 13769 did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion. While that order allowed for prioritization of refugee claims from members of persecuted religious minority groups, that priority applied to refugees from every nation, including those in which Islam is a minority religion, and it applied to minority sects within a religion. That order was not motivated by animus toward any religion, but was instead intended to protect the ability of religious minorities — whoever they are and wherever they reside — to avail themselves of the USRAP in light of their particular challenges and circumstances.

Islam is not a “minority religion” in any of the six countries named by the order. In fact, all six of them officially incorporate Islamic sharia law into their legal codes.

Of the six, Iran is an outright Islamic theocracy. Its Supreme Leader is the Ayatollah, a top-ranking Muslim cleric. Iran’s legal code is explicitly based on sharia, with a smattering of civil ordinances thrown in. Iranian courts have been known to invoke sharia for such judgments as requiring a woman to be blinded in retribution for throwing acid in a victim’s face.

Iranian law nominally has some protections for religious minorities, but the absolute supremacy of Islam is not questioned. Observers have reported that religious freedom is growing steadily worse in the theocracy.

Libya is the most complex of the six nations to classify, because it does not have a functioning central government at all, following Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s disastrous intervention – a fact the mainstream media prefers not to dwell on. “Libya’s post-revolution legal system is in flux and driven by state and non-state entities,” as the CIA World Factbook tactfully puts it.

The capital city of Tripoli was seized by an Islamist coalition, with the Muslim Brotherhood a major player. Another is Ansar al-Sharia, a Salafist Islamic militia. The presence of “sharia” in its name is not a coincidence; they declared Libya an Islamic “caliphate” in 2014.

There has been success in the battle against Libyan ISIS, but al-Qaeda is still a major player. U.N.-backed unity governments tend to include a lot of people from the more extreme wings of Libyan politics. They have to because Islamists are a powerful political force in the country.

Another major force in chaotic Libya is widely described as a “secularist,” General Khalifa Haftar. Some observers wonder just how “secularist” he really is, especially if he gains control of the country and has to make deals with the powerful Islamist elements he is currently fighting.

Haftar is an old Qaddafi hand, and while the late dictator is remembered as a brutal and mercurial secularist loathed by hardline Islamists in Libya, he was sometimes given to Islamist sentiments of his own. For instance, Qaddafi once declared Islam was the only universal human religion and said, “all those believers who do not follow Islam are losers.” He named his son and once-presumed successor Saif al-Islam.

Libya’s future is a question mark, but it is highly disingenuous to describe even its present state as merely “Muslim-majority.” The interim Libyan constitution of 2011 begins with the invocation of “Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate,” states that Islam is the official religion of the country, and declares “sharia shall be the main source of legislation.” Until and unless a different constitution is put into effect by an internationally-recognized national government, Libya is a Muslim nation.

Somalia officially imposed sharia law through its Cabinet in 2009. “Islamic Sharia is the only option to get solutions for the problems in this country,” one minister declared. Less than 0.1% of the population follows a religion other than Islam.

The Somali government banned Christmas celebrations in December 2015, because “having Muslims celebrate Christmas is not the right thing,” as a top official put it. He likened Christmas celebrations to apostasy and said they are “not in any way related to Islam.” Foreigners were graciously allowed to celebrate Christmas in their homes, but even hotels were instructed to prevent guests from holding celebrations.

The al-Shabaab terrorist organization thinks the central government is not Islamist enough and imposes an even harsher sharia code on the sizable portions of the country it effectively controls. Many of the people living under al-Shabaab control have told interviewers they support its legal code.

Sudan is officially an Islamic state with a sharia legal code. Even the leaders of breakaway South Sudan, which want to return to a common-law system on the British model, have been struggling to purge sharia from the legal system.

Sudan, like Somalia, is not “majority Muslim” – it is about 96% Muslim, and the 3% Christian minority is brutally persecuted, despite some nominal legal protection for other religions. World Atlas notes that “some interpretations of the Muslim Law in the country fail to recognize or accept apostasy and marriages to non-Muslims,” and concludes that “Sudan leads the world as the most difficult country for Christians since freedom of religion or belief is systematically ignored.”

Syria is an uncomfortable case, as some religious minorities say they fared much better under the Assad dictatorship. Some Syrian Christians bluntly refer to Bashar Assad as their “protector” and have similar hopes for the intervening Russians. Of course, critics of the brutal Syrian regime argue that Assad’s alliance with Christians is purely cynical, and even accuse him of inflaming the Christian fear of Muslims for political gain.

Assad’s government is nominally secular, while even most of the “good guy” rebels supported by Western powers practice Islamic law through sharia courts. Syrians in contested areas complain that different sharia courts loyal to various factions, from “moderates” to hardcore al-Qaeda Islamists, issue conflicting verdicts.

At the height of the rebellion, many Syrians expressed a desire to replace the Syrian Arab Republic with an Islamic state. Then they found themselves saddled with the Islamic State, which may have led some of them to reconsider. However, there are still calls to impose sharia across Syria, portraying it as an instrument of peace and justice.

Having said that, the constitution of the “secular” Syrian Arab Republic explicitly requires the president to be a Muslim, and requires that “Islamic jurisprudence shall be a major source of legislation.” This was true of both the older constitution and the revised document prepared in 2012.

The same article declares “the State shall respect all religions, and ensure the freedom to perform all the rituals that do not prejudice public order,” but there is no question: Syria is a Muslim nation, not a “Muslim-majority nation.” Islam enjoys a privileged position in its legal code that Western liberals would not tolerate without comment from any other religion.

Yemen practices a mixture of sharia law and common law in what passes for its central government – which, of course, was overthrown by the Houthis, a Shiite Muslim insurgency supported by the Iranian theocracy. The internationally recognized Yemeni government has said the Houthis want to transform Yemen into a caliphate ruled by lineal descendants of Mohammed.

Even Houthi spokesmen who strongly disagree with that characterization have said they think “sharia should be one of the main sources of the law in Yemen, not the only source.”

The large portions of Yemen controlled by al-Qaeda are noted for the strict rule of Islamic law, including the oppression of women. Al-Qaeda regards the failure to strictly obey sharia as “debauchery.”

The Constitution of the Republic of Yemen explicitly declares it to be an Islamic state, and stipulates “sharia is the source of all legislation.” Islam is unambiguously named as the official state religion. Denouncing Islam is a crime punishable by death. Over 99% of the population is Muslim.

Iraq: Even though it is no longer listed in Trump’s executive order, it should be noted that Iraq is an explicitly Islamic nation, according to its 2005 constitution. “Islam is the official religion of the State and is a fundamental source of legislation,” Article 2 declares. “No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.”

Religious freedom is nominally protected, as long as the supremacy of Islam is acknowledged by all: “This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice such as Christians, Yazedis, and Mandi Sabeans.”

Some Iraqi clerics agitate for stricter adherence to sharia law, which introduces the dangerous question of whether Sunni or Shiite law should reign supreme.

The incorporation of Sharia law into the legal codes of these countries occurs to a degree that would revolt the American Left, if any religion except Islam was involved. Rest assured that no one in today’s mainstream media would describe, say, 15th-century Spain as a “majority Catholic” nation.

For that matter, they do not seem inclined to describe Israel as “majority Jewish”; they simply refer to it as a “Jewish state.” Israel is, in fact, only about 75% Jewish. A recent effort supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to formally define Israel as a Jewish state failed, in part due to concerns that it could lead to discriminatory policies against the Arab population.

Its legal code includes extensive protection for religious minorities, and there are Muslim and Druze members of its parliament. Last November, one of them staged the Muslim call to prayer during a parliamentary session to protest a bill that would prevent all places of worship from using loudspeakers to summon their worshipers, because it was seen as unfairly targeting mosques.

Equivalent stunts are unwise for members of religious minorities in “Muslim-majority nations,” including the six listed in President Trump’s executive order.

In conclusion: all of the nations mentioned in both versions of President Trump’s executive order are Muslim countries, period. Every single one of them has Islam as the state religion and bases its legal code on sharia. Not a single one of these countries is a “Muslim-majority” nation that practices full and complete religious pluralism under a secular government.