Libya and the organised chaos of the mobs
Across the Middle East, we’re witnessing an outburst of anti-American feeling.
Ostensibly, it’s a spontaneous reaction to a feeble film made in California which insults the Prophet Mohammed, but closer analysis suggest that – at least in Libya – this is anything but spontaneous. Extremists seem to be using the mobs outraged by the film as a smokescreen for planned attacks.
In Libya, the Salafists have been gearing up. At the end of August, they destroyed Sufi shrines in several towns. One of Saudi Arabia’s most important Salafist sheikhs, Mohammed Al-Madkhalee of the Islamic University of al-Madinah al-Munawarah in Medina, encouraged them.
In an audio conversation, he speaks with a Libyan Salafist who says some of his group are thinking of attacking Al Asmar shrine in Zliten, the biggest in Libya.
“Al humdallilah,” replies Sheikh Al-Madkhalee. “God bless them and support their actions. Give them victory.” He asks if they have a big force, and on being told that they do, says; “If they have this force they have nothing to fear but God.”
On August 27th, Salafists destroyed the shrine at Zliten.
The Libyan government has reportedly complained to the Saudi government, which funds Sheikh Madkhallee’s university.
That same government, however, did nothing to stop the men with bombs and bulldozers destroying the country’s heritage – the Minister of the Interior said it wasn’t worth risking a single life to protect graves.
The message was clear: whatever you do, no-one will stop you. This may have emboldened others with an even more violent agenda.
“The chaotic security environment is hugely responsible,” said Noman Benothman, a former Libyan jihadi who now works for the counter-terrorism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation.
The attack on the US consulate, in which the American ambassador Chris Stevens was killed, seems to have been planned. It was reportedly carried out by heavily armed men calling themselves “Ansar al Sharia” (“Partisans of Islamic Law”). According to Benothman, they are heavily influenced by Al Qaeda’s ideology.
“Mainstream Islamists are against these barbaric acts,” he said. “We need to wipe out Al Qaeda ideology from Libya.” It was no coincidence, he says, that the consulate was attacked on September 11th.
Back in June, a group calling itself the Imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdurrahman Brigade claimed responsibity for attacks on the Red Cross offices in Benghazi, saying it was their response to the drone strike which killed Abu Yahyia al Libi, the Al Qaeda second-in-command in Afghanistan, who was Libyan.
“We say to the Americans and the enemies of Islam: you will not dream of security and safety if we do not live in security in the Muslim homelands,” they said in a statement.
It was a threat the Americans will surely be examining as they investigate how their Ambassador and three staff menmbers, plus ten Libyan who tried to save them, met their violent death in Benghazi.
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