It is not surprising to see Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi use any and all means, including the most savage violence, to hold onto power. Qaddafi is, after all, a terrorist.
There was a time when Qaddafi’s Libya was one of the world’s foremost sponsors of terrorism. Throughout the 1980s, Libya had its hands in terrorism all over the world. Qaddafi made common cause with just about any terrorist organization that asked for his assistance. The most notorious Libyan-sponsored terrorist attack during Qaddafi’s terror-sponsoring heyday was, of course, the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Qaddafi tried to rehabilitate his image a bit, offering some assistance against al Qaeda’s North African franchises. Long before 9/11, in fact, Qaddafi brutally suppressed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an al Qaeda affiliate that sought his ouster. And with chaos engulfing Libya today, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has called for Qaddafi’s head.
Al Qaeda would gladly off Qaddafi if given the opportunity. But even with this reality staring Qaddafi in the face, he was not a true partner against global terrorism in the post-9/11 world. The problem with a man such as Qaddafi is that terrorism is in his blood. It is a tool he uses quite naturally in the pursuit of his political and personal agenda, as capricious as that may be.
Terrorism comes so easily to Qaddafi, in fact, that he has even sought to use al Qaeda-affiliated operatives to avenge verbal insults hurled in his direction.
During a televised Arab League Conference in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt on March 1, 2003, Qaddafi and Saudi crown prince Abdullah feuded over the impending war in Iraq.
“King Fahd told me that his country was threatened and he would co-operate with the devil to protect it,” Qaddafi said, condemning the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia.
Abdullah fired back: “Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and not an agent of colonialism like you and others.” Wagging his finger in Qaddafi’s direction, Abdullah continued: “You, who brought you to power? Don’t talk about matters that you fail to prove. Your lies precede you, while the grave is ahead of you.”
Qaddafi did not take kindly to the prince’s words. The Libyan terror master quickly set about finding a way to kill Abdullah.
Enter Abdurahman Alamoudi, an Eritrean-born naturalized U.S. citizen. Judging by outward appearances alone, many considered Alamoudi a perfectly respectable American Muslim leader. He founded two Muslim organizations in his adopted homeland and had ties to the upper echelons of both political parties. Democrats and Republicans alike befriended Alamoudi, who the Department of Defense asked to help pick chaplains for its Muslim servicemen. The State Department was fond of Alamoudi, too, paying him to help foster interfaith dialogue.
Alamoudi was not all that he seemed, however. If he was not a member of the international Muslim Brotherhood, then he was closely affiliated with it and endorsed its radical way of viewing the world. Alamoudi also endorsed Hamas and Hezbollah. And his terrorist ties were not confined to rhetorical support. Alamoudi assisted a number of bad actors, including a group of Saudi dissidents in the UK who were really al Qaeda-linked operatives.
Qaddafi’s goons knew about Alamoudi’s ties to the al Qaeda agents in the UK. So, they summoned Alamoudi to Tripoli.
On March 13, 2003, less than two weeks after the public altercation between Abdullah and Qaddafi, Libyan officials asked Alamoudi to help them create “headaches” for the crown prince. In particular, they wanted Alamoudi to use his contacts in al Qaeda to find personnel inside the Saudi Kingdom who could help them stir up trouble.
Alamoudi agreed to broker the deal and flew to London to meet with the al Qaeda-linked men. According to court documents, including the plea agreement Alamoudi signed in 2004, al Qaeda said they’d help the Libyans – for a price.
A series of meetings between Alamoudi, the Libyans, and al Qaeda’s UK presence transpired. Over the next several months, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, Alamoudi transferred “approximately $1 million” to the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA), “a U.K.-based Saudi oppositionist organization,” and Saad al Fagih, the “al Qaeda-affiliated” head of MIRA.
Saad al Fagih’s ties to Osama bin Laden go way back. For instance, Fagih reportedly purchased a satellite phone that he shipped to bin Laden in the 1990s. Osama used the phone in plotting the August 7, 1998 embassy bombings. And according to the U.S. Treasury Department, Fagih “assumed the role of the al Qaeda spokesperson in London following the arrest” of a senior al Qaeda terrorist in 2001. Moreover, a “a senior al Qaeda operative in Saudi Arabia sent articles” to Fagih who would then post them on MIRA’s website using the al Qaeda operatives’ “pennames.”
So, the Libyans had good reason to think that Fagih’s MIRA could deliver al Qaeda operatives inside the Saudi Kingdom.
The plot was progressing until Alamoudi was found to be carrying $340,000 in cash during preflight security screening at Heathrow Airport. The Libyans and the MIRA men worried that they may be found out, since Alamoudi carried some of their contact information in his Palm Pilot. When they thought they were safe from Western scrutiny, they resumed plotting.
It turned out that when the Libyans used the word “headaches” in their conversations with Alamoudi they were really referring to an assassination. Qaddafi wanted Alamoudi to get al Qaeda to kill Crown Prince Abdullah.
The assassination plot was foiled, however, after Alamoudi was arrested again and one of his Libyan co-conspirators was arrested too. The Libyan, Colonel Ismael, was an intelligence officer dispatched to Saudi Arabia to coordinate the plot. Ismael reported directly to two Libyan intelligence chiefs who, in turn, reported to Qaddafi.
The New York Times reported that Colonel Ismael fled Saudi Arabia for Egypt, where he was arrested, after an “aborted ‘drop’ of $1 million to a team of four Saudi militants who were prepared to attack Prince Abdullah’s motorcade with shoulder-fired missiles or grenade launchers.”
Colonel Ismael quickly confessed to the plot, as did Alamoudi.
In his interviews with American authorities, Alamoudi pointed the finger directly at Qaddafi.
“I want the Crown Prince killed either through assassination or through a coup,” Qaddafi reportedly said to Alamoudi.
Neither came about. Alamoudi received twenty-three years in prison for his terrorist efforts. The U.S. Treasury Department would later explain that “the September 2003 arrest of Alamoudi was a severe blow to al Qaeda, as Alamoudi had a close relationship with al Qaeda and had raised money for al Qaeda in the United States.”
As for Qaddafi, well, he has “headaches” of his own today.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.