Libyan National Liberation Army
LIFG Joins Al-Qaeda; Al-Zawahiri Names Belhadj "Emir of the Mujahideen"
In 2007, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, then Al-Qaeda's second-in-command, announced that the LIFG had been merged into Al-Qaeda. In his recorded message, he named Belhadj, who was imprisoned at the time, Emir of the Mujahideen, and gave him the "glad tidings" that his brothers the mujahideen had escalated their war on the enemies of Islam, namely Qadhafi the "Crusaders from Washington."
Belhadj's page on the leading Salafi-jihadi website Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad features statements he issued as LIFG commander, mostly from the 1990s. In them, he proclaims that the LIFG opposes all who advocate democracy or believe that Islam's victory can be achieved by any means other than jihad. He also declares that the LIFG supports the jihad against the apostates in other Muslim countries, such as Algeria.
From Mujahid to Friend: Belhadj's Relationship with Qadhafi's Regime
In February 2004, Belhadj was arrested in Malaysia and transferred to Bangkok, where he was interrogated by the CIA prior to being extradited to Libya in March of that year. There he was jailed until March 2010, at which time he was released as part of the regime's program for rehabilitation of Islamist extremists, along with the LIFG's ideologue Sami Al-Sa'idi (aka Abu Mundhir) and military commander Khalid Sharif (aka Abu Hazim), as well as hundreds of other LIFG mujahideen. His release was announced at a press conference by Qadhafi's son Saif Al-Islam himself. At the press conference, a clean-shaven Belhadj sat between the movement's ideologue and military commander, smiling and nodding in agreement with Saif Al-Islam's speech, which described the new friendship between the LIFG and Qadhafi's regime.
Belhadj in 2010 following his release from prison
The Libyan rehabilitation program, sponsored by Saif Al-Islam, was apparently based on the Saudi, Egyptian, and Moroccan model of engaging jihadi prisoners in a dialogue aimed at getting them to renounce their extremist views. The release of the LIFG leaders and fighters came about after the organization published a book that renounces the hard-line approach of Al-Qaeda (see below). In an interview after his release, Belhadj spoke highly of Saif Al-Islam and his efforts to resolve conflicts between the regime and the people. He explained that the dialogue between the regime and the mujahideen had been aimed at providing freedom to everyone. He added that, after the LIFG had published its book, Qadhafi's government had to fulfill its part of the deal by releasing the LIFG members".
LIFG Book Renounces Jihad against Muslim Leaders; Advocates War on External Enemies
In 2009, LIFG published a book titled "Corrective Studies in the Concepts of Jihad, Hisba[i.e., Commanding Good and Forbidding Evil], and Passing Judgment on People [i.e., Declaring them Infidels]". The authors are identified as the organization's "imprisoned commanders" – namely Belhadj himself, ideologue Sami Al-Sa'idi (Abu Mundhir) and military commander Khalid Sharif (Abu Hazim) – though none of them signed the book by name, making it difficult to assess whether each of them actually endorses the book in full. The book was approved by religious authorities in Libya and by renowned Sunni scholars elsewhere, including Youssef Al-Qaradhawi and Salman Al-'Odeh, and was hailed as an important part of the ideological battle against Al-Qaeda.
Belhadj in 2011, as rebel commander
The book's nine chapters deal with key religious issues such as jihad, religious extremism, and takfir[declaring others to be apostates]. It prohibited waging active jihad against Muslim rulers, advising to focus the jihad on Islam's external enemies.
The book's introduction states that "it has been the fate of the Islamic ummah in recent generations to face great conspiracies by its enemies, the Jews and Christians... who conquered its lands, plundered its resources and desecrated its sanctities... [In response,] many devout [Muslims] have attempted to contribute in one way or another to serving the religion and reviving the ummah." The authors explain that these efforts were misguided, however, due to the lack of proper scholarly guidance, among other reasons. Therefore, "we wrote this book for the sake of every Muslim who sees the huge gap between what one finds in God's book… and the worrisome situation [experienced] today by some of the sons of Islam… We wrote this book for everymujahid who strives for the advancement of his ummah, and is confronting the external conspiracies with his pen, tongue, money, weapon or prayers".
The chapter on jihad praises it in general but deals extensively with conditions and constraints on waging jihad. These include a prohibition on targeting women and children, and observations about respecting agreements and on the treatment of prisoners. A large portion is devoted to a prohibition on fighting Muslim rulers and causing civil strife. Instead, the book advocates waging jihad against foreign occupiers of Muslim lands, naming Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan as the main arenas of jihad in our times. It should be mentioned that the book does not specify clearly whether contemporary Muslim leaders are considered believers or apostates, a distinction that is fundamental to the Salafi-jihadi doctrine.
It is also noteworthy that the book portrays the LIFG's past actions as based on a "lack of proper scholarly guidance", but fails to clarify who are considered the authoritative religious authorities.
Other members of the LIFG
Abu Yahya al-Libi (Arabic: أبو يحيى الليبي), c. 1963, is an Islamist ideologue and leading high-ranking official within al-Qaeda, and an alleged member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. and is believed to be able to speak Urdu, Pashto and Arabic.