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The Libyan Connection

State sponsorship of terrorism has become one of the most worrying trends in international terrorism. The willingness of pariah states and terrorist organisations, which have seized power in several countries, to support other groups, has changed the complexion of world politics. War has fundamentally changed as these states have now the facility to wage clandestine, proxy wars against Western democracies through chosen agents in the west.

Under the guise of anti-colonial conflict self styled 'freedom-fighters' have acted as the agents of Communist and more recently Middle-Eastern Islamic fundamentalist powers. Without having to openly declare war on the West, and suffer the military consequences countries like Libya, Syria, Iran, Cuba and before them the communist USSR have been able to wage war by proxy through an international network of terrorist organisations. The benefits of this secret war for such states are obvious, including the ability to strike at the heart of the West through in situ groups like the Provisional IRA or ETA. The anonymity of these strikes meant that blame could not be easily apportioned. The furtherment of their often Marxist Revolutionary ideology along with the instability caused to Western Democracies fits well with their long term strategy.

The most blatant example of the state sponsorship of a terrorist group aimed at destroying a Western democracy is the Libyan support of the IRA. The latter a terrorist group whose express aim is to overturn the democratic wish of the people of Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Their terrorist campaign has spanned over three decades, and has included human rights abuses of the people of Northern Ireland which constitute genocide, and a sustained attack on the democratic institutions of the United Kingdom as a whole. The reason for Libya's secret war against Britain was in revenge for its support of US action against Libya, including the bombing of Tripoli. The campaign against these twin towers of Western democracy also included the Lockerbie bombing.

Libya's Proxy War With the West

This photograph is one of perhaps only two that exist in the West of the man suspected of being directly behind the slaughter of 270 people on Pan Am flight 103. It shows a smiling Colonel Gadaffi and next to him circled is Gadaffi's brother-in-law, Abdullah al-Senussi, the man who British intelligence services believe is the mastermind behind terrorist acts that have killed hundreds of people. Gadaffi may have sanctioned the Lockerbie bomb, intelligence sources believe that Senussi is the man who put the plan into action. A former head of the Jamahariya Security Organisation, which runs Libyan agents, he is implicated in 440 deaths in two air disasters and also in other terrorist acts. Less than nine months after Pan Am 103 was destroyed, a French flight to Paris from Brazzaville, in central Africa, was blown out of the sky over Niger. All 170 passengers and crew on the French UTA plane died. In March 1999 a special court in Paris found six Libyans guilty of the UTA bombing. The judges gave life sentences to all six in absentia, including Senussi.

Finally under Scottish law two Libyans were accused, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Fhimah. While Fhimah was declared innocent Megrahi was found guilty of the worst peace-time atrocity committed in Britain. The judges said they had no doubt that the Libyan security service agent had planted the bomb, but declined to rule why he had done it. The British secret intelligence service, however, believes it knows the answer: Megrahi was acting on orders from Senussi and Gadaffi, who was bent on revenge against the West.

Sadly these infamous atrocities were not the only terrorist acts sponsored by Libya, in the United Kingdom itself , the effects of the Libyan backed terrorism were also felt. Libya has continuously supplied the IRA with weapons and money for nearly a quarter of a century. It has provided training for many IRA terrorists in the techniques of terror, and has financed the organisation to the tune of ---million. In 1973, the ship Claudia was intercepted by Irish police in Waterford Bay with five tonnes of arms on board. British security officials believe that Libya's leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, flush with billions of dollars of oil boom money, also gave several millions of dollars dollars in cash to the IRA. In 1987, French police intercepted another ship, the Eksund, with a massive 150 tonnes of weapons on board including SAM missiles, 1,000 mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. British intelligence believes three other shipments actually reached Ireland in the mid 1980s, when Gaddafi renewed his support of the IRA to take revenge for Britain's part in the bombing of Tripoli in 1986. There were also reports of IRA volunteers being trained in the North African country, most notably in Toby Harnden's study of the South Armagh IRA where he states that Slab Murphy was trained to deadly effect by the Libyans.

Some of this information has come from the Libyans themselves, as they tried to cultivate a more sedate image to fight U.N. sanctions imposed because of possible Libyan involvement in the Lockerbie bombing. Libyan intelligence officials gave some details to their British counterparts at a meeting in June 1992 and Gaddafi has condemned IRA actions in recent years. Such duplicity is nothing new for the Libyan leader and intelligence sources indicate that the present distance from the Sinn Fein/IRA leadership is purely a tactical front intended to suite both parties political interests.

In July 1992, the then chief police officer in Northern Ireland, Sir Hugh Annesley, estimated Libyan shipments to the IRA before 1987 to include at least: six tonnes of Semtex, 1,500 AK assault rifles, 3 Russian DShK 12.7mm heavy machine guns, Taurus automatic pistols from Brazil, 1.5 million rounds of ammunition, 20 SAM missiles, 50 RPG7 rocket launchers and 10 flamethrowers. The deadly consignments were delivered through Irish waters, landed on the coast of the Republic of Ireland and are stored to this day in bunkers within the Irish Republic, the location of several of these are known to the Irish authorities.

Chronology of Gun-Running

1972: The weapons shipments from Libya began in 1972 with two cargoes containing an estimated 500 rifles, 500 pistols, 40,000 rounds of ammunition, an unknown amount of gelignite and TNT and assorted grenades, anti-tank mines, fuses and other equipment.

1973: A third shipment on board the 300-ton MV Claudia was intercepted off Helvick Head, Co Waterford, in March. On board the Naval Service found 250 rifles, 246 bayonets, 243 pistols, 850 magazines, 100 anti-tank mines, 500 grenades, gelignite, TNT, primers, electric fuses and 20,000 rounds of ammunition.

1977-78: A further seven tons of weapons, including an unknown number of RPG7 rocket-launchers, rifles, explosives, handguns and ammunition, reached the IRA from Libya. The route is unknown, but experts speculate it involved Islamic groups like the PLO.

1984: The Fenit, Co Kerry-based trawler, the Marita Ann, was intercepted by the Naval Service near the Skelligs, off the Kerry coast. There were seven tons of arms on board, including a .5 Browning machinegun, 300 rifles and 50,000 rounds of ammunition. These weapons had come from an organised crime gang in Boston.

1985: In August the 65ft fishing boat, the Casamara, delivered the first of three shipments of weapons from Libya, vessel looking for drug-traffickers in the Bay of Biscay. The largest shipment ever intercepted, it included 1,000 AK47 rifles, 10 DMZK .5 anti-aircraft machineguns, one million rounds of ammunition and one million mortar shells. again a present from Col Gadaffi. This first 10-ton shipment included 50 boxes containing rifles, pistols and rocket-launchers. In October the Casamara, skippered by the former Bray Travel director, Adrian Hopkins, delivered another 10 to 14 tons of weapons, including several 12.70 light machineguns.

1986: In April between 14 and 20 tons of weapons, including Semtex and at least two surface-to-air missiles, arrived. A larger vessel, the Villa, was used to deliver between 80 and 90 tons of weapons, including at least seven RPG rocket launchers, 10 SAM missiles and a large quantity of Semtex. A shipment of 17 rifles, two handguns, grenades, 70,000 rounds of ammunition and four drums of the chemical nitrobenzene (used for manufacturing explosives) was discovered in Amsterdam.

1987: In October some 150 tons of weaponry on board the Eksund was intercepted by a French naval fast-patrol, in the Bay of Biscay. The Eksund contained 150 tons of weapons including 1,000 AK47 rifles, 10 DMZK .5 antiaircraft machine guns, one million rounds of ammunition and one million mortar shells The weapons arrived in four shipments on two ships skippered by the former Bray Travel owner, Adrian Hopkins.

Senior security sources do not accept the suggestion inherent in the catch phrase "trust in rust" that the IRA's weapons will fall into disrepair in the near future.

Experience has shown that the IRA carefully prepares its weapons for storage, oiling all moving parts. Since the 1980s the organisation has also built damp proofed bunkers to store weapons securely. One senior source said a properly oiled AK47 assault rifle, of which the IRA may have more than 1,000, would be usable 100 years from now. Also, the estimated three tons of the Czech-manufactured Semtex-H explosive has a "shelf life" of 35 years and would be usable long after that. The Semtex is the most destructive part of the IRA arsenal. There has been no indication from the IRA that it intends disposing of any of its store of the plastic explosive.

Financing International Terror

The support also took the form of £6.75 Million in cash, which fuelled a terrorist war 2,000 miles away and turned the IRA into one of the world's wealthiest criminal organisations. The money was used to kill and injure thousands of innocent civilians and members of the security forces. Much of the money has been sunk into investments where IRA financiers have quadrupled the value of Libyan cash received, according to intelligence sources. Not all the Libyan money was spent on the armed struggle. Much of it was invested in property, businesses and offshore accounts on the Channel Islands. These have grown over the past decade into a rich investment portfolio. The booming Irish economy, fuelled by rock-bottom interest rates, European Union subsidies and a spiralling high-technology sector, has created for the IRA a thriving corporate enterprise with a turnover to rival some of Ireland's biggest companies.

The terror finance scheme began when an IRA courier, known to the Libyans as "Cassidy", flew to Tripoli with an empty suitcase in 1983. A Libyan was waiting with an identical suitcase, packed with cash. The information was supplied to an MI5 handler by Khalifa Bazelya, the former head of the Libyan interests section in Britain and now Libya's ambassador in Cyprus. Under a deal brokered between the British and Libyan governments by the United Nations, Bazelya described in 1995 how the exchanges took place. "Contacts took place in airports by means of prearranged exchanges of identical briefcases in the airport cafe or transit lounge at Tripoli," he said. "The Libyan briefcases contained 'financial support'." The clandestine meetings were arranged by agents for Libya's external security organisation (ESO) enrolled as students in Ireland. "All contacts between the Libyan security service and IRA/Sinn Fein took place through the Ireland branch of the Libyan Students Union," Bazelya revealed.

The state of IRA finances are well known to the intelligence services and the government, who have taken steps to freeze Taliban assets in Britain. Similar steps have yet to be deployed against the Libyan money and the investments it has been channelled into. Property has yielded high dividends for the IRA. Pubs in Dublin, the IRA's investment of choice, are fetching record prices of more than £4m. The boom is expected to continue - according to one estimate, Dublin property prices will rise 60% in the next five years. A senior detective in Belfast said: "The IRA, and the loyalists for that matter, are now moving their money into legitimate business. They have it all over the world." The IRA sponsored sophisticated frauds, including a previously unreported "sting" on Barclays Bank which netted it thousands of pounds. The scam involved unemployed hoaxers posing as farmers needing money to expand their farms.

The terror group even gained a financial dividend from the release of its prisoners. Over its 30-year campaign, one of the main drains on the IRA's finances was supporting the families of inmates. This has fallen dramatically with the release of prisoners. Earlier this year the IRA was supporting 61 inmates compared with 317 before the Good Friday agreement was signed. By the end of July, all prisoners will have been released under the terms of the agreement. A second drain on IRA finances that has been plugged is its subsidy to Sinn Fein, which was running at about £500,000 a year in the late 1980s. Sinn Fein is now able to finance itself, thanks in part to fundraising activities abroad. It is currently the second richest political party in the republic, behind Fianna Fail. James Adams, an American-based security consultant and author of The Financing of Terror, said the IRA would not have been able to sustain its war without Gadaffi. "He was the single biggest contributor of arms and cash," Adams said.

Gadaffi, meanwhile, renounced terrorism in a statement to the UN security council last year, in a move aimed at getting UN sanctions lifted. However his opinion on international terrorism and in particular the IRA has changed little. Hatred for the west compounded by the death of his daughter in the US bombing of Tripoli runs deep in Gadaffi and his family. Recently his daughter's anti-British sentiments were exposed after a security scare. Aisha Gadaffi described the IRA as freedom fighters in a diatribe delivered at Speaker's Corner in London. She provoked an angry reaction from listeners - unaware of her identity - and had to be hustled away by her bodyguards. She broke diplomatic protocol by delivering a speech in support of the IRA. Aisha is a law graduate of Al-Fatah. Her antipathy towards Britain was fuelled by the 1986 bombing of Tripoli by American jets launched from British bases in which her adopted sister, also called Hanna, was killed. Aisha, then a child, shook her fist in defiance in front of television cameras.


Gadaffi has also paid compensation to the family of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, who was killed outside the Libyan embassy by a gunman in 1984. In return, Britain agreed to lift sanctions, however they conveniently forgot about the thousands of other British citizens murdered by Gadaffi at Lockerbie and at the hands of Libya's mercenaries in Northern Ireland. The British government's willingness to appease IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland and to let their Libyan paymaster off the hook, stands in glaring comparison to the world's attitude to terrorism since 11th September 2001. As the world unites to fight terror there must be no distinctions made. The British government once declared it had no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland, they must also declare that they have no similar interests in terrorism. States like Libya which have sponsored terror, must be treated like the Taliban, however rather than ensuring that they are never able to support terror again again the sad fact is that Western countries are eager to renew links with them.

Leading the way in this recognition of the pariah state is a country used to establishing, funding, training arming and harbouring terrorists - the Republic of Ireland. Like Libya it was responsible for supporting the IRA, indeed the Irish Prime Minister, seen opposite meeting Gadaffi, has family connections with the IRA. In the early 1970s his father Con Ahern a notorious IRA man was arrested and questioned about the murder of Garda Fallon in Dublin. The Irish Republic stands equally indited with Libya in supporting international terrorism. Indeed at the start of the troubles members of the Dublin Government Charles Haughey, later prime Minister, and Neill Blaney were implicated in a plot to import weapons to the IRA. The Irish Government in their haste to renew trading contacts with Libya where they export Irish beef have forgotten the death and damage caused by previous Libyan imports. Bertie Ahern when asked by RTÉ if he had received a commitment from the Libyan leader that he would never supply arms again to the IRA, he said that they did not discuss that specifically.

While the British and Irish Governments have forgotten about these matter those who suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of these terrorists and their weapons will never forget. As many politicans seek to fudge or ignore completely the decommissioning issue it must be remembered that it is an indicator of not only the IRA's intentions but also their capabilities.


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