CAIRO – 22 July 2017: Since the eruption of civil war in Libya, there have been several accusations against Qatar of supporting extremist groups to seize the authority in the North African country.
In early June, Libya's eastern-based government, which is aligned with powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar, has followed regional allies in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar.
The eastern-based government's announcement came after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.
The Criminal Court
On 3 June, the Libyan National Human Rights Commission has demanded the International Criminal Court open an international investigation into the involvement and financial and military support of Qatar for extremist terrorist groups and organizations in Libya.
The commission accused Qatar in a statement of providing support to the Shura Council militia of the Al-Qaeda organization, the Benghazi Shura Council allied with the terrorist organization and the Benghazi Defense Brigades of Al-Qaeda and associated with the organization of the supporters of Islamic Sharia, according to the Libyan news agency.
Benghazi Defense Brigades is an Islamist Militia group formed in June 2016 to oppose Libyan National Army and Haftar forces in Benghazi. The group has a similar ideology with that of al Qaeda, with the majority of its fighters also aligned to the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries. The group receives millions of dollars from Qatar and some officials in Libyan institutions indirectly.
The commission also said that these groups and councils which support extremist ideologies, have fought side by side with the Ansar al-Sharia terrorist organization in Benghazi and participated in the organization and assassinations of political , legal, human rights and media personalities, officers and soldiers in the army and police in the east of country.
The Libyan news agency quoted the committee as saying: “Qatar is at the forefront of countries that interfere in the internal affairs of Libya, and support conflict and armed conflict in the country by working to support factions of extremist armed political parties that encourage political violence.
Qatari Financial Assistance of rebels
As New York Times reported in 2011, Qatar supplied rebels with food and medical aids and marketed Libyan oil on their behalf. It also helped rebel groups launch a television station through a French satellite, in opposition to state TV.
The Libyan rebel groups turned out to be terrorist guerilla groups, whose members are mostly extremists and Islamists, having zero intention of enforcing democracy or peaceful circulation of power.
Since Qatar itself is an absolute monarchy having no room for democracy or freedom of speech, its support for different opposition groups in Arab countries, regardless of their tendency or nature, can hardly be interpreted as attempts of promoting democracy.
In an article titled “Qatar admits sending hundreds of troops to support Libya rebels,” written by The Guardian’s correspondent in Tripoli Ian Black in 2011, it is reported that Qatar admitted, in 2011, sending troops to assist rebels in Libya, in a conference held in Doha after the fall of Gaddafi.
The conference was attended by the leader of Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil.
Qatar also “delivered weapons and ammunition on a large scale – without any clear legal basis,” according to Black. Although Qatar said it only sent defensive weapons to rebels in Libya, such weapons also included Milan anti-tank missiles.
There had been occasional sightings of Qatari Special Forces in Libya since the eruption of war, Black stated. These forces participated in the final assault on Qaddafi’s Bab Al Azizeya coumpound in Tripoli in August 2011.
"We were among them and the numbers of Qataris on the ground were hundreds in every region. Training and communications had been in Qatari hands. Qatar … supervised the rebels' plans because they are civilians and did not have enough military experience," the Qatari chief-of-staff, Major-General Hamad bin Ali al-Atiya, had told AFP.
Qatar also reportedly gave infantry training to rebels in the western Nafusa Mountains and in eastern Libya and it brought them to Qatari territories for further preparation. That is in addition to granting $400 million to rebels.
Al Jazeera’s Role in Libya
Amid the eruption of the Arab Spring revolutions, Qatari owned Al Jazeera persisted in polishing the image of Al-Qaeda leaders in Libya, during the February 17 uprisings in 2011, by presenting them as revolutionist leaders. The main figures they supported were Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, who was fighting with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and is now the head of Al-Watan Party in Libya, and Ali al-Salabi, the head of the Rafallah el-Sahati militant group in Libya.
Infographic by Ahmed Hussein
According to Al Arabiya.net, Belhaj was one of the founders of the Libyan Militant Group in the 1990s, and he later headed to Afghanistan. His real name is Abd-Allah el-Sadek, and he was arrested in Malaysia in 2004 and interrogated by the CIA before being deported to Libya in the same year.
Salabi is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and had been one of the Gadhafi regime’s opponents, before he built good relations with Seif el-Islam el-Gaddafi, whom he persuaded to release the incarcerated Libyan Militant Groups’ member. As Black reported, Salabi was in exile in Qatar for years.
Belhaj was first hosted by Al Jazeera on April 24, 2012 to clear himself of the terror accusations directed to him by American and British intelligence services, following his arrest in Bangkok. Al Jazeera hosted Belhaj again on January 17, 2017, as he claimed that the British government offered him financial compensation so he would not file a lawsuit against it, stating that he just wanted an apology.
Salabi was hosted on July 31, 2007 by Al Jazeera to explain the ‘Jurisprudence of Victory and Empowerment’ which would enable the establishment of an ‘Islamic state’ as part of an episode of a show called “Kol Youm” (Everyday), which has been broadcasted on Al Jazeera for years.
Arab and Gulf countries boycott Qatar
Qatar’s relations with several Arab states have been strained since May 24 over a leaked statement attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, criticizing Gulf foreign policy with Iran, describing it as “unwise”.
Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad’s recent remarks in which he attacked Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) prompted the major Arab powers to adopt urgent and strict measures towards Doha.
The Qatari crisis was escalated when Egypt and a coalition of Arab states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced a coordinated diplomatic break with Qatar, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. They also closed their airspace and seaports for Qatari transportation.