Gareth Davies — Daily Mail May 25, 2017
Rebels living in England have claimed the UK Government waived travel bans to let them fight Colonel Gaddafi in Libya as investigators probe the Manchester bomber’s visits to Tripoli.
Fighters which included Libyan exiles and British-Libyan residents have described how MI5 operated an open door policy for those willing to travel to North Africa to topple the dictator.
It comes as Home Secretary Amber Rudd admitted Salman Abedi, who killed 22 and injured at least 119 people when he blew himself up at Manchester Arena, was known to counter-terror authorities.
Those who travelled to Libya to fight alongside Islamic rebel groups have described how, even though they were subject to counter-terror orders banning them from leaving their homes because they posed a security threat, they were allowed to travel to the hostile warzone.
When they returned to the UK, having spent months alongside groups thought by British intelligence to have links with Al-Qaeda, rebels were said to have been allowed back into the country without hesitation.
Libyan officials have backed up the claims, saying the British government were ‘fully aware’ of young men being sent to fight, turning the North African country into an ‘exporter of terror’.
Abedi’s father Ramadan and younger brother Hashem were in custody in Libya last night after being arrested by counter-terror police a day after elder brother Ismail, 23, was detained in Manchester.
Detectives said Hashem had links to ISIS and was planning to carry out a terror attack in Tripoli.
Hashem was accused of having known about his brother’s murderous plans for more than a month, while it emerged his father had been a revolutionary fighter against Gaddafi who publicly voiced support for an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria.
In the wake of Monday night’s atrocity, former rebel fighters have talked of how easily they were able to slip free from their travel bans and leap into battle.
Sources, some of whom met Abedi and described him as a hothead, told the Middle Eastern Eye claim these trips were facilitated by the British government, something the Home Office said it could not comment on when contacted by MailOnline.
One Brit who travelled to Libya despite being on house arrest over fears he would join militant groups in Iraq expressed his surprise at being given the green light.
‘I was allowed to go, no questions asked,’ the source told MEE.
He described how he fought alongside people from Manchester and London as well as local rebels from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which descended from a group of Islamist militants thought to have links with Al-Qaeda, according to MI5.
Another British fighter told how he was stopped entering the UK having visited Libya in 2011, but when he told them the name of the MI5 officer he had talked to about fighting in the war-torn country, he was allowed to board the plane and said the security services had ‘sorted it’.
The bulk of the fighters, described to be in their late teens or early 20s, flew to Tunisia before crossing the border while others went via Malta.
‘The whole Libyan diaspora were out there fighting alongside the rebel groups,’ another source told MEE.
One source said he met Abedi at their local mosque in Didsbury, and another said he was a ‘hot head’ with a reputation for involvement in petty crime.
A statement from the rival interim government in Beida, Eastern Libya, and separate to the Government of National Accord in Tripoli appeared to back up the sources’ reports.
It said: ‘The Libyan government denounces the terror attack that occurred in Manchester.
‘This cowardly attack was an imminent result of terrorist groups’ actions that have been operating for decades in the UK.
‘That includes the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which has been recruiting Libyan and Muslim youth in the UK and Europe and sending them to Libya and other countries to deliver terrorism and death with the prior knowledge of the British government which provided a safe haven.
‘These groups have been destroying our cities and towns in an attempt to shape Libya into an exporter of terror to the whole planet.
‘Whilst British officials are fully aware of what the legitimate government of Libya and the Libyan National Army are conducting in fighting and combating these organisations and the terrorist militias they harbour, they insist deliberately to support these groups and encourage them to operate and attempt to control the Libyan people and their resources.
‘It is now crucial and imperative for all countries to establish and begin fighting terrorists and their financers through a clear partnership that the Libyan government is willing and ready to participate in.’
Last night, attention focused on how the bomber had been allowed to slip through the net. Key warnings about his descent into jihadism were apparently overlooked.
Yesterday it was alleged that two calls about his conduct had been made to a police anti-terror hotline and that his family had repeatedly raised concerns he was ‘dangerous’.
It was also claimed the university drop-out had travelled extensively in the Middle East and received terror training in Syria and that he returned to the UK from Libya just days before the attack.
Meanwhile, the bomber’s father Ramadan Abedi was arrested yesterday outside his home in a suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli.
A witness said the 51-year-old, who had earlier insisted his son was innocent of the Manchester bombing, was handcuffed by armed men and whisked away. An official did not explain why he was arrested.
Earlier he had claimed his son seemed ‘normal’ when they last spoke five days ago and insisted: ‘We don’t believe in killing innocents.’
A former Libyan security official Abdel-Basit Haroun said Ramadan, a former airport security worker, was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting group in the 1990s. The group had links to Al-Qaeda.
Although the LIFG disbanded, Haroun said the father belongs to the Salafi Jihadi movement, the most extreme sect of Salafism and from which Al-Qaeda and ISIS hail
He once worked for the Gaddafi regime’s security apparatus before turning towards hardline Islam: one of his associates once ran a group called the Islamic Martyrs’ Movement.
He had also publicly voiced his support for an extremist group fighting in Syria. He posted photos of soldiers clad in black uniforms from the Al-Nusra Front, which was the official Syrian branch of al Qaeda until it broke up last July, on his Facebook page five years ago.
Underneath the photo, he wrote: ‘Victorious against the infidels…say Amen!’
Ramadan, a former airport security worker in the UK, also published a picture of Hashem holding a machine gun while wearing a Nike t-shirt and combat trousers. Underneath the picture he write: ‘The lion Hashem… is training’.
Ramadan fled Tripoli in 1993 after Moammar Gadhafi’s security authorities issued an arrest warrant and eventually sought political asylum in Britain.
Colonel Gaddafi warned Tony Blair that if he was removed from power Islamic extremists would take over Libya with the ultimate goal of conquering Europe.
Newly released transcripts of 2011 phone calls between the pair reveal the ousted Libyan leader’s anxieties about the growing influence Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were having in Africa and the Middle East.
He warned jihadis were already wreaking havoc in the North African state despite his governance – and that if he was to be toppled it would pave the way for the rise of an Islamic State that would open the doors to a deluge of migrants heading for mainland Europe.
Blair contacted the dictator and urged him to flee for a ‘safe place’ in two calls on February 25 2011, eight months before he was beaten to death after being found in a sewer.
Transcripts of the conversations were published for the first time yesterday and MPs said the dictator’s fears extremists would take Libya may have been ‘wrongly ignored’ because he was usually ‘delusional’.
However, hindsight appears to prove the former dictator foretold the rise of ISIS – and the knock-on effect it would have on displacing the Libyan people and millions more across Iraq and Syria.