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22 May, 2018 15:41

'Ties to terror groups': Academic warns govt repeating mistakes that led to Manchester attack

'Ties to terror groups': Academic warns govt repeating mistakes that led to Manchester attack

One year on from the Manchester terrorist attack, the UK government has only just admitted its links to the violent jihadist group which influenced Salman Abedi – the suicide bomber who murdered 22 people.

Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi and his father, Ramadan, had long-standing links to Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Since the horrific attack in Manchester, it has been revealed that Abedi would visit Libya on the school holidays, fighting alongside his father to topple the Gaddafi regime.

LIFG, a group with Al-Qaeda links, has since disbanded after it was ousted from the North African country, leaving the group's leaders as refugees in Turkey – among other countries –  according to Dr Mabruk Derbesh, a Libyan academic formerly of the University of Tripoli.

In 2002, former MI6 agent and whistleblower David Shayler accused the spy agency of sponsoring the LIFG to assassinate the Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. The LIFG were allegedly given $160,000 for a failed assassination attempt in February 1996. The UK government has denied the accusation, though a link between it and the group was admitted to last month.  

Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Alistair Burt admitted the ties to the Libyan jihadist group on April 3, whilst responding to a written question submitted by Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle. Burt's response stated that "during the Libyan conflict in 2011 the British government was in communication with a wide range of Libyans involved in the conflict against the [Gaddafi] regime forces.”

"It is likely that this included former members of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and 17 February Martyrs' Brigade, as part of our broad engagement during this time."

The area of Manchester in which Salman Abedi grew up was home to a number of other LIFG members, including former senior commanders such Abd al-Baset Azzouz, who left Manchester to go to Libya and run a 200-300-strong militant network for Osama Bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Azzouz is reported to be an expert bomb-maker.

Professor Mabruk Derbesh, a Libyan academic formerly of the University of Tripoli who now lives in Sweden, spoke to RT on how, despite admitting working with jihadists, the British government is not learning from its mistakes.

"He was a teen when he went to Libya," Derbesh said. "He probably killed who knows how many soldiers… you have no idea how many psychological diseases he could have brought with him. This guy was a British government asset and he should have been classified as that. [His family] are all assets.

"This Manchester attack happened and finally the government admitted [ties to LIFG]. Tomorrow there could be another attack and it could take them another two or three years for them to admit it. The British government doesn't seem to be learning from its mistakes."

Derbesh added that, even though LFIG is no more, the UK government continues to assist other militia groups in North Africa and the Middle East – just like how it reportedly sponsored LFIG, the very group that indoctrinated the Ramadan Abedi and eventually his son.

"The British government has many ties with terrorist groups - Islamist and otherwise. The British government will never open up [about their links to such groups]. I wish they'd stop supporting militias. It's a mafia led by the the British government –- they... [use] the excuse of fighting ISIS. Let's stop this. It is not helpful."

British-born Salman Abedi had recently returned from Libya before he blew himself up at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017. Less than a week later, Tripoli police arrested Abedi's younger brother and father. Abedi's brother, Hashem, was arrested on suspicion of ties to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and plotting an attack in Tripoli. Abedi's older brother Ismail was detained in the UK over the attack.

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- Rachel Lang, RT UK