An al-Qaeda cell in Libya has threatened an imminent attack on the Libyan city of Darna if their imprisoned leaders are not released. The statement was published by the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, from a posting on the Internet. The May 30 posting, addressed to the ‘warrior Libyan people’ and signed by ‘field commander Abu al-Bara al-Libi’, declared that “operations will begin very soon in the city of Darna against the forces of tyranny and those that support it”. It detailed threats “to cut off the heads of the unbelieving apostates” until “we release our abandoned leaders in the prisons of the Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddhafi” [www.alquds.co.uk].
Darna is located on the northeastern coast of Libya, between Benghazi and the capital, Tripoli. The Libyan state has locked horns for some time in the area of Darna, which appears to be a center of al-Qaeda activity, or at least of anti-Islamist security sweeps. Beginning with the ‘events of Wadi al-Kouf’, a rocky mountainous zone lying between Darna and al-Bayda, clearing operations extended to a wide-ranging house search campaign in the cities of Darna, Benghazi and al-Bayda, as reported on February 24 on the jihadist Al-Qal’ah forum [www.qal3ati.net], (see Terrorism Focus, Vol II, Issue 5). On May 14 another posting to the Majmu’at al-Ansar al-Jihadiyya website, provided details of further confrontations, at Darna where a mujahid resisting arrest was killed, and at Marj, where “a number of confrontations between the mujahideen and the Taghout dogs” broke out. The tone of the postings is one of desperation with their appeals for aid “for the Taghouts will not rest until they uproot the people of faith and monotheism from the face of the earth.” A particular appeal was made on behalf of ‘our beloved Shaykh Hamid,’ who was explained as imprisoned, pending an appeal trial on May 24. “We pray Almighty God that He hasten to set him free’ the posting ran, following this with a warning that the Almighty would “take vengeance upon those who oppressed him and arrested him” [http://www.egysite.com/ansary]. These most likely form the background to the latest threat.
Whether the group has the ability to carry out such a large-scale threat is difficult to gauge. But an anonymous commentary by one “with deep knowledge of, and connections with, the security men” and posted May 31 to the Arabic language Akhbar Libya site, specifically advised the group against taking any such action. They would, he warns, be hopelessly outgunned and would play into the hands of the government by enabling it to oppress harder on the grounds of national security. “Even if you were to take over entire townships” the commentator warned, “Al-Qaddhafi would have no compunction in rocketing the cities and wiping them off the face of the earth. Use your brains, if you want to advance something, make sure it is something which can bring a result!” [www.akhbar-libya.com].
Al-Qaddhafi comes into strong criticism from Islamists internationally for his position on the War on Terror. Al-Quds al-Arabi reported May 24 on the trial in Jordan of Qaeda cell leader Abd Shahada al-Tahawi, who lambasted the Libyan leader as “the first of the Arab leaders to go the way of the Americans,” and that “he and others like him should know that they will end up on the dust heap of history.” [www.alquds.co.uk].