Washington, D.C. - A Canadian intelligence report written in late 2009 called the anti-Gaddafi stronghold of eastern Libya an "epicenter of Islamist extremism" and said "extremist cells" operated in the region, now being defended by a Canadian-led NATO coalition.
The report by the government’s Integrated Threat Assessment Centre said "several Islamist insurgent groups" were based in eastern Libya and mosques in Benghazi were urging followers to fight in Iraq.
Canada’s widely read newspaper National Post that obtained this classified document says it noted "Within the region, the population holds more conservative views compared to the rest of Libya and Islamist activism is strongly concentrated."
In recent days the profile of the Libyan rebels is fast unfolding about their connections to radical Islamic movements that fight the US-led coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States Congress has expressed skepticism about the U.S. involvement in a civil war led by elements that have a rapport to radical Islamism. The Obama administration, despite its partial ignorance about the composition of the Libyan rebels, is now soft peddling the issue of providing arms to the rebels.
The Asian Tribune earlier reported that U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, declaring that there were "flickers" of al-Qaeda in the Libyan opposition.
But just over a year ago, the Canadian government, in an intelligence assessment written at the request of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, raised concerns about Islamists in eastern Libya, the National Post reports.
"There are a number of small, independent extremist cells operating in the eastern regions of Libya that have no affiliation to other established terrorist groups," said the report, Terrorist Threat to Canadian Interests in Libya.
It downplayed direct links to al-Qaeda but said the terror group was an influence. "Many Libyan extremists who have been detained claimed to be influenced by al-Qaeda, but do not appear to have direct links to al-Qaeda core in Pakistan."
"We are examining very closely the content, composition, the personalities, who are the leaders of these opposition forces," Adm. Stavridis testified at a Senate hearing. "We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al-Qaeda, Hezbollah."
But the admiral added, "At this point I don’t have detail sufficient to say there is a significant al-Qaeda presence or any other terrorist presence."
The Canadian intelligence report, dated Dec. 8, 2009, said in the early 1990s "several thousand" fighters began regrouping in Libya after returning from the Soviet war in Afghanistan. After attempts on his life in 1996 and 1998, Col. Gaddafi responded with a counter-insurgency campaign that "effectively suppressed the Islamist insurgency."
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, formed in 1991 to overthrow Col. Gaddafi and install shariah law, was crushed, its leaders imprisoned or exiled.
But during the Iraq war, imams at Benghazi’s mosques issued fatwas "instructing followers it was their duty to fight in Iraq. In geographical terms, therefore, the eastern regions represent the epicenter of Islamist extremism in Libya," the report said.
It blamed unrest in the east partly on high unemployment and called Benghazi "underdeveloped relative to the rest of Libya."
"The eastern region has traditionally been the site of previous rebellions against the Libyan regime and where several Islamist insurgent groups were based," wrote ITAC, the Ottawa-based agency made up of representatives of CSIS, RCMP, Canadian Forces and other departments.
Source: Asian Tribune via Uruknet