Manchester bombing
© Reuters/ Jon Super
Den britiske regering har for første gang sagt at medlemmer af Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - meget mistænkt for at stå bag bombningen i Manchester - sandsynligvis var iblandt dem som de støttede i Libyen i at styrte Muammar Gaddafi.

I et nedskrevet svar til et parliamentarisk spørgsmål har den britiske regering indrømmet at de britisk sponsorerede jihad militser i Libyen i 2011 'sandsynligvis' omfattede medlemmer af Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Sprøgsmålet blev bragt op af Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, som spurgte om regeringen var i kommunikation med medlemmer af LIFG under bestræbelserne på at styrte Muammar Gaddafi i 2011.

Kommentar: Denne artikel er delvis oversat til dansk af fra: UK admits terrorists they funded to topple Gaddafi also likely responsible for Manchester bombing

Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Alistair Burt responded on April 3, writing, "During the Libyan conflict in 2011 the British Government was in communication with a wide range of Libyans involved in the conflict against the Qaddafi regime forces. It is likely that this included former members of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group."

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group

It had long been suspected that LIFG members were among those that the British government funnelled into Libya for training and deployment against Gaddafi. In the 1990s LIFG were primarily anti-Gaddafi activists, though one of their members, Anas Al-Liby, scouted targets for al-Qaeda in what became the embassy bombings plot.

In 1996 an MI6 intelligence officer codenamed Tunworth was a member of LIFG, and through him British intelligence paid the group £100,000 to try to assassinate Gaddafi. The operation went bad, LIFG bombed the wrong car and in the resulting shootout innocent civilians were killed. This was first revealed in David Shayler and Annie Machon's book Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers, and confirmed to a large extent by a BBC investigation and by Stephen Dorril in his book on MI6 operations.

Following the failed hit LIFG scattered, with some including Salman Abedi's father Ramadan being granted asylum in the UK and taking up residence in Manchester. LIFG continued to operate, setting up an office in London and publishing their anti-Gaddafi newsletter. Al-Liby also lived in Manchester until 2000, when a police raided several houses in Manchester, finding an 180-page al-Qaeda training manual. But they didn't arrest Al-Liby, who had apparently been tipped off and had slipped out of the country.

A decade later and the British government helped Libyan rebels living in the UK - some under terrorism control orders - to travel to Libya for training by SAS soldiers and to join the battle against Gaddafi. One British-Libyan who fought in Libya said, "The vast majority of UK guys were in their late twenties. There were some 18 and 19. The majority who went from here were from Manchester."

The Manchester Bombing

After the Manchester bombing in May 2017 it emerged that not only was Abedi's father an LIFG member, but both father and son had travelled to Libya in 2011 to take part in the anti-Gaddafi jihad. The Whalley Range area of Manchester where they lived was home to dozens of LIFG members including Abd Al-Baset Azzouz, an expert bomb maker who had run an al-Qaeda-related militant network in Eastern Libya.

Salman Abedi is dead, so he cannot speak to whether there was a wider conspiracy in the plot to bomb the Manchester Arena. His brother remains in custody awaiting trial in Libya, his fate uncertain. Important questions remain: Were Abedi and his father among those who MI5 helped to travel to Libya in 2011? Was the master bomb-maker Azzouz involved in the Manchester bombing plot? What did the security service know about Abedi and the LIFG members in Manchester in the run-up to the bombing?

Seeking answers to these questions, Russell-Moyle also asked the Home Office about what information they have on the groups Abedi and his father fought with in Libya. The reply came back, "The Home Office does not comment on intelligence matters nor on matters which form part of ongoing investigations."