New evidence reveals that jihadi entities, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al-Sharia (ASL), are holding training camps in Libya.
Al-Wasat, an academic/policy research blog, reported on Friday that credible sources within Libya have confirmed such camps exist.
The blog based its report on a Facebook post by Moaoya EL Wrffli, who posted two videos of two separate Tunisians who had been detained by locals in the Darnah region and later interrogated.
The two videos provide fascinating insights into Ansar al-Sharia in Libya and its non-publicized activities as well as facilitation networks as it relates to the war in Syria.
Based on the information given in the videos, even though they were just posted online, it is likely that they are from late spring/early summer 2012, notes Al-Wasat. Highlighting that ASL was already at that point very active with training fighters for Syria as well as other likely nefarious activities in light of would eventually happen in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
The first individual mentions that his name is Usama al-Jufayr and admits that he is of Tunisian descent. He says he entered Benghazi, Libya in May 2012 and his purpose was for training to go fight in Syria. Al-Jufayr states that the group running these camps is Katibat Ansar al-Sharia, which was the name used by ASL prior to the consulate attack and which was changed afterwards for rebranding purposes, notes Al-Wasat.
The detainee claims that the regime in Tunisia needs reform, but the set up in Libya is “al-hamdullilah,” suggesting good or permissive to the activities they are undertaking. It is likely that al-Jufayr is indeed a jihadi because he notes that parliamentary systems are contrary to the Islamic sharia, which in his eyes is the only acceptable system of governance. Further, he notes that those training with him had not been involved in military jihad previously and come from civilian backgrounds. The program takes twenty days and only included up to that point weapons training and no religious schooling.
The second individual does not give his name, but claims he is Tunisian as well. This man entered Benghazi, Libya by plane on April 20, 2012 and also joined the ASL camp in Benghazi.
He notes that the camp is more like army training than police training. He also highlights that he was recruited to this camp by a man named Abd al-Rahman from Tunis and had previously not known about it.
Unlike Al-Jufayr, noted Al-Wasat, the second detainee suggests that there is other types of training going on Libya, noting that he had been involved with learning guerilla warfare, booby traps, and surprise attacks. This training was supposed to last for about a month. In the end, his goal was to go to Syria and fight with the Free Syrian Army.
These two videos, notes Al-Wasat, show that although ASL’s public image has been tied to its missionary work over the past eleven months, it is likely that they are also still active in training individuals to fight in Syria. Moreover, it shows in the case of the second detainee that there are active facilitation networks between recruiters in Tunisia and training camps to get fighters prepared for Syria before they head off to the front lines.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the United States Justice Department has filed sealed criminal charges against a number of suspects in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.
One of those charged, according to the sources, is Ahmed Abu Khattalah, founder of Ansar al-Sharia.
Abu Khattalah was seen at the compound when it was overrun, according to intelligence officials. In interviews with reporters, Abu Khattalah has admitted being at the scene but denied involvement in the attack.
U.S. authorities have released pictures of three other men they said were present during the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in eastern Libya, but did not say whether the three men are suspects in the attack.
The attack led to accusations from Republicans that the Obama administration had issued public talking points designed to hide the likelihood that the attackers were linked to Al-Qaeda, and thereby insulate political figures from blame in the months before a presidential election. The White House has long denied those accusations.
Senior administration officials initially described the attack as a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam Internet video that had sparked violent demonstrations in Cairo and elsewhere.
Officials later admitted that there had been no protest outside the consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, and U.S. media have reported that a nearby annex — which was also attacked — was part of a secret CIA mission.
In highly anticipated testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took responsibility for the attack in Benghazi and cited a “personal” commitment to improving security provisions for U.S. diplomatic missions overseas.