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Libya Table of Contents




Workers load a surface-to-air missile onto a transporter

Since Qadhafi's rise to power, Libya has chronically employed terrorism and revolutionary groups as primary instruments for fulfilling its international ambitions. The main targets of terrorist activity have been Libyan dissidents living abroad and prominent political figures of moderate Arab and African countries. Qadhafi has openly declared that "the revolution has destroyed those who oppose it inside the country and now it must pursue the rest abroad." A concerted drive to assassinate anti-Qadhafi exiles resulted in the murder of eleven Libyan dissidents in 1980 and 1981. A further five attacks were sponsored by Libya in 1985. Plots were allegedly uncovered against President Habre of Chad in 1984 and President Mobutu Sese Seko of Za´re in 1985. Earlier, there was evidence that Libyan agents had targeted Arab moderates, including Presidents Anwar Sadat and Husni Mubarak of Egypt, Jaafar al Numayri of Sudan, Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, King Hussein of Jordan, and King Hassan II of Morocco.

Qadhafi has endeavored to undermine moderate Arab governments judged not to be militant enough in their attitude toward Israel or to be too closely tied to the West. Sudan under Numayei was a priority target because it cooperated with the West and with Egypt. Arms and funds were funneled to Sudanese rebels based in Ethiopia in their guerrilla warfare against the central government. In early 1983, Libya was accused of having masterminded a coup attempt that miscarried badly. The coup plan called for Libyan planes to bomb public buildings in the capital of Khartoum while dissidents took over the center of the city. When the plan became known and Egyptian and United States aircraft were deployed at Numayri's request, Qadhafi called a halt to the operation. However, in 1984, a plane believed to be Libyan attempted to destroy a radio station at Umm Durman, Sudan, that was broadcasting condemnations of Qadhafi's policies.

Since late 1980, Qadhafi has aided the Somali National Salvation Front, an insurgent group operating out of Ethiopia. He has kindled unrest in North Africa in the case of Algeria by providing money and a base to dissidents, such as former president Ahmed Ben Bella, and in Tunisia by recruiting dissidents from the large numbers of Tunisian workers in Libya to conduct raids and sabotage.

In addition to repeated interventions in Chad in his efforts to impose a leadership that would be amenable to Libyan influence, Qadhafi has been accused of providing arms and training to Tuareg tribesmen at a camp at Sabha. His goal has been to stir up the Tuareg into demanding a union carved out of existing Sahelian states, a union that would be under Libyan influence.

Libya has contributed to Niger's fears by its annexation of a strip of territory on Niger's northern border and its backing of a coup attempt against the president of Niger in 1976. Relations with other African countries--including Senegal, Gambia, Togo, Burkina Faso, and Zaire--have been embittered by Qadhafi's plotting and support for radical dissidents.

Beginning in the 1980s, Qadhafi extended his activities into Latin America and Asia. Arms and money allegedly have been made available to insurgents in Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as to the M-19 terrorist group in Colombia. In South Asia, Libya has been involved with opponents of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi governments and in Southeast Asia has provided help to Muslim minorities, notably the Moro separatists on Mindanao in the Philippines.

In the Middle East, Qadhafi has been motivated by the aim of destroying Israel and of punishing those Arab elements willing to compromise in the interest of regional peace. The smaller, more radical factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have received training and arms from Libya as well as financing for their activities. According to the State Department, Libya's contribution in 1981 alone amounted to nearly US$100 million. In 1985 attention was focused on Qadhafi's links with the Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal Organization, more formally known as the Fatah Revolutionary Council, and with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The Abu Nidal Organization was believed responsible for the shooting of the Israeli ambassador in London, the hijacking of an Egyptian airliner, and attacks on the El Al and Trans World Airlines ticket counters at the Rome and Vienna airports. The State Department charged that millions of dollars in Libyan funds had gone to the Abu Nidal Organization, that its top figures were resident in Libya, and that Libya had provided training and travel documents to its teams mounting terrorist attacks. Although other Middle Eastern states such as Syria and Iran remained involved in terrorism, the State Department maintained that Libya had become the most active, especially against American and European travelers.

The affinity of Qadhafi for the Abu Nidal Organization and other radical Palestinian factions is explained by the bitter enmity they share for the main Arafat wing of the PLO, and for their rejection of any form of negotiations with Israel. Terrorist attacks of the kind they have successfully launched serve Qadhafi's purpose by further elevating tensions in the Middle East and blighting the prospects of peace initiatives.

Data as of 1987

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