The Manchester Arena Inquiry – The Radicalisation of Salman Abedi

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The terror attack on the Manchester Arena came at a critical time in relations between Libya and Britain. Although the UN and Theresa May government were still backing the provisional government that the bomber’s Tripoli-based militia had been protecting , an increasingly influential advocacy group including the Conservative Middle East Council and the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson were now advising that we switched our support to the government’s fiercest rival, General Haftar, whose tyrannical grip on Libya’s precious oil crescent offered a more stable and lucrative column for the horde of Eastern investors who were more determined than ever to place their stake in Libya’s wealth of resources. In an effort to dissuade groups or individuals preparing to advance the Generals bid for power, the militias clerics declared fatwas on anyone offering their support. As the Chairman of the Manchester Arena Inquiry, Sir John Saunders prepares the third and final report into the radicalisation of the Arena bombers, Hashem and Salman Abedi, we take a closer look at the attack in the context of the Libya’s chaotic political situation and the impact it may have had on the minds of the bombers and their families. Disclosures of Mi5 to follow.


No Alarms, and No Surprises. Please

May 22nd 2017, 22.31 (BST)

On Monday May 22nd 2017, Salman Abedi walked into the City Room foyer at the Manchester Arena at Hunts Bank in Central Manchester and detonated an explosive suicide device. Within seconds, the innocent giddy replay of post-concert highlights as the kids typed-in messages and added captions and filters to ‘snaps’ about the concert collapsed beneath the roar of forty pounds of shrapnel ripping through the building. The attack claimed the lives of 22 people including seven children. By July 2017 over 14 people had been arrested in connection with the incident. Britain’s press and security services reacted with surprise at the event, but the warnings had been substantial. So much of what happened could have been anticipated as far back as 2006 when the United Nations had been forced to draw up a formal terror list featuring several individuals associated with Manchester’s Libyan Islamic Fighting Group — the group who led the ground assault in Libya during a multi-national bid by Britain, France and America to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power in 2011.

In an attempt to unravel the deeply complex chain of events that were to culminate in the Manchester Arena Bombing, I have drawn up a list of issues that still need to be addressed, not as some readers might fear out of any kind of bid to absolve Abedi of blame or to present his actions as ‘justified violence’, or to paint them as anything other the despicable act of terror that they were, but to explore how fast or sudden reversals in a country’s foreign policy and the inevitable rash of commercial, industrial  and lobbying activities that prompt and then dominate those changes, can put our home nations at risk. In offering moral and military support to the armed insurrection in Libya in 2011, Britain, France and America would blur the lines between ‘heroism’ and ‘terrorism’ to such a confusing degree that any notion of ‘unjustified violence’ was practically invalidated overnight. The fundamental principle of intervention may have been presented to the public as just and ethical, but our failure to provide consistent messages both before and after these events, and our bid to synchronise the country’s democratic process with our economic schedules, has corrupted not only the public’s conception of ‘justified violence’ but abrogated, temporarily at least, all future cases for full or limited intervention. Here are the issues I would like to focus on:

  • The influence of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group on Salman Abedi and his family and the level of support the group and its affiliates had received from the British Government at the time of the 2011 Revolution in Libya.
  • The relationship between the historical Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and the current Libyan GNA government (one of those questioned initially questioned in relation to the attack was Zuhir Nassrat, the son of Khalid Nasrat, a former LIFG leader who had served as labour attaché at the GNA’s Embassy in Turkey).[1]
  • The part played by members and fundraisers of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in the 2009 Manchester Arndale Terror Plot.
  • Statements made by Britain’s former Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Richards to John Barron and Crispin Blunt of the Foreign Office Committee in January 2016 that suggest that the British Conservative Government’s knowledge of the combat role played by Abdelhakim Belhadj and other members of the al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group had been a “grey area” at the time that Britain supported the group’s efforts to overthrow Gaddafi. The statement stops some way short of being a denial of government knowledge. Lord Richard also acknowledged that with hindsight, keeping Gaddafi in power “may have been better from a vital national interest point of view.”
  • Whether statements made in support of the Libyan warlord, General Haftar by CMEC’s Kwasi Kharteng, Charlotte Leslie and David Morris in the House of Commons in October 2016 influenced the bombers, Salman and Hasheem Abedi (and other family members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group).[2]
  • Whether the Libyan Summits in London and Malta between October 2016 and November 2017, hosted and called for by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and attended by members of UAE banking houses, provided the first serious indication that Britain was prepared to enter discussions about a possible power-share with Haftar’s in Tobruk — the rival government to the rebel-staffed GNA which was closely associated with the bombers’ father.
  • Whether a deeply provocative Conservative Middle East Council report produced in March 2017 and a Boris Johnson article in The Spectator in May 2017 — supporting a shift in the balance of power from the Islamic rebel government (the GNA) to the House of Representatives operating under General Haftar’s regime in Tobruk — acted as the final trigger for the Manchester Arena Bombing.
  • Five days after the Arena attack foreign experts found bomb materials matching those used in the Manchester bombing at facility at al-Hadba prison. On Friday 9th June, just weeks after of the Arena Bombing, Libya’s most famous al-Hadba prisoner and the Britain’s long-time trade negotiator Saif Gaddafi was released to pro-Haftar forces. He had been captivity some six years. What were the circumstances and conditions of his release, and did they did they constitute in any way an ‘off the record’ settlement over the Manchester Arena Bombing?
  • Whether recent donors to the Conservative Middle East Council including Consolidated Contractors Company had vested interests in the release of their former Libyan negotiator, Saif Gaddafi.
  • The fatwas issued by Canadian-Libyan clerics, Abdul-Baset Ghwela and Grand Mufti Al Ghariyani on anyone supporting Haftar and his forces in the months prior to the bombing. Information learned during the course of the Manchester Arena Inquiry confirms that pictures had emerged of Ghariyani with the bomber’s father Ramadan Abedi on social media platforms in May and June 2017.
  • The ‘fierce verbal assault’ launched on supporters of the Haftar regime by the Central Security Force in the weeks before the Manchester Arena Bombing (the group were employers of the bomber’s father, Ramadan Abedi)
  • The nature of a trip to Turkey made by Salman Abedi on May 26th 2016 and referred to on Day 194 of the Manchester Arena Inquiry. Abedi’s trip coincided with reports in the press that Turkey — who are known to have provided arms in support of the Islamist militias — were going to be reopening the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli after closing it as a result of increasing instability in 2014. These reports also coincided with news that Russia was planning to provide military support to Haftar’s rival forces in Tobruk and that the UN Security Council were considering exempting the GNA in Tripoli from the UN-arms embargo in support of its efforts against ISIS (and Haftar).
  • The evacuation of Salman Abedi and 102 other British Nationals from Tripoli on the HMS Enterprise in August 2014. This was done at the behest of the British Foreign Office as pro-Haftar forces intensified their attacks against Islamist militias propping up the GNA. In text messages intercepted by Counter-terrorism officers, Abedi is believed to have said that Haftar would need to be “sorted out” (it’s to be noted that Abedi had travelled to Tripoli from Manchester only a month earlier, when Tripoli militias were demanding urgent support from its fighters).
  • Whether the British Government under Prime Minister, Theresa May made attempts to shift the weight of media and public attention away from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group to ISIS in an effort to preserve a) the stability of a fledgling government in a fragile region and b) the lucrative oil deals being negotiated between Libya and UK-based oil company Petrofac and construction projects for companies like Consolidated Contractors Company. The heads of both companies were among the Conservative Party and CMEC’s most generous donors at this time.  

The Warning Signs

The LIFG | Threats to Global Safety & Stability

In an attempt to provide the kind of context that can prise open the secretive doors of domestic terror attacks and expose them to broader, and hopefully more helpful, discussion, we will need to cast our minds back to the mid-2000s, just as the so-called Manchester Arndale plot was taking shape — the failed terrorist attack planned for Easter 2009 which prefigured the Arena bombing. The date was Wednesday, April 8th 2009 and the unsuccessful Jihadist attack was in the final stages of being planned and executed. The men involved were Janas Khan, a student at Hope University in Liverpool and Abid Naseer, a student in Manchester —acting, or so it was alleged, on the orders of senior Al Qaeda leaders. In a report by Duncan Gardham and Aislinn Simpson for the Daily Telegraph, published shortly after members of the group had been arrested, it is alleged that Ozlam Properties, owned and operated by Mohammed Benhammedi — a key financier for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group — had been leasing a Liverpool bedsit to Khan, Naseer and their accomplices. [3] During the course of the Manchester Arena Inquiry in December 2021 it was learned that letters from Benhammadi had been recovered from the Abedi’s family home at 21 Elsmore Road, and that Salman Abedi and Abdullah Benhammedi had attended Trafford College together. Communication data that had featured in the case against Hashem Abedi also revealed that the bombers had communicated with another member of the Benhammedi family “within a few minutes of placing a failed order for hydrogen peroxideon 19 March 2017”. [4]

We also learned on the last day of the hearings that Salman had travelled to Germany via Istanbul on his way to Weissenfels in Germany, where his brother Hashem had been working on a real estate venture with Abdullah Benhammedi. Istanbul, by contrast, is where Mohammed Benhammedi, the man who featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Arndale’ story in 2009, operated his own property business, Aqar Istanbul. According to a session held in November 2021, the Manchester Arena Inquiry heard how the boys’ father Ramada Abedi had similarly travelled to Istanbul in February, July and August the previous year under the name, Hannah Joseph. He would, under that same name, make a separate journey to Istanbul in July 2017, re-entering the UK via that same city for a one week stay in Manchester at the beginning of April 2017. Because of the groups’ respective business activities in both countries, it is entirely possible that there was a perfectly innocent explanation for the trip.

Inevitably, some of these things may be little more than a coincidence. This was a tight-knit community of Libyan ex-pats and the bomber’s father had featured prominently in its chain of command and in the group’s complex and still evolving internal politics that featured both moderates and radicals alike. Libya’s problems were not resolved by NATO intervention in the 2011 Revolution, but altered rather. Gaddafi had been a life-threatening asteroid occupying the Maghreb region. NATO’s disastrous intervention had simply split that asteroid into an unpredictable volley of smaller, destructive fragments. There was still much yet to do. Yet despite whatever coincidences or complex twists of fate had brought the fighters back together, there’s one thing we can’t refute about the 2009 Arndale investigation: senior members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group designated (however unfairly) as a threat to “global safety and stability” by the United Nations and US Treasury Department in 2006 [5] had found themselves earmarked in the broader mechanisms of a plot to bomb a shopping centre in Manchester, and on Interpol’s ‘Most Wanted’ list. 

Little more than two weeks after this discovery was made, the British Home Office under Jacqui Smith, with the full backing of the High Court of England and Wales, revoked the control orders that had previously been imposed on the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Ozlam Properties. According to files maintained by the British and Irish Legal Information Institute the Home Secretary’s decision had been made, at least in part, as a result of “significant developments” between Gaddafi’s Government and the imprisoned LIFG leaders (and perhaps also within the broader context of the ‘secret’ negotiations taking place between Tony Blair, the J.P. Morgan bank and Colonel Gaddafi in January that year [6]). Revoking the control orders on the LIFG had proceeded as originally planned despite the report in The Daily Telegraph on Sunday, April 12th 2009 clearly implicating Ozlam Properties in the broader context of Khan and Naseer’s plot.[7]

The High Court Ruling that came a few weeks later on April 30th 2009 had been built around the case of LIFG member ‘AV’ aka Abdul al-Rahman Al-Faqih. [8] Just several weeks prior to the Arndale bust, al-Faqih’s name had appeared in a report by the Daily Telegraph linking him to Benhammedi and the Sanabel Relief Fund.[9] The alleged jihadist had just that week been placed on Interpol’s ‘Most Wanted’ list over suspicions that the fund was being used to subsidize terror plots by Al Qaeda.

The general substance of the hearing heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on April 30th 2009 is that the control orders that Britain and the UN had placed on al-Faqih and Benhammedi in 2004 had been based in part on statements made and evidence produced by the authorities of states “with a questionable record of treatment of suspects and detainees.” As a result of “developments of great potential significance occurring in Libya in March 2009” it was the considered opinion of the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith that the evidence produced and statements which had implicated alFaqih in the suicide bomb attacks in Casablanca in May 2003 were now “flawed”. The application for the lifting of sanctions against ‘AV’ was passed by Smith with complete indifference to the fact that his associate, Mohammed Benhammedi was featuring in reports relating to Abid Naseer and the Manchester Arndale Plot. The “developments of great potential significance” referred to by the Home Secretary appear to have been based on a decision made by Colonel Gaddafi and his son Saif in Libya that month to ‘delist’ the LIFG as a terrorist organisation on the condition that they renounced all sympathies with Al Qaeda. [10] As a result something of a peace deal was duly brokered and prisoners were released. The moves towards reconciliation being taken by Gaddafi signalled a desire to re-engage with the International community after the outrage which had been expressed over the Lockerbie Bombing and the Abu Salim Prison Massacre. As a result of the ‘de-radicalisation’ process, something of a peace deal was brokered and prisoners were slowly released, relieving no small amount of moral burden on the deals being brokered by Britain.

Speaking to authors, Mary Fitzgerald and Emadeddin Badi in 2020,
Miftah al-Dawadi, a former leader of the LIFG (or the Al-Jama’a alIslamiyyah al-Muqatilah) explained how the group should have been formed under another name: “We could have been the ‘Islamic Front for Change’ or something like that because the term muqatilah, or fighters, is so easily associated with terrorism by people in different parts of the world”. It was, he lamented, simply a product of its time. Consequentially, all the holistic goals the group had sought had failed to register with the wider public. Amnesty International would later note that of the 380 or so people killed as a result of the insurgency in the 1990s, none had been civilians

In September 2011 as pressure began to mount on Cameron’s Conservative Government to justify their cooperation with the LIFG in joint-efforts to against Gaddafi, The Daily Mail newspaper ran a story claiming that the addition of al-Faqih and other members of the LIFG to the British and UN terror lists in 2004 had been part of a secret trade deal between Colonel Gaddafi and the New Labour Government. The newspaper described how al-Faqih and the group had only been designated a terrorist risk after Tony Blair had signed “his infamous ‘deal in the desert’”. In an interview with the newspaper Conservative MP David Davis, said ‘It looks as if the Labour Government used control orders as a way of appeasing Gaddafi by handicapping his opponents, rather than as a way of protecting the safety of British citizens” and urged an immediate inquiry. [11] It was duly acknowledged that the group’s only crime was to have used the fund to support the wives and children of dead or imprisoned LIFG members and to have assisted in the preparation of forged passports to secure their flights from Libya. No mention was made of the documents recovered by Police from al-Faqih’s home in Birmingham in October 2005 which were alleged to have provided “detailed instructions on the preparation of explosives” and a “manifesto for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group”. The decision made Jacqui Smith, and a description of the documents and original charges can be viewed below on the BAILII website. [12]

As a result of lifting the travel ban and un-freezing the group’s assets, the rebels were not only free to move around in Britain and travel abroad, they were also free access and redistribute their assets. It was this court ruling that the coalition government under Prime Minister David Cameron would subsequently use to justify the restoring of passports to dozens of British-based LIFG members between December 2010 and January 2011, as part of the new Government’s bid to remove Gaddafi.

Speaking to the Middle East Eye in November 2018, several former rebel fighters now back in Britain had described how they had been able to travel to Libya with “no questions asked”. [13] It is further alleged that they had met several other British-Libyans who had similarly had control-orders lifted as the air-strikes against Gaddafi intensified. When grilled by MPs in the House of Commons in September 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron defended support of the Libyan Rebels by saying: “The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group was allied with al-Qaeda. It is not anymore and has separated itself from that organisation.” [14]

Despite the inevitable frustration we are likely to feel at the Abedi’s historical links to the Libyan revolutionary movement, it is not the intention of this review to determine whether or not the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were indeed freedom fighters or Islamic extremists. It will only be necessary to understand the fluctuating narratives being produced about the group as the governments of Britain and America responded to rapidly changing circumstances in its relationship with Gaddafi’s Libya, and to the supply chains that linked these countries politically and economically. The focus of the review will not be in identifying the credibility of the threat they posed, but in the trade and political mechanisms that led to changes and reversals in the perception and presentation of those threats before, during and after the revolution in Libya in 2011. Neither is it my intention to question the ruling made by the Crown Prosecution Service at the conclusion of the Arndale inquiry, or whether the attacker, Salman Abedi was acting as part of a wider revolutionary network or was a vitriolic fantasist inspired by Jihadist propaganda on YouTube.

Try to visualise, if you can, the creation of a perfect storm and the various collisions taking place in the political stratosphere above Libya in May 2017. Composing the first layer would be the drastic, icy freeze in the relationship between the GNA Government and Haftar’s forces in the East and the rapid rise in Fahrenheit among supporters of General Haftar in the West. On the second layer we have the vortex of winds touching down on the region’s tumultuous oil crescent — a result of the major disturbances brought about by the rivals energies of the world’s oil and construction magnates colliding. In Tripoli, where the rebel militias had been enduring some of the most violent and sustained assaults from Haftar forces in months, the grievances that had fired the spirit and lifted the souls of the 17th February Martyrs in 2011 were being slowly redirected into a flood of erratic rage. Angry young men like Salman and Hashem Abedi, determined to prove their worth to their parent nation in the chaotic muddle of the Libyan diaspora, and perhaps feeding off a stream of pay-as-you go vitriol from propaganda gurus ISIS on YouTube, could have waited for the storm to pass, but instead they rushed straight into it, perhaps re-establishing the links and drawing on the energy that the Martyrs’ group had relied from al-Qaeda prior to 2009; their fidelity to their ancestral roots untangled and restored in one earth-shattering moment. It was at this very moment that the nightmares of a world on the margins literally collapsed centre-stage. They were no longer causalities of the storm, but a part of it. And they had brought that storm to Britain.

What follows is not an attempt to cast judgment on the moral grounds for either ‘Jihadism’ or ‘Revolution’ — the spiritual or literal call to arms based on a real or perceived sense of persecution or oppression — but to understand the flip-flop security policies that had been impulsively rolled-out by successive British governments — Labour and Conservative — and how these stunning u-turns in policy prepared the ground and sparked the fury that led to the Arena Bombing.

The Arndale ‘Easter Bombing’

Terror Operations | Opening and Closing Pathways

Despite a later ruling of insufficient evidence, it was thought that Khan, Naseer and their accomplices had been targeting the Trafford and Arndale Shopping Centres as part of a broader suicide campaign. In the run-up to Easter 2009, flats in the Cheetham Hill district of Manchester had been raided by Police [15], just as other flats in the Cheetham area were raided by Police investigating the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017. [16] Further associates of Khan and Naseer had been arrested in Norway that year. Some four years later, personal documents and correspondence found in the Abbottabad compound between the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’s Atiyah Abul al-Rahman and Osama Bin Laden were subsequently used to secure Naseer’s conviction in the US over the New York Subway Plot.  Astonishingly, these documents not only expressed a plausible link between Naseer’s 2009 Manchester plot and members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in England, they also suggested that Britain’s Mi6 had been secretly negotiating with the group’s leader, Abu Anas al-Libi in Britain. [17] Taken at face value, the documents appear to confirm that senior LIFG members were hoping to negotiate a deal with Mi6 that would offer the British Government a political route out of Afghanistan and into the Maghreb:

 “While brother ‘Urwa al-Libi was in Iran a couple of months ago (shortly before he went to Libya), he had written me an email telling me that some of the Libyan brothers in England had talked to him about the following:

British Intelligence spoke to them (these Libyan brothers in England), and asked them to try to contact the people they knew in al-Qaeda to inform them of and find out what they think about the following idea: England is ready to leave Afghanistan if al-Qaeda would explicitly commit to not moving against England or her interests.” [18]

As a result of progress made at the Manchester Arena Inquiry it has now been confirmed that the family of Salman Abedi had been well acquainted with al-Libi and his family in Manchester.[19] Abid Naseer was subsequently jailed in the US. It also transpires that the TATP explosive device that Naseer and his accomplice, Najibullah Zazi had been planning to use in Manchester and New York was the same TATP compound used in the Manchester Arena Bombing in May 2017.[20]

On April 9th 2009, the six month old covert investigation into Naseer and the Manchester Arndale Plot (codenamed ‘Operation Pathway’) was prematurely blown when the London Metropolitan’s counter-terrorism chief, Bob Quick inadvertently leaked details of the operation to the press. Documents marked ‘secret’ had been photographed in Quick’s hands as he entered 10 Downing Street. [21] With the Operation compromised, Mi5 had been compelled to act much sooner than planned, leading to the premature arrest of Naseer and his accomplices. Both the leak and the premature actions of the counter-terrorist police would play a major role in the decision made by the Crown Prosecution Service in recommending that the case be dismissed. As with an earlier leak, opposition MPs were quick to point the finger of blame at the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. [22]

According to a report published by the Federal Research Division at the US Library of Congress in 2012, 2009 was also the year that Manchester LIFG member, Abd al-Baset Azzouz had left Britain for the Pakistan-Afghan border. The report describes how in mid-2011 Azzouz is believed to have made his way to Libya to build a team of experienced jihadists in support of al-Qaeda’s objectives in the Maghreb region.[23]

Interestingly, the 2009 plot to bomb the Arndale centre in Manchester had been set in motion just months after a series of visits that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair had made to Gaddafi in Tripoli at the end of May 2007. According to a series of stories published in the British Press in 2011, Blair had been in Libya to negotiate a trade deal between the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and a company run by the Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska – a mutual friend of both Saif Gaddafi, Nat Rothschild and former Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne. [24]

Jacqui Smith, the British Home Secretary caught up in the collapse of the Manchester Arndale plot, and who had removed the control orders on the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in 2009, would subsequently find employment with Roger Usher’s Global Governance Partners who in 2017 had been assisting former members of the rebel militias in their attempts to build the parliamentary framework around Libya’s GNA.[25] Another of Usher’s aid companies, Adam Smith International handled aid totalling over $1 billion as part of the Temporary Financing Mechanism in Libya in 2011. According to a report in the Manchester Guardian dated March 2nd 2017, Adam Smith International had already been placed under investigation after being accused of unethical practices.

Libya’s Temporary Financing Mechanism, set up by the United Nations to help cover expenses incurred by rebel forces, has likewise been dogged by accusations of cronyism and malpractice. [26] According to a report by CNN in October 2011, the Temporary Financing Mechanism had been accused of negotiating deals that were believed to have been well below the existing exchange value. By the time that the National Transitional Council had been formally installed in Tripoli, little remained of Libya’s wealth. Some claimed that it only had $13.5 million in the Central Bank of Libya. Much of the money spent had been derived from plundering Gaddafi’s frozen assets. Arming the rebels had become little more than a loan.

Making Sensible use of Libya’s Amazing Patrimony of Hydrocarbons

An Oil Story | Boris Johnson Sees Moment of Hope For Libya

In an article published by The Spectator magazine just one week before the Manchester Arena Bombing, the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson put forward a typically ham-fisted case for the 42-year rule of Gaddafi. Whilst conceding that his rule had been “vile and incompetent”, he expressed his belief that it had, nevertheless “kept the country together”. [27] In all fairness, his opinion on the subject wasn’t substantially different to the views he’d expressed at the time that the British Parliament had first been considering military intervention in Libya in March 2011. Writing in his column for the Daily Telegraph just two weeks before his fellow Conservatives would vote on the controversial UNSCR 1973 UN directive requesting a military ‘No Fly Zone’ in Libya, Johnson explained that whilst he knew that Gaddafi’s security forces had been involved in the killing of “hundreds of innocent people” and that the “psychopathic, unelected dictator” had far more regard for oil than he had for “human rights” he shared the view of Putin that intervention in Libya was “defective and flawed” and only likely to lead to further instability and more civilian casualties. [29]

Johnson’s greater concern, however, was that Gaddafi had lost control of the oil: “Every instinct tells us that Gaddafi has had it. He has lost great tracts of the country, including the vital oil-producing facilities at Benghazi. His state TV boasts of recapturing towns that he palpably does not control, and even in his stronghold of Tripoli his face has been ripped from the hoardings and we hear of long bursts of unexplained machine-gun fire.” A No Fly Zone, he went on, was not a “magic” fix, and despite what the Libyan rebels were saying, it was “far from clear that the people of that country want to see their uprising turned into a foreign-backed coup”.

After criticising the UN resolution for resembling the “medieval calls for crusades”, Russia abstained from the vote, perhaps anticipating the considerable disruption that it would bring to the region’s already crisis-hit oil crescent. But it wasn’t only the impact that regime change would have on Russia’s fairly substantial construction and energy interests here that troubled them, but the ripple-like effects that a successful revolution in Libya might have on the North Caucasus where densely populated states could split into even smaller challenging pieces, leading to the further spread of extremism. [30] In July 2011,  Vladimir Chamov, a former Ambassador sparked fury when he accused Russia’s President Medvedev of betraying the commercial interests of Russia by failing to veto the UN vote on the No Fly Zone. A Reuters report went on to explain how Russia was likely to lose over $4 billion in weapons deals in Libya as a result of an arms embargo it had backed. In addition to the 2.2 billion euro contract between Gaddafi and the Russian Railways, the country had also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the oil licenses secured in Libya by Germany’s Wintershall Dea in 2007. [31]

With this rather untypical alliance in mind, it is curious to note that Germany was one of only four member states who abstained from the No Fly Zone vote. [32]

In all fairness, Russia probably reserved the right to be every bit as cautious as they were. In 1917, the era-shifting revolution that had swept the country and ended the three-hundred year rule of the Romanovs had, like Libya, seen the first screams of protest in February that year. By March 15th Tsar Nicholas II had abdicated, almost 94 years to the day that the UN approved the No Fly Zone in Libya and the rebel’s Transitional National Council was formally declared. The events in February 1917 set in motion a chaotic chain of events that would eventually tear Russia apart — Britain, America and France first welcoming the opportunities that had arisen as a result of the protests and the establishment of a Provisional Government, and then grappling with the brutal fallout that came in October when Lenin’s Bolsheviks made a belligerent, game-changing grab for power, seizing control of assets and taking control of the oil fields that Britain and America had been making plans with Kerensky’s Provisional Government to exploit. Within a few shorts weeks Russia had descended into Civil War and its allies in the West were faced with two conflicting governments: the ‘Reds’ in the West of the country and the ‘Whites’ in the East. The dilemma they were faced with was really quite straightforward: should they assist ‘the Whites’ in their war with Lenin’s Bolsheviks, or should they ditch their loyalties to Russia’s Monarchists and its Liberals and trade directly with the ‘the Reds’? In the end it all came down to this: which side would be the more capable when it came maintaining a stable environment and securing control of the oil fields: ‘the Whites’ or ‘the Reds’? After a disastrous two years of limited intervention in the Russian Civil War, Britain and American opted for the latter.

Johnson’s Spectator article in May 2017 had been partly brought about by debates led in Parliament by Charlotte Leslie, MP for Bristol and the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, Kwasi Kwarteng in October 2016. The pair had been responding to the findings of the Foreign Affairs Committee on British Intervention in Libya published in September that year which had created the framework of urgency and relevancy needed to such a propose dramatic change in direction. [33] In the report’s preamble, Sir Crispin Blunt, who had served as the previous director of The Conservative Middle East Council, explained how the FOC inquiry had been launched with a call for written evidence in July 2015. Its task was to determine if British intervention in Libya had gone beyond the mandate of UN Security Council resolution 1973. [34] In January 2016, CMEC’s Leo Docherty had been among the first Conservative MPS to openly express their belief that Libya was “a failed state, riven by warring militias and jihadists.” [35] Expressing his own view on the subject to The Guardian newspaper in July 2015, Blunt put the whole thing in some perspective: it was not just “a catastrophe for the people of Libya” but a “growing problem” for the rest of us, as Britain’s newest enemy ISIS was beginning to establish significant control of the area, which was leading in turn to a spiralling “migration crisis”. An earlier interview had revealed the kind of deadlock that the Foreign Office was up against; Britain had a moral responsibility to support the Libyan Ground Force shoring-up the provisional government but the merest suggestion of British installing a 1,000-strong training force in Tripoli would be perceived as a military occupation and “therefore a military target”. The British Prime Minister was, moreover, “unlikely” to receive the political support he needed to restore stability with a full scale military effort.[36]

Two key FOC reports

Although Blunt had stopped short of actually saying it, the only credible military presence in Libya at this time was the Libyan National Army under the command of Khlaifa Haftar. There was one insurmountable problem, however — the autocratic warlord wasn’t willing to recognise the UN-backed GNA as Libya’s only legitimate government. Blunt’s report pulled little in the way of punches. Britain’s policy of limited intervention had led to Libya’s “political and economic collapse” and engendered an indefinite period of “inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare” that was quickly deteriorating into “humanitarian and migrant crises”. To make matters worse, the ratification of the Government of National Accord that the UN had worked so hard to establish in December 2015 was being boycotted by Haftar. [37] The French and Russian Special Forces were exacerbating tensions by taking part in military operations against the GNA militias launched by Haftar’s forces in Benghazi and the United Arab Emirates were supplying arms and trucks in contravention of UN Sanctions. The conclusions drawn by the Blunt report seem to indicate that Britain was preparing the ground for a radical ‘rethink’ on its policy in Libya by blaming the Cameron Government for failing “to identify the extremist militant Islamist element in the rebellion”. [38] In actual fact, the ‘failing’ couldn’t have been more different: Britain’s ‘failure’ wasn’t in identifying the Islamist element — its ‘failure’ was in using the Islamist element to get the job done without incurring losses to British troops or being seen to be doing ‘another Iraq’.

Kwarteng, perhaps emboldened by a £5,000 cash donation from Majid Jafar just weeks before, was a little more forthright on the issue. In a well choreographed routine in parliament with Charlotte Leslie and David Morris [39], Kwarteng was asked if he agreed that Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar would “possibly be a better person” to lead security in Libya. Backed by Shrewsbury MP, Daniel Kawczynski, Kwarteng explained that whilst he wouldn’t be able to offer a definitive answer to the question at that precise moment, it was clear that General Haftar was probably Libya’s “biggest military presence” and that many of Britain’s allies, including Egypt and the UAE, were openly supporting him. Whilst conceding that there was no doubt that he was a “controversial figure”, it was, he lamented, “difficult to envisage a stable Libya without his active participation.” [40]  In contrast to the reserve that the young and ambitious MP for Spelthorne had shown in Parliament in October, an article that Kwarteng was to publish in the Evening Standard on January 10th 2017 revealed not only the new firmness of his convictions but his easy familiarity with writers of the French Enlightenment:

 “Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) reminds one of Voltaire’s definition of the Holy Roman Empire, which he memorably said was “neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire”. The GNA in Libya cannot be described as a “national” government, neither does the existence of more than 1,500 militias suggest much accord.

In the midst of all this chaos one figure is often referred to as a potential saviour. Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar is a 73-year-old former associate of Gaddafi. He enjoys support from Russia, Egypt and the UAE. He has control over the oil fields and much of the eastern part of Libya. The West remains committed to support the GNA.

Haftar may, however, be a source of stability in that beleaguered country.” [41]

It was a resounding endorsement indeed for someone who had until October 2016 expressed no formal interest in Libya, and who had shown no real knowledge of General Haftar in Parliament.

According to Guardian journalist, Alistair Sloane, David Morris — the Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale who had done Kwarteng and Leslie the enormous favour of feeding that ground-breaking opening dialogue to the pair in Parliament in October 2016 — had himself travelled to the UAE in April 2016, with his £2,800 in travel expenses covered by their Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Sloane commented that Morris had also travelled with Charlotte Leslie to Dubai later that year, “again paid for by Falcon Associates – the Dubai lobbying arm.” Asked if there was any unnecessary pressure being heaped on members of Parliament to back a shift of power to Haftar, Sloane commented that there was “no doubt” that without the firepower provided by the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Haftar’s power in the region “would not have been anywhere near as successful”.

The donation that Kwarteng had received in October that year was from Majid Jafar of Crescent Petroleum, a UEA-based consortium who had just signed a “ground breaking Strategic Cooperation Agreement” with Russia’s Rosneft for joint expansion in North Africa [42] and were likely to be anxious to capitalise on Rosneft’s deal with Haftar and Libya’s National Oil Corporation[43] The one single-greatest threat to the success of the deal was instability in the Oil Crescent region. According to various biographies, Jafar and Kharteng had both been students together at Eton College and Cambridge in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In January 2021, Britain’s Daily Mirror would run a story in which it was being reported that that despite the UK’s spiralling energy crisis, Majid Jafar, the man who had personally help fund Kwarteng’s campaign to be Business and Energy Minister had seen the prices of shares soar at his UAE-listed Dana Gas[44]

Building on the back of these parliamentary exchanges in September 2016, CMEC produced a report for the British Foreign Office in March 2017 pushing support for former Gaddafi General, Khalifa Haftar, whose Tobruk-based government in the east of Libya, was now locked in a debilitating stalemate with the rebel-backed GNA in Tripoli. Reacting to a wave of renewed interest in Libya arising from the FAC report in September, Leo Docherty, Kwasi Kwarteng and a small delegation of CMEC partners had met with Haftar in Al Rajma in the first week of March 2017. The report, entitled, Inside Libya: Chaos in the Mediterranean, was based on that meeting and concluded with these key recommendations:

  • that the UK should urgently engage with Haftar, that the UK should support the LNA to secure Libya’s borders
  • that the UK should reconsider its view of the existing GNA (consisting largely of rebel militias) and acknowledge its limited capacity to deliver any kind of governance or security for Libya. [45]       

Libya, in the report’s own words, was looking to become Britain’s number one trading target post-Brexit, and the Libyan rebel government that Britain had helped create in 2011 was becoming increasingly surplus to those plans — if not an outright obstacle. Despite evidence provided in the previous year’s report by the Foreign Office Committee that suggested that General Haftar and his forces had spent more time protecting the oil terminals than they had in fighting ISIS [46], the key findings published by CMEC promoted the idea that Haftar’s ‘mission’ was to stamp out Jihadist terrorism in Libya. In Tripoli, the home of the UN-recognised government of Libya, the GNA, the city was “dominated by warlords and criminal gangs” determined to prolong “the confusion” in the West of the country.  The report, some 16 pages in length, continued along these lines. [47]

If [Libyans] can put aside their differences, and stabilise the country, then this place of six million will not only be able to make sensible use of their amazing patrimony of hydrocarbons. They can open up some of the greatest tourist sites in the world, including Leptis Magna — currently too dangerous to visit.

‘This is a moment of hope for Libya, Boris Johnson’, Spectator, May 12th 2017

The CMEC report also renewed scrutiny of the historical indiscretions and the terrorist alliances of the former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group whose services Britain had been used to topple Gaddafi. A selection of extracts reads:

 “In the west many of the militia leaders, such as Abdelhakim Belhadj and Khaled Al Sharif, were involved with the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an organisation with loose links to Al Qaeda. Other leaders, such as Salah Badi and Ali Al Sallabi, were imprisoned under the Gaddafi regime. The political motivations of these different agents remain unclear. They do not have any organised political programmes, nor do they operate under party political labels. On the other hand, they have been effective at creating militias on the ground, and carving themselves positions of power and influence.

  The commitment of such people to a strong, functioning central government in Libya is doubtful. Many people feel that these militia leaders are direct beneficiaries of the ongoing political instability in Libya. The militia men have a vested interest in prolonging the chaos.

  Many of these figures rose to prominence in the 2011 revolution and later became involved in Libya’s political transition participating in elections and serving in the government. The LIFG was, at the very least, loosely connected to Al Qaeda. While the leadership never publically supported Al Qaeda’s campaign against the West, and in fact, denounced a suggestion that the LIFG joined Al Qaeda in 2007, numerous LIFG members did join Al Qaeda’s ranks. One of whom, Abu Yahya Al Libi was Al Qaeda’s deputy leader.”[48]

Leo Docherty, who would be elected Conservative MP for Aldershot in the month that followed the Manchester Arena Bombing, had supported the publication of the CMEC report with an article on his ConservativeHome diary: “Western policy in Libya has been a disaster — we need a new one”, he wrote. According to Docherty, the UN-backed Government of National Accord was “nothing of the sort; it is not a government.” Its President Fayez Serraj was an “unelected appointee”, whose “ineffectiveness” suited only one group of people — “the militias”. [49] When making any attempt to assess the depth and scope of their knowledge it is worth bearing in mind that the CMEC team had spent no more than 72 hours in total Libya. Between the years 2016-2017 the pro-Haftar lobby, comprising of Kwasi Kwarteng of CMEC, Charlotte Leslie and David Morris had collectively racked-up in excess of £300,000 in donations from the Saudis, Bahrain and a small but influential pack of oil producers and construction companies including Crescent PetroleumConsolidated Construction Company, Rosemary Said and Falcon Associates, each with expanding interests in Libya.[50] The man that CMEC had in mind to pull the country together was General Haftar, a man whose troops had earned a rather terrifying reputation for exhuming and crucifying the enemy dead. [51]

The report had been bankrolled by a pool of CMEC’s main financial supporters that included David Rowland of Aegis/Gardaworld, Nicholas Soames and Abdul Majid Jafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum, the latter a UEA-based consortium anxious to capitalise on the oil rich terminals in the Haftar-controlled east. [52] That Crescent Petroleum had entered an agreement with Russia’s Rosneft for joint expansion in North Africa may also offer a glimpse of the broader commercial logic behind the pursuit of power change in Libya, especially in light of the recent deal negotiated between Rosneft, Haftar and the National Oil Corporation. [53] If the former American President, Donald Trump had cut a deal with pro-Kremlin oligarch, Igor Sechin for an estimated 19% stake in the Russian state-owned company, Rosneft, as was claimed in the infamous ‘Steele Dossier’[54], then it may go some way toward explaining why in July 2017, the White House was reported to be considering ramping up military support in Haftar’s East. [55] It may also be significant to note that Salman Abedi had expressed sentiments about needing to ‘sort out’ General Haftar in conversations with convicted terrorist, Abdalraouf Abdallah in response to a Jihadi newsreel in November 2014. [56] It was also duly acknowledged at the Arena Inquiry in December 2020 that the ex-Grand Mufti Al Ghariyani, generally believed to have been a figure of influence in the Abedi family, had been bitterly opposed to Haftar ever since the warlord’s return to Libya from America in 2011.[57] Abdallah was also able to confirm for the Inquiry that he had served alongside the bomber’s father in the Tripoli Militia (consisting of members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group) and the 17 February Martyrs Brigade. [58]

Whilst the fabric of the 2017 discussions between CMEC and the LNA consisted largely of efforts to contain extremism, it was clear that Haftar’s overriding concern had been his failure to harvest and retain the considerable oil revenues being passed from the LNA-controlled oil terminals in the east of the country to the NOC, and the Rothschild-owned Central Bank — 60% of which was going to Tripoli. In a no less provocative move, the CMEC report concluded with a quote from Winston Churchill: “I decline utterly to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire.” It turned out to be an unusually prescient statement in view of the challenges faced by the London Fire Department at Grenfell Towers in North Kensington some three weeks after the Arena Bombing.

There are reasonable grounds to argue that in light of the volatile nature of events taking place that week in Libya and the generally pique and outrage that had been felt by supporters of the GNA in response to the CMEC report, Boris Johnson’s article The Spectator on May 12th 2017 was an astonishingly tactless if not deeply provocative move from the British Foreign Secretary. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, with its sizeable contingent from Manchester, had been formed specifically for the task of removing Gaddafi from power and had played a critical role in British and American efforts to aggressively remove the dictator and his regime in March 2011 — as part of a thinly disguised grassroots insurrection. That Britain was showing signs of having changed her mind about the rebels could well have triggered an impulsive reaction among the legions of former revolutionaries who made up the LIFG. Johnson may have recognised that his rule was tyrannical, but the Foreign Secretary’s support for the broader mechanisms of the Gaddafi regime (and his heir apparent, Khalifa Haftar) leaves little to the imagination. One can only imagine the sense of betrayal that was being experienced at that time by former members of the Manchester Fighting Group; their excruciating servitude under the most vicious of oppressors coddled into a deluded halcyon fantasy in the crassest of magazine articles by the British Foreign Secretary.

 “The hotels are waiting to be filled. The sea is turquoise and lovely and teeming with fresh fish. Libya was once the birthplace of emperors, a bustling centre of the Mediterranean world. It can have a great future. All it takes is political will and the courage to compromise — Boris Johnson: ‘This is a moment of hope for Libya. We can’t afford to miss it’, The Spectator, May 2017

Another central figure in Britain’s swelling Haftar lobby at this time was Joseph Walker-Cousins. The Bristol-based Cousins had served as a key adviser to the UK’s special envoy in Benghazi from 2011 to 2012.

The Bristol-based Cousins had served as a key adviser to the UK’s special envoy in Benghazi from 2011 to 2012 and provided a critical advisory role as ‘specialist’ for the Foreign Office Committee’s review of British Intervention in the Libyan Revolution of 2011 (‘Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK’s future policy options’, FOC, September 2016). Like Docherty, Walker-Cousins, a former paratrooper, was a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London), an institution that not only has a reputation for turning out first-class linguists, but is also rumoured to have become a finishing-school students of Mi6 taking up positions in Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East.

The testimony provided by Walker-Cousins before a UK Select Committee in March 2017 — part of a review on North Africa’s ‘migrant crisis’ — reiterated the key recommendations that had made originally in Leo Docherty’s CMEC report, published just a week or so before. [59] Within days of Walker-Cousin’s appearance before the British Select Committee, The Guardian newspaper ran the headline, “1 million African migrants may be en route to Europe, says former UK envoy”. [60] The ‘envoy’ that newspaper was quoting was Walker-Cousins — not a former envoy at all but an adviser to an envoy. Patrick Wintour of The Guardian also failed to mention that Walker-Cousins was now employed as Middle East Business Development Director at Kellogg Brown and Root UK (KBR).[61] This Texas-based company had not only won substantial contracts in Libya post-2011, they were also now key members of the Libyan British Business Council (other members also included PetrofacAdam Smith InternationalBP, the Libyan Investment AuthorityTatweer Research and Gardaworld). Intended to promote business relations and commercial activity between the British and Libyan business communities, the Libyan British Business Council there may be reasonable grounds to argue that the group has become little more than a lobbying house carrying out the wishes of whatever leader is harvesting Libya’s wealth at that time. The Council’s director, Lord Trefgarne, a cherished member of the 1980s Thatcher Government, played a pivotal role in the release of Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi in August 2009. As the Gaddafi regime collapsed and colossal sums of cash were being liberated from the banks by US and British-backed rebels, it was reported that Tregarne had asked the then fugitive, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to help him recover almost £1 million in fees for services rendered over the al-Megrahi affair. [62] LIBC’s Ambassador, Dominic Asquith eventually took a paid position as senior consultant with Tatweer Research, a Benghazi-based research and development company, specialising in technology and engineering that has conveniently made it onto LIBC’s exclusive council member list. Another of its Directors was Mohamed Fezzani, former Deputy Chief Executive Officer and General Manager at British Arab Commercial Bank Plc and director at the International Libyan Bankers Association.

That LBBC Council Member (and Walker-Couzen’s employers), Kellogg Brown and Root were also at the centre of a Unaoil investigation launched by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office in April 2017 also escaped the attention of Wintour and The Guardian. The leaked files at the centre of the Unaoil investigation included two Iraqi oil ministers, a fixer linked to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, senior officials from Libya’s Gaddafi regime, as well as officials in the United Arab Emirates.[63] The Libyan officials named in the leaks were Mustafa Zarti and Benghazi’s Muhannad Alamir who had also acted as agent for Blue Mountain, the grossly inadequate British security firm who had been brought in to guard the US Embassy in Benghazi just weeks before the attack on its embassy staff on September 11th 2012.[64]

Conservative Party donor, Ayman Asfari has also been questioned by the Serious Fraud Office in connection with the Unaoil investigation, although no charges had yet been brought.[65] The Syrian-exile is chairman of Petrofac who had come under investigation by the SFO just ten days prior to the Manchester Bombing. [66]Asfari and COO Marwan Chedid were arrested and then released without charge. [67] Marwan Chedid has since been suspended by the group. In the latter part of 2016 Petrofac had been looking seriously at Libya as a potential new ‘hotspot’ for oil, and something of an oil race has been developing. On May 4th 2017 ran a story which claimed that Petrofac were frontrunners to reap the rewards of a stabilized Libya.[68]

Boris Johnson and General Haftar in August 2017

Given that so many donors to the Conservative Party have featured so prominently in Libya’s post-Gaddafi oil-rush, is it possible that certain members of the British Foreign Office, with the support of Mi6, had made deliberate attempts to shift the weight of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing investigation onto issues pertaining to self-radicalisation in a desperate bid to maintain some fragile stability in Libya — and in doing so preserve the deals that might already be in the pipeline? Was Abedi’s alleged immersion in the narratives of ISIS a way of re-routing or re-rooting the mitigating elements of the Arena Bombing into anything other than Libyan politics and the raging power struggles therein?

In a series of email exchanges in September 2017 with Guardian and Al Jazeera’s, Alistair Sloane, the journalist expressed his concern over claims that had been put out by ISIS “propaganda channels” in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Communicating from his ‘Unequal Measures’ website, Sloane explained how the two claims “contradicted each other”, with one being “mysteriously” deleted. His own point of view was that this was a highly unusual occurrence and that most of the world’s media had simply “gone along with the story” that this was an ISIS attack. The question he asked seemed fairly reasonable in this context of what has since been learned during the sessions of the Public Inquiry: was Abedi seeking an “ISIS-inspired caliphate” or was he “motivated by something more primeval – revenge?” Flip-flopping reversals in policy and the whims of the UN Security Council had led to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group being presented as ‘heroes’ one minute and terrorists the next. The bomber’s exposure to ISIS propaganda in the years and months leading up to the attack may have increased his lust for violence and sharpened their resolve, but his “immersion in the hardest end of Islamist violence”, had, according to Sloane, been “inculcated in him from birth”. It may have been very difficult to tell whether Britain’s decision to switch support to Haftar had inspired the bomber’s actions but the evidence seemed quite “compelling”. Abedi had flown out to Libya just five days after the Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, had made his personal backing of Haftar public in The Spectator magazine. Preparations may have begun in earnest shortly after the views of Kwarteng, Morris and Leslie had been aired in Parliament in October 2016, and general feelings of betrayal may even have predated this, but it’s certainly plausible that Johnson’s blundering and outspoken article had been all the evidence the network needed to give Salman the final go ahead on a much desired, if much resisted, plan.

It is certainly interesting to note that the same Ayman Asfari had already been accused of funding the Syrian revolutionaries, the White Helmets, a group regarded by some to have credible links to Al Qaeda and Isis, but praised by others like Boris Johnson and Hillary Clinton. In 2014 the Assad regime in Syria issued a warrant for the Tory donor’s arrest. The charges related to the funding of terrorism but Asfari maintains his innocence. His donations to the lobbying group The Syria Campaign were covered by a series of press stories in September 2016.

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[1] Law student among latest suspects held in terror swoops after Manchester bomber was invited to stay at his home, Daily Mail, May 29, 2017; The GNA is the Government of National Accord, a temporary administration set up in December 2015 whose senior ministers consist of former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. In March 2021 it was replaced by a Government of National Unity led by Mohamed al-Menfi in a bid to unify the Government of National Accord with the rival Government operating under its de facto leader, General Haftar in Tobruk. Until recently the Haftar regime has relied heavily on external support from the UAE, Russia and other international players.

[2] Hansard, UK Parliament, House of Commons: October 26 2016, Westminster Hall, Libya, Volume 616, responses to Third Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK’s future policy options, HC 119;

[3] ‘Manchester terror plot’ suspect pictured for first time, Duncan Gardham and Aislinn Simpson, Daily Telegraph, April 12 2009;

[4] ‘Manchester Arena Enquiry’, Day 11, September 28, 2020;, 93

[5] US Department of the Treasury, Press Releases, Treasury Designates UK-Based Individuals, Entities Financing Al Qaida-Affiliated LIFG, February 8 2006,

[6] ‘Tony Blair’s six secret visits to Col Gaddafi’, Jasper Cropping, Robert Mendick, the Daily Telegraph, September 24 2011

[7] ‘Manchester terror plot’ suspect pictured for first time, Duncan Gardham and Aislinn Simpson, Daily Telegraph, April 12 2009

[8] The Birmingham-based Libyan known as AV in the High Court hearing in April 2009 has an identical date birth (15.12.1959) to Abd Al-Rahman Al-Faqih. See:

[9] ‘Terror suspects linked to al-Qaeda on the run in Midlands’, Daily Telegraph, February 8 2009;

[10] ‘The Awakening: How Revolutionaries, Barack Obama, and Ordinary Muslims are Remaking the Middle East.’, Peter Bergen, Cornell International Affairs Review 5.2 (2012);

[11] ‘How Labour secretly put Libyan dissidents under house arrest at Gaddafi’s behest following Blair’s ‘deal in the desert’’, Ian Birrell, Abul Taher, Daily Mail, September 11, 2011

[12] BAILII, England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions, Secretary of State for the Home Department v AV [2009] EWHC 902, April 30 2009;

[13] ‘Sorted by MI5: How UK government sent British-Libyans to fight Gaddafi’, Amandla Thomas-Johnson , Simon Hooper, Middle Eastern Eye, November 7 2018;

[14] UK Parliament Hansard Commons Chamber Libya, Volume 532, 5 September 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron;

[15] ‘Revealed: The dramatic moment Abid Naseer’s Arndale Centre plot was brought down by machine gun police’, Yakub Qureshi, Manchester Evening News, March 6 2015

[16] ‘Large part of Manchester attack network detained, police say’, Robert Booth, Vikram Dodd, Haroon Siddique, Helen Pidd and Frances Perraudin, The Guardian, May 27 2017

[17], Abid Naseer Trial, Abbottabad Documents and Exhibits, United States v. Abid Naseer Criminal Docket No. 10-19 (S-4) (RJD);

[18] Ibid., p.8

[19] Manchester Arena Inquiry, November 22, 2021, Day 170;, opus transcripts, 131

[20] ‘Manchester, New York and Oslo’, Raffaelo Pantucci, CTC Sentinel, Vol. 3, Issue 8, August 2010, p.12;

[21] ‘Terror plot: How Bob Quick’s blunder forced MI5’s hand’, Gordon Rayner and Duncan Gardham, Daily Telegraph, April 9 2009

[22] ‘Former police chief defends decision to arrest Tory frontbencher Damian Green over leak’, James Meikle, The Guardian, April 28 2010

[23] Al-Qaeda in Libya: A Profile, A Report Prepared by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, August 2012;

[24] ‘Tony Blair’s six secret visits to Col Gaddafi’, Jasper Copping and Robert Mendick, Daily Telegraph, September 24 2011


[26] United States Mission to the United Nations, August 8 2011, Letter to the Ambassador, Howard Wachtel;

[27] ‘This is a moment of hope for Libya — We can’t afford to miss it’, Boris Johnson, The Spectator, May 13 2017;

[28] ‘Our betrayal of the Lockerbie victims returns to haunt us’, Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph, March 7, 2011;

[29] ‘Putin compares Intervention to crusades’, Gleb Bryanski, Reuters, March 21, 2011,

[30] ‘No Middle East-style scenario for Russia – Medvedev’ , RT, February 22, 2011;

[31] ‘The Global Expansion of Russia’s Energy Giants’, Nina Poussenkova, Journal of International Affairs, April 15, 2010;; Reuters;

[32] Johnson was among a handful of MPs and Chief Executives who didn’t back the No Fly Zone. Others included Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Dennis Skinner.

[33] Hansard, UK Parliament, House of Commons: October 26 2016, Westminster Hall, Libya, Volume 616, responses to Third Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK’s future policy options, HC 119;

[34] ‘Foreign Office to face inquiry into role played by UK in Libya’s collapse’, Matthew Weaver, Guardian, July 24 2015 ;

[35] Leo Doherty: ‘Now that Egypt is stable, let’s help it succeed’, Leo Docherty, Conservative Home,

[36] ‘Crispin Blunt: Britain has moral responsibility to train Libyan army’, Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, March 31 2016;

[37] ‘Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK’s future policy options Third Report of Session 2016–17’, British Foreign Office Committee, September 6 2016, p.3

[38] ‘Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK’s future policy options Third Report of Session 2016–17’, British Foreign Office Committee, September 6 2016, p.37

[39] David Morris would subsequently persuade his old friend and band-mate, Rick Astley to perform at the ‘We Are Manchester’ benefit concert to mark the reopening of the Manchester Arena in September 2017. See:

[40] Hansard, Westminster Hall, House of Commons debates, Libya, 26th October 2016;

[41] A hard man in charge could be the answer to Libya’s catastrophe, Kwasi Kwarteng, Evening Standard, January 10, 2017;

[42] Crescent Petroleum, Onshore Sharjah Concession, 28th August 2016,

[43] ‘Russia’s Rosneft strikes Libyan oil deal’, Financial Times, February 21 2017;;

[44] ‘Gas tycoon who funded Kwasi Kwarteng re-election sees share price soar amid energy crisis’; Pippa Crerar, Daily Mirror,

[45] ‘Inside Libya: Chaos in the Mediterranean’, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Leo Docherty, Conservative Middle East Council, March 2017;

[46] House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Libya: Examination of intervention an collapse and the UK’s future policy options, Third Report of Session 2016–17, September 6 2016;

[47] Inside Libya: Chaos in the Meditereanean, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Leo Docherty, Conservative Middle East Council, March 2017, p.3

[48] ‘Inside Libya: Chaos in the Mediterranean’, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Leo Docherty, Conservative Middle East Council, March 2017, pp.4-5; p.12;

[49], Leo Docherty, April 2 2017


[51], March 23 2017

[52] David Rowland had made a personal contribution of £100,000 to CMEC in October 2010, just weeks before Kwarteng, Leslie and Morris began to put a series of questions regarding Libya’s future to members of parliament.

[53] ‘Russia’s Rosneft strikes Libyan oil deal’, Financial Times, February 21 2017;

[54] Steele Dossier (leak), Fusion GPS, Company Intelligence Report, Chrsitopher Steele, December 13 2016;

[55] ‘US military considers ramping up Libya’, Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent, July 10, 2017;

[56] Official Sensitive,

[57] Pictures emerged of Ghariyani with the bomber’s father Ramadan Abedi on social media platforms in May and June 2017;

[58] Manchester Arena Inquiry: Arena bomber’s father part of militia, terrorist says,Daniel De Simone, BBC News, November 21 2021

[59] EU External Affairs Sub-Committee, March 30 2017;

[60] ‘1m African migrants may be en route to Europe’, says former UK envoy, Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, April 2 2017;

[61] House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Committee, Formal Minutes, Session 2015-16;

[62] ‘Former Tory minister asked Saif Gaddafi for £1m over Lockerbie bomber’s release’, Andy Bloxham, Daily Telegraph September 11 2011;

[63] ‘UK fraud office opens probe into KBR unit’, Jane Croft, Financial Times, April 28, 2017;

[64] ‘Benghazi Middleman Tied To Unaoil Bribery Scandal’, Source Told FBI, Jessica Schulberg, Nick Baumann, and Nick McKenzie, Huffington Post, October 11 2016

[65] ‘Tory donor questioned by SFO over corruption claims at Petrofac’, Holly Watt and David Pegg, The Guardian, May 12 2017

[66] ‘SFO confirms investigation into Petrofac Ltd’, Serious Fraud Squad Office, Case Updates, May 12, 2017

[67] ‘Petrofac suspends COO amid serious fraud probe’, Offshore Energy, May 25, 2017;

[68] ‘Stability In Libya To Start An Oil Race’, Cyril Widdershoven,, May 04, 2017

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