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In March 2014 Al-Jazeera broadcast the final episode in a three-year investigation of the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people. For years this was considered to be Gaddafi’s greatest crime but the documentary proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of carrying out the bombing, was innocent. Al-Jazeera concluded that Iran, acting through the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, ordered the blowing up of Pan Am 103 in revenge for the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane by the US navy carrier in 1988.

Some 30 insurgent and terrorist groups worldwide received Libyan training, weapons, money and other forms of support. Since Qadhafi's rise to power, Libya chronically employed terrorism and revolutionary groups as primary instruments for fulfilling its international ambitions. The main targets of terrorist activity were Libyan dissidents living abroad and prominent political figures of moderate Arab and African countries. Qadhafi 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 Zaïre 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 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.

Starting in late 1980, Qadhafi aided the Somali National Salvation Front, an insurgent group operating out of Ethiopia. He 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 wes accused of providing arms and training to Tuareg tribesmen at a camp at Sabha. His goal was to stir up the Tuareg into demanding a union carved out of existing Sahelian states, a union that would be under Libyan influence. Libya 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 -- were 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 were made available to insurgents in Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as to the M-19 terrorist group in Colombia. In South Asia, Libya was 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 addition to using oil as leverage in his foreign policy, Qadhafi's principal tactics weredestabilization of weaker governments and terrorism. Libya continued to harbor and finance groups all over the world that shared Qadhafi's revolutionary and anti-Western views, including the Japanese Red Army and such radical Muslim groups as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Abu Nidal's Fatah Revolutionary Council. Its support for terrorist activity against US citizens and interests resulted in US air strikes against Libya in April 1986; the precipitating event for this US action was the bombing of a Berlin discotheque which killed an American serviceman and for which evidence of Libyan complicity had been discovered.

In October 1987, a Libyan arms shipment was intercepted on its way to the Irish Republican Army. In 1988, operatives of the Abu Nidal Organization, which was headquartered in Libya, launched a grenade attack on a Khartoum hotel and sprayed a Greek passenger ferry with machine-gun fire. Later that year, two Libyan intelligence agents were said to have planted an explosive device in Malta on the flight connecting with Pan Am flight 103 in Germany which later exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground. In September 1989, Libya masterminded the bombing of UTA flight 772 over Niger, killing all 171 persons aboard.

Libyan terrorism also targeted anti-Qadhafi dissidents overseas. Qadhafi's public calls for the deaths of Libyan opponents abroad during the latter half of 1993 raised strong suspicions of his regime's involvement in the disappearance of prominent Libyan dissident Mansour Kikhya from Cairo in December 1993.

While supporting terrorist groups, Qadhafi also attempted to undermine other Arab and African states by supporting coups, funding and training opposition political parties and guerrilla groups, and plotting assassinations of rival leaders. He also has sought involvement in Asia and Latin America through support for various subversive groups. Use of such methods strained Libyan relations with many nations.

Qadhafi's foreign interventions included a bid to prop up former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 1979; incursions and intermittent war with Chad throughout the 1980s; continued claims on territory in Chad, Niger, and Algeria; and alleged support of Islamic fundamentalist groups in Sudan, Algeria, and Egypt. Libya withdrew its forces from the disputed Aouzou Strip in mid-1994, after the International Court of Justice ruled Libya's presence an illegal occupation of Chadian territory.

In the Middle East, Qadhafi was 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) 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 was 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.

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Page last modified: 16-03-2014 15:45:39 ZULU