Did LIFG Emir Abdelhakim Belhadj Have Prior Knowledge of the In Amenas Attack in Algeria?
February 21, 2013 • 10:43AM

Arabic media sources and news websites, such as Al-Arabiya TV, are quoting an "Algerian security source" that his government has definite information that the former leader of the Libyan Al-Qaeda-affiliated group Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), Abdelhakim Belhadj, had prior knowledge of the attack on the gas production facilities in Algeria's In Amenas in January this year, a hostage-taking operation which ended in the killing of many Algerian and foreigner workers. The attack was conducted by a split group of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). Belhadj, until recently, was the head of the Obama-British-allied Revolutionary Security Council of Tripoli, which took over all security functions in the Libyan capital, including security of foreign embassies, following the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011.

The "Algerian security source" is also cited as saying that Belhadj had attempted to enter Algeria last December, in order to negotiate with the Algerian government, his readiness to cooperate with the Algerians to help secure the border and prevent smuggling of weapons into Algeria from Libya, but that the Algerian government refused to let him into the country, due to suspicions about his relationship to terrorist groups.

The reason Belhadj wanted to cooperate with the Algerian government on the smuggling issue, is that he wanted them to support him in his power struggle internally to increase his influence in Tripoli.

In the meantime, the Algerian government has requested explanations from the new Libyan government about the involvement of Libyan "revolutionary" leaders loyal to Al-Qaeda in supporting the attack in In Amenas. According to this source, the Algerian government has acquired evidence after investigating the operation that points to the fact that some of the arms, communication devices, and the four-wheel-drive vehicles used by the terrorists came from Libya.

Adding more impact to these revelations, the Algerian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ammar Ballani, declared on Monday that Abdulhakim Belhadj is persona non grata in Algeria. He also denied media reports that the Algerian government had at any time invited Belhadj to visit Algeria. This short statement was published by the Egyptian daily Al-Shurouk.

Today, the Tripoli Post reports that Belhadj denies having had any prior knowledge of the Al Qaeda attack on the Algerian gas complex at In Amenas in January. Belhadj also denied that he visited Algeria in December 2012.