Saturday, June 12, 2004

Qadhafi and plot to kill Abdullah

IT is unlikely that Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi will
face any international punishment for his alleged plot
to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. If Qadhafi
were to be punished, then it would prove too
embarassing for the Bush administration, which had
touted his pledge in December to renounce terrorism
and abandon weapons of mass destruction as a major
victory of the US-led war against terrorism.
The US cannot cannot afford to see Qadhafi as having
committed a unredeemable sin by allegedly plotting to
kill Crown Prince Abdullah. It In the short run, there
would be a lot of talk about punishing Qadhafi but
these would fade away, with Iraq, Palestine and
American elections as well as Washington's push for
Arab reforms taking centrestage.
The key here is that the US had known since September
of the alleged Libyan plot to kill Prince Abdullah and
kept back the information from the Saudis. No doubt
the top officials of the Bush administration had known
about it throughout. Therefore last week's pledge by
President George Bush that he was concerned and the
affair would be thoroughly investigated sounds hollow
since it is based on the asusmption that he came to
know about it only now; whereas it is illogical that
he was not immediately informed by US intelligence
agencies of a plot against the de factor ruler of a
country as important as Saudi Arabia when it was
According to reports in the American and Saudi media,
the alleged plot to kill Abdullah involved Qadhafi and
his top intelligence agents as well as Abdul Rahman
Alamoudi, an American Muslim leader jailed in
Alexandria, Virginia, on federal charges of having
illegal financial dealings with Libya; and by
Mohammeed Ismael, a Libyan intelligence officer in
Saudi custody.
Alamoudi was detained by British authorities last
August as he boarded a flight from London to Syria
with $340,000 in cash. They suspected he was carrying
the money for the Palestinian group Hamas. He denied
it and said a Libyan had simply gave him the money at
his hotel room with no explanation. Then he said the
money came from the Libya-based World Islamic Call
Society. Then he said the money came from Libyan
He was sent to the US where he faced charges of
violating the US sanctions agains Libya - travelling
to Libya and receiving money from Libyans.
Then, in a bid to escape from the charges, he made a
deal with the US authorities and revealed the plot
against Abdullah.
Alamoudi is the founder of several Islamic groups
including the American Muslim Council, and is an
occasional White House visitor during the Clinton and
current Bush administrations.
He said he was summoned to Libya by top intelligence
officer Abdullah Sannousi, who introduced him to
Mohamed Ismael, another intelligence agent, in a
meeting attended by Sannousi's deputy Mousa Koussa.
Alamoudi and Ismael worked together since then.
Almoudi received at least $3 million from Libya and
met Saudi dissidents in London to hire them for the
He said he had met Qadhafi twice since then and both
times the Libyan leader told him to speed up the plot
to kill Abdullah.
The plot began in May 2003, shortly after Qadhafi and
Abdullah had a fierce verbal clash at an Arab
emergency meeting in Egypt. Qadhafi accused Saudi
Arabia of agreeing to give military facilities to the
US for invading Iraq and Abdullah retorted that
Qadhafi himself was helped by the US to assume power
in Libya in a coup.
Prince Abdullah shouted at Qadhafi: "Your lies
precede you and your grave is in front of you."
Alamoudi's version was corroborated by Ismael, who was
arrested in October last year. According to Saudi
newspaper reports, he was arrested after police were
alerted by an employee of a money exchange company who
grew suspicious about a $1 million transfer that had
come in Ismael's name.
Ismael tried to explain that the money was to be spent
for expenses related to the Umra pilgrimage of several
"leading" women from Libya.
The money exchange employee alerted Saudi police and
Ismael was kept under observation. But he was not
arrested in Saudi Arabia. He was apparenlty allowed to
leave the country and was detained in Egypt and sent
back to Saudi Arabia.
Four Saudi dissidents was arrested from a hotel
outside Mecca whether they had gone to collect money
for their role in the plot.
Saudi police questioned Alamoudi and the four, and the
plot was unveiled.
By then, American authorities had also known the
details of the plot from Alamoudi and the two versions
In the meantime, American-Libyan relations grew
stronger. Qadhafi had offered in secret talks with the
US and UK to renounce terrorism and abandon his
secret weapons projects in mid=2003 and in December
he made the public pledge to drop his weapons plans
and renounced terrorism.
The US is indeed concerned that Qadhafi should be
keeping his pledge, but the explanation, if any is
available, is that the plot against Abdullah came
before his pledge and therefore he is a changed man
The American approach to the affair is rather low key.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher
acknowledged that Washington had known of reports
"that Libya was in contact with Saudi dissidents who
have threatened violence against the Saudi royal
family" before Qadhafi's pledge on Dec.19 abandoning
his weapons programmes and renouncing terrorism.
"We raised those concerns directly with the Libyan
leadership, and they assured us that they would not
support the use of violence for settling political
differences with any state," said Boucher. The
allegations were one reason the US had not removed
Libya from the State Department's list of nations that
support terrorism.
President Bush said last week: "We're going to make
sure we fully understand the veracity of the plot
line. . . . When we find out the facts, we will deal
with them accordingly. . . . I have sent a message to
(Qadhafi) that if he honours his commitments to resist
terror and to fully disclose and disarm his weapons
programmes, we will begin a process of normalisation,
which we have done."
Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Rahman Shalqam has
denied the allegations "completely and categorically."

In the meantime, investigations are continuing, with
Americans and Saudi officials seekign to to interview
at least two of Alamoudi's US associates, who
apparently are overseas.
The US and Saudi Arabia are also pressing British
officials to intensify their investigation of Saad
Faqih, a Saudi dissident in London suspected of having
played a role in the Libyan plot. Faqih has denied
any connection to the plot. Faqih acknowledged having
known Alamoudi for years but denied being funded by
him or by Ismael.
Saudi dissidents in London are suspected of having
given Alamoudi and Ismael clues to locate men in
Saudi Arabia willing to join an assassination plot
that involved the use of small arms or
rocket-propelled grenades.
In technical terms, if the charge against Libya is
proved true, then it could lead to reinstatement of
international sanctions on Libya that were lifted by
the United Nations Security Council last September
after Tripoli government renounced terrorism, admitted
responsibility for the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing and
agreed to pay $10 million compensation to the
However, to acknowledge that he had gone wrong in
dealing with Qadhafi would be embarassing for Bush,
who had highlighted Qadhafi's pledge against
developing weapons and supporting terorrism as a one
of the most tangible results of the US-led war against
terrorism. Washington would only seek to absolve
Qadhafi of any wrongdoing.