Libyans held: Has MI5 arrested former MI6 assets?
now America's ally? Gaddafi, a man to do business with.
TEN Libyans have been detained in an "anti-terrorism" operation in Britain which involved some 500 police officers and was under MI5 direction. Eye-witnesses told of men in black smashing doors down in the early hours of the morning. The ten are supposedly being held over claims they channeled funds to insurgents in Iraq.
But the organisation with which they are being linked was allegedly involved in backing anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya which Britain's Secret Intelligence Service MI6 had supported.
Police raids led by Greater Manchester Police took place in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bolton, Liverpool and Middlesborough. Among the 19 addresses across England which were raided were the offices of an Islamic charity called Sanabel. Three people were last night being held under the Terrorism Act, and five people were arrested under immigration powers and face deportation because they allegedly threaten national security. Two people were arrested and then released without charge.
In February the US Treasury department froze Sanabel's assets, alleging that it had raised money for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which it accused of connections with al-Qaida. One of those arrested yesterday under immigration powers was Tahir Nasuf, 44, who is listed by the Charity Commission as a trustee of Sanabel.
Sanabel offices in Birmingham and Manchester and its personnel were reportedly under surveillance for some time before yesterday's raid. Last night computers and financial documentation were being examined by officers for possible links to terrorism - links the charity says do not exist.
In February, after the US published allegations against the charity, Mr Nasuf said: "It is wrong what they said. I am just a volunteer worker. There is no relationship, nothing at all. I have done nothing. Sanabel is nothing to do with the other group. I am angry."
Yesterday, outside Mr Nasuf's Manchester home, his sister-in-law said the raid had terrorised the family. "My sister told me that before fajr [early morning prayer] policemen came to the house dressed in black. She was very scared, she has four children, and didn't know what was going on.
"There was lots of shouting. They took her husband away, she doesn't know why. He's been arrested before and he had done nothing wrong then."
Charity Commission records show that in the financial year ending in 2004 Sanabel spent around £44,000 on work it described as providing clean water and education to children in the developing world. (The Guardian)
The security services are evidently feeding the press with the line that the raids have to do with Iraqi insurgency. 'A counter-terrorism source said that investigations into fund raising are finding that time after time money is going to Iraq, which the source described as a "hotspot for us". The source said: "People involved in jihad need to have money to live and travel. Money is also needed for bombs and other jihad activity."
Michael Todd, chief constable of Greater Manchester police, said the raids were not connected to any threat to the UK. "We are talking about the facilitation of terrorism overseas. That could include funding, and providing support and encouragement to terrorists.
A leading British Libyan dissident has claimed Britain was being duped by the Libyan regime into arresting its opponents. Ali Zew, from the the National Conference of the Libyan Opposition, said: "The regime can feed false information to Britain, and the regime has done so in the past. Libyan dissidents in the UK have no connection to terrorism, they are just against the regime."
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group(LIFG) which US authorities have accused Sanabel of assisting is the same group that former MI5 agent David Shayler claimed was paid by the British intelligence services to make an attempt on the life of Libyan leader Colonel Muamar Gaddafi.
Formed by Libyans who had returned from the Western-backed war in Afghanistan, LIFG aimed to set up an Islamic state in Libya. After its first few operations it launched a bomb attempt on Gaddafi on February 17, 1996 that left the Libyan leader unhurt but killed several of his guards, and watching civilians. This was financed by British intelligence to the tune of $160,000, according to ex-M15 officer David Shayler.
Shayler, who was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act, said an MI6 officer codenamed "Tunworth" handed £100,000 to an Arab agent to mastermind the assassination. Tunworth's MI6 handler--PT16B--met Shayler while he was in MI5 section G9, responsible for monitoring Libyan activities. Shayler's girlfriend and former MI5 colleague Annie Machon, says he "headed up" the section for two years from August 7, 1994. PT16B told Shayler that a bomb exploded under the wrong car, Gaddafi was unhurt and several civilians were killed or injured. He said that authorisation for the operation, "went all the way to the top."
The late Foreign Secretary Robin Cook tried to dismiss Shayler's allegation as "fantasy", but Annie Machon handed Special Branch a sheaf of documents relating to the Libyan operation.
Since then Gaddafi has handed over a Libyan -some say a scapegoat - for the Lockerbie plane outrage, and patched up relations with the United States and Britain. US oil companies are sending their men out to Libya, and British trade with Libya, no longer "under the counter", is increasing. If former demon Gaddafi has joined the "good guys" of anti-terrorism, dissident Libyans, including the kind of people MI6 once backed, must be seen as a nuisance by the state that was once prepared to support some of them.
David Shayler's account:
In summer 1995, I was head of MI5’s Libyan sub-section. One afternoon, David Watson, codename: PT16/B, my counterpart in MI6, asked to meet to discuss an unusual case which he could not mention over the phone. At the subsequent meeting in MI5’s Thames House HQ, PT16/B told David that:
A senior member of the Libyan military intelligence service had walked into the British embassy in Tunis and asked to meet the resident MI6 officer.
The Libyan ‘walk-in’ had asked for funds to lead a group of Islamic extremists in an attempted coup, which would involve the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi, the head of the Libyan state.
In exchange for MI6’s support, the Libyan – later codenamed Tunworth by MI6 -- offered to hand over the two Lockerbie suspects after the coup. Getting them to the UK for trial had at the time been one of MI6’s objectives for about three years but there is no guarantee that the coup plotters could have done this.
In December 1995, James Worthing3, R/ME/C at MI6, circulated CX95/ 534524 report to Whitehall and other addressees, warning of a potential coup in Libya, confirming that the MI6 agent was involved in, rather than simply reporting on the plot:
“In late November 1995 [Tunworth’s identity removed]5 described plans, in which he was involved, to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi. […]”:
“The coup is scheduled to start at around the time of the next General People’s Congress on February 14, 1996. Coup will start with unrest in Tripoli, Misratah and Benghazi.” […]
“Plotters would have cars similar to those in Gaddafi’s security entourage with fake security number plates. They would infiltrate themselves into the entourage in order to kill or arrest Gaddafi…
“One group of military personnel were being trained in the desert area near Kufra for the role of attacking Gaddafi and his entourage. The aim was to attack Gaddafi after the GPC [General People’s Congress], but before he had returned to Sirte. One officer and 20 men were being trained for this attack.”6
Around the same time, Christmas 1995, Watson told me that he had met Tunworth, in Geneva and paid him $40,000. Jackie Barker, an MI5 transcriber on secondment to the Libyan sub-section, confided to me that Watson had told her the same information. Watson then met Tunworth on two further occasions early in 1996 in Geneva mentioning to me that he had paid ‘similar sums’ to Tunworth on each occasion. Although PT16/B never specifically mentioned it, it was tacitly understood that Watson was working with the approval of his direct line manager, PT16, Richard Bartlett.
At some point — I can’t be sure when exactly — Watson mentioned that the submission7 was going to go “all the way to the top”. In about January 1996, Watson told me that the submission had been successful, indicating that the Foreign Secretary himself had signed the document permitting the operation.8 But I knew we only had Watson’s word for this. Despite my efforts with MI5 management, no one there had the courage to ask ministers whether MI6 had in fact been given legal immunity for these crimes abroad. After I blew the whistle the Foreign Secretary of the day, Malcom Rifkind, denied giving permission for the operation.
Around February/March 1996, at least two intelligence reports quoting independent sources — the Egyptian and Moroccan intelligence services -- confirmed that an attack had been made on Colonel Gaddafi in Sirte, Libya. Two of the reports indicated that the attackers had tried to assassinate Gaddafi when he was part of a motorcade but had failed as they had targeted the wrong car. As a result of the explosion and the ensuing chaos in which shots were fired, civilians and security police were maimed and killed.
At a meeting shortly after, Watson ventured to me in a note of triumph that Tunworth had been responsible for the attack. “Yes that was our man. We did it” was how he put it. He regarded it, curiously, as a triumph even though the objective of the operation – the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi had not been met -- and there had been civilian casualties