08TRIPOLI120, EXTREMISM IN EASTERN LIBYA

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TRIPOLI120 2008-02-15 12:50 2011-06-26 00:00 SECRET Embassy Tripoli
Appears in these articles:
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/05/01/113440/libyan-city-struggles-with-history.html
VZCZCXRO9451
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0120/01 0461250
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O P 151250Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3080
INFO RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0731
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0420
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0011
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 3559
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 TRIPOLI 000120 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG, S/CT 

E.O. 12958: DECL:  2/15/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL KISL PTER LY IZ
SUBJECT: EXTREMISM IN EASTERN LIBYA 

TRIPOLI 00000120  001.2 OF 004 

CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, Dept of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.(C) Summary: 

A U.S.-Libyan dual national who regularly visits family
members in eastern Libya recently described for us social, political
and economic factors that have contributed to and facilitated participation
by a disproportionately large number of eastern Libya's native sons in
"martyrdom acts" and other insurgency operations in Libya and Iraq. A
reportedly deliberate GOL policy to keep the east poor as a means by which
to limit the potential political threat to Qadhafi's regime has helped fuel
the perception among many young eastern Libyan men that they have nothing to
lose by participating in extremist violence at home and in Iraq. The prospect
of financial compensation for their impoverished families motivates some, but
local pride in eastern Libya's historical role as a locus of opposition to
occupying forces of various stripes is also an important factor. The fact that
eastern Libyan mosques are more numerous and remote, together with tight local
social networks, has reportedly circumscribed the ability of GOL security
organizations to monitor and control the activities of radical imams as
effectively as elsewhere in Libya. Unlike the rest of the country, sermons in
eastern Libyan mosques are laced with phraseology urging worshippers to 
support jihad in Iraq and elsewhere through direct participation or financial 
contributions.While senior regime figures, including Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, 
appear to have recognized that the east merits more attention and investment, 
the reported ability of radical imams to propagate messages urging support 
for and participation in jihad despite GOL security organizations' efforts 
suggests that claims by senior GOL officials that the east is under control 
may be overstated. 

End summary.

2.(S/NF) In a meeting February 5, U.S.-Libyan dual national XXXXXXXXXXXX
(strictly protect) told P/E Chief that eastern Libya remains a locus of 
extremist activity over which GOL security services have comparatively 
limited control.

GOL KEEPS EAST POOR TO KEEP IT POLITICALLY DISENFRANCHISED ...

3.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX said eastern Libya suffers from a disproportionately 
high level of unemployment, particularly for young men between the ages of 18 
and 34. "At least half" of the young men in that demographic are unemployed 
or only intermittently employed. The situation reflects in part the Qadhafi 
regime's belief that if it keeps the east poor enough, it will be unable to 
mount any serious political opposition to the regime. Explaining the 
rationale, he cited a Libyan proverb: "If you treat them like dogs, they will 
follow you like dogs".

... BUT RECENT VIOLENCE SUGGESTS GOL'S APPROACH FLAWED

4.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX said recent events in Benghazi and Derna suggest that 
the GOL's premise is flawed. Family members with whom he is in regular contact 
told him during his visit that there were violent clashes between local 
extremists and GOL elements late last year. In one incident, extremists opened 
fire in proximity to a Benghazi hospital in connection with their attempts to 
secure medical assistance for a sick or injured comrade. In another, there was 
an explosion or an exchange of gunfire (accounts differed) at a traffic circle 
in a Benghazi exurb in connection with an attempt by a police officer to stop 
a vehicle being used by extremists. 

(Note: Both incidents were reported late last year in other channels. This is 
the first mention we've heard of these events from other sources. End note.)

XXXXXXXXXXXX also offered non-specific accounts of raids by extremists, 
whom they understood to be affiliated with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, 
on police and military installations to secure weapons.

"NOTHING TO LOSE"

5.(S/NF) Citing conversations with relatives, XXXXXXXXXXXX said the 
unemployed, disenfranchised young men of eastern Libya "have nothing to lose" 
and are therefore "willing to sacrifice themselves" for something greater than 
themselves by engaging in TRIPOLI 00000120 002.2 OF 004 extremism in the name 
of religion. "Their lives mean nothing and they know it, so they seek to give 
meaning to their existence through their deaths", he said. The lack of jobs 
and dim prospects for future employment, together with increased costs of 
living, mean that many young men lack the means to marry, leaving them without 
a key measure of social status and stability in what remains a traditional 
society. As in parts of neighboring Egypt, the average age at which men marry 
has increased in many parts of eastern Libya. Many now marry in their early 
to mid-30's, which would have been considered "middle age" in the not too 
distant past.

COMPENSATION FOR MARTYRS' FAMILIES AN INCENTIVE FOR SOME

6.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX flatly stated that some young men, particularly those 
from more impoverished clans, are motivated by the promise of long-term 
financial compensation for their families should they complete "martyrdom 
acts" in Iraq or elsewhere. Noting that incomes in the east are low, he 
offered that extremist networks are able to incentivize young men to kill 
themselves by offering comparatively small payments of 150-200 Libyan 
dinar/month (approximately 120-160 USD/month) to families of "martyrs".
(Note: As a point of reference, most government salaries range from 
250 to 330 Libyan dinar per month. End note.)

"PERVERSE PRIDE" AS GEOGRAPHICAL LOCUS OF RESISTANCE A DRAW FOR OTHERS

7.(S/NF) The fact that the east has been comparatively disenfranchised, 
together with its historical role as a locus of opposition to the Ottoman 
and Italian occupations, contribute to a "perverse sense of pride" among 
eastern Libyans in their role as a main supplier of young men for jihad 
efforts in Iraq and elsewhere, XXXXXXXXXXXX said.

He recounted a large dinner in Derna hosted by a family friend that he 
attended in summer 2007. Conversation among the mostly middle-aged male 
group of guests focused on news that two young men from Derna had recently 
killed themselves in suicide operations in Iraq. Dinner guests offered a 
mix of "condolences and congratulations" to the two young men's relatives.

8.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX said he was struck by the level sentiment against 
Coalition forces in Iraq, and by the obvious pride the dinner guests took 
in the fact that two of their native sons had "struck a blow" against 
"occupying Crusader forces in Iraq". He emphasized that the dinner was 
one of the relatively few occasions in Libya in which he felt uncomfortable 
by dint of having U.S. citizenship. In XXXXXXXXXXXX view, eastern Libyans 
are not necessarily anti-American, but are strongly opposed to a U.S. 
military presence in Iraq or any other Muslim country. In the 1980's, the 
talk had been directed against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan; now, 
it was focused on the U.S. presence in Iraq.

9.(S/NF) Noting that the leader of Libya's resistance against the Italian 
occupation in the early 20th century, national hero Omar Mukhtar, was from 
the eastern village of Janzour, XXXXXXXXXXXX cautioned that it would be a 
mistake to think that young men from Derna were motivated to undertake 
suicide operations in Iraq solely by unemployment and the chance to secure 
a stipend for their families The region had a long, proud history of 
opposing occupation forces of one stripe or another; its residents took 
pride in their willingness to "fight for justice and their faith" despite 
their relative poverty.

IRAQ SEEN AS A "LOCAL" ISSUE FOR YOUNG EASTERN LIBYANS

10.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that for many young eastern men, jihad in 
Iraq was perceived to be a local issue. Among the factors fueling that 
perception, he pointed to the proselytizing influence of Libyan fighters 
who had fought in Afghanistan and now recruited young eastern Libyans 
for operations in Iraq, the influence of Arabic-language satellite 
television broadcasts, use of the Internet to exchange information and 
coordinate logistics, and the comparative ease of travel to/from Iraq.
During his last visit to the east, relatives and friends cited media 
reports to the effect that Libyans, most of them from Derna and points 
east, comprised the second largest cohort of foreign fighters identified 
in documents seized during last September's Objective Massey operation on 
the Syria-Iraq border. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that a majority of those in Derna 
who raised the issue appeared to take pride in the fact that their small 
city had contributed disproportionately to the jihad against coalition 
forces in Iraq. 

TRIPOLI 00000120 003.2 OF 004

"CODED" MOSQUE SERMONS MORE RADICAL IN EAST

11.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX partly attributed the fierce mindset in Benghazi 
and Derna to the message preached by imams in eastern Libyan mosques, 
which he said is markedly more radical than that heard in other parts of 
the country. XXXXXXXXXXXX makes a point of frequenting mosques whenever 
he visits Libya as a means to connect with neighbors and relatives and 
take the political pulse. Sermons in eastern mosques, particularly the 
Friday 'khutba', are laced with "coded phrases" urging worshippers to 
support jihad in Iraq and elsewhere through direct participation or
financial contributions. The language is often ambiguous enough to be 
plausibly denied, he said, but for devout Muslims it is clear, incendiary 
and unambiguously supportive of jihad. Direct and indirect references to 
"martyrdom operations" were not uncommon. By contrast with mosques in 
Tripoli and elsewhere in the country, where references to jihad are 
extremely rare, in Benghazi and Derna they are fairly frequent subjects.

ARCHITECTURE, GEOGRAPHY COMPLICATE GOL CONTROL OF EASTERN MOSQUES

12.(S/NF) Part of the difficulty for GOL authorities in controlling eastern 
mosques is that the most zealous imams tend to preach in small suburban and 
rural mosques. He mentioned the almost festive atmosphere of one trip, when 
relatives gathered to travel to a remote rural mosque to hear a 
"controversial" imam's sermon. Unlike Tripoli, mosques in the east tend to 
be smaller and more numerous, making it harder to monitor all of them. 
Architecture and local heritage also play a role: many mosques in the east
don't physically resemble traditional mosques elsewhere in the country, 
reflecting in part the pseudo-secret tradition of the Sanussi lodges that 
evolved in eastern Libya in the mid-19th century. The fact that many eastern 
mosques are less readily identifiable make it harder for GOL security 
organizations to identify them and easier to hold unobserved meetings and 
sermons, XXXXXXXXXXXX said. He claimed that it is "widely known" in the 
east that mosques in town centers are more closely monitored by GOL 
security organizations; however, it has been more difficult for security 
organizations to monitor smaller, more remote mosques in exurbs and towns 
around Benghazi and Derna.

AS DO TIGHT FAMILY, SOCIAL CIRCLES

13.(S/NF) Citing conversations with relatives, XXXXXXXXXXXX said it is 
"common knowledge" that GOL security organizations attempt to monitor 
mosque sermons and activities, particularly Friday 'khutba' sermons. 

(Note: In Tripoli and other parts of the country, an officially-sanctioned 
Friday 'khutba' theme and talking point-equivalents are distributed to 
mosques, often by facsimile. End note.)

In addition to the proliferation of smaller, less visible mosques, the 
ability of security organizations to effectively monitor eastern Libyan 
mosques is circumscribed by the comparatively tight social and familial 
structure. Communities in the east tend to be smaller and more tightly 
knit; outsiders are easier to spot and families "watch out" for members 
who may have been turned by GOL security organizations to report on the 
activities of their relatives and neighbors.

14.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX related the story of a young man from Derna who 
was recently suspected of reporting to GOL security organizations on who 
attended his local mosque and what was said there. The alleged informant 
was ostracized by his fellow worshippers, townsmen and even family members. 
After losing his job, reportedly in part because of his "treachery", he 
fled to Egypt and has not been heard from since.

15.(S/NF) Comment: XXXXXXXXXXXX account affords a relatively rare insider's 
look at the social, political and economic factors in eastern Libya that 
have contributed to and facilitated participation by a disproportionately 
large number of its native sons in "martyrdom acts" and other insurgency 
operations in Iraq. Conventional wisdom holds that the east is poorer and 
more disenfranchised in part by deliberate design; however, senior GOL 
officials have recently made a point of spending more time and investing 
more effort there. Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, the regime's most public face
of political and economic reform, chose to hold the first and second 
meetings of his annual Youth Forum in Benghazi in 2006 and 2007, and gave 
important addresses to large crowds there. In the run-up to both events, 
he spent considerable time in and around Benghazi, promoting economic and 
social development projects under the auspices of the ostensibly 
non-governmental Qadhafi Development Foundation, which he heads. Among 
them was a billion dollar-plus "green" project for development of an 
environmentally-friendly tourism/business zone 

TRIPOLI 00000120 004.2 OF 004 

adjacent to the Graeco-Roman ruins at Cyrene, near Benghazi. Work 
on an extensive renovation of Benghazi's port, designed to help rejuvenate 
shipping volume and create local jobs, also continues. The most troubling 
and difficult aspect of XXXXXXXXXXXX's account is the pride that many
eastern Libyans, particularly those in and around Derna, appear to take 
in the role their native sons have played in the insurgency in Iraq. 
The reported ability of radical imams to propagate messages urging 
support for and participation in jihad despite GOL security organizations' 
efforts suggests that claims by senior GOL officials that the east is under 
control may be overstated. 

End comment.

STEVENS

Downloaded from http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/02/08TRIPOLI120.html 
11 July 2011
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