Minister of State for the Middle East at the UK Foreign Office Alistair Burt has admitted that London may have contacted members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and February 17th Martyrs Brigade during the conflict in Libya. This stunning revelation was posted online in a written response to a parliamentary question.
"During the Libyan conflict in 2011 the British Government was in communication with a wide range of Libyans involved in the conflict against the Gaddafi regime forces. It is likely that this included former members of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and 17 February Martyrs Brigade, as part of our broad engagement during this time," Alistair Burt said.
According to the Middle East Eye (MEE) media outlet, the author of the original request, member of the parliament Lloyd Russell-Moyle, said the response arouses "serious questions," whether the British government facilitated the departure to Libya of Salman Abedi, who committed a suicide bombing attack in the Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017. Another member of the parliament Fabian Hamilton said the case indicates the UK should pay more attention to who it supports in Libya and beyond.
MEE cites one of the former Libyan fighters, who said that he and his "old-school LIFG guys" were able to travel to Libya with "no questions asked." LIFG has been listed as a terrorist organization in the UK since 2005 for its ties with al-Qaeda*, but in 2011 then-British prime minister David Cameron addressed the parliament demanding the removal of the group from the list, claiming it had cut ties with the terrorist organization.
What is curious is that according to MEE, after LIFG fled from Libya to the UK in 1990s, British security services initiated a major crackdown on the group in 2004, before it was added to the terrorist group list, during the period of "warm" relations between the British and Libyan governments. The media platform points out that according to documents from the Libyan intelligence agency, the group's two major leaders were sent out to Tripoli, where they were allegedly tortured.
Salman Abedi, former member of the LIFG, committed a suicide attack in the foyer of the Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017, claiming the lives of 22 people and hurting several hundred others. It was the deadliest terror attack in the UK since the London bombings in 2005.
Abedi traveled to Syria to fight along with his father and the LIFG, who later joined the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, against then-Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Rebel forces were backed by NATO countries, including the UK, who had been conducting airstrikes, one of them hitting Gaddafi's convoy and leading to the militants killing him.
*al-Qaeda is terrorist organization banned in Russia