July 2018 saw publication in the corporate press of information that Salman Abedi, the British born terrorist who killed 22 people in a suicide bombing in May 2017 in the Manchester arena, had been rescued from Libya three years earlier by the Royal Navy. This had taken place during an operation by which the HMS Enterprise swung by Tripoli to evacuate British citizens, during an intense period of fighting around the capital between the Tobruk government forces and the rival ‘National Salvation government’ based in Tripoli, a deteriorating situation which spurred the British embassy to halt its activities and call for the evacuation of British nationals in the country (see ‘Navy rescued Manchester bomber Salman Abedi from war-torn Libya three years before deadly attack’, The Telegraph, 31 July 2018).
Revealed for all to ponder in a number of articles were the uncomfortable facts about the Abedi family and their involvement with an organisation called ‘The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’ (LIFG) – A Sunni opposition group officially established in 1995 with the aim of overthrowing the progressive Libyan Jamahiriya of Muammar Gaddafi and reinstating the Sanusi monarchy.
This group originated during the 1980s as an underground organisation, according to Stanford University, and some members had fled to Afghanistan after the group was uncovered by the Gaddafi government in 1989, where they struck up an alliance of sorts with Al Qaeda jihadis.
In a pattern that will seem all too familiar to anyone with a cursory knowledge of MI6 operations to destabilise socialist or progressive governments around the world, these reactionaries were given succour by the British state, to be utilised as both potential bargaining chips in negotiations with imperialism’s enemies while at the same time being cultivated as potential proxy forces in the event of a situation arising whereby their regime change aspirations would fall in line with the aims and tactics of imperialism.
While the numerous articles published on 30 July make only passing mention of British state involvement in a 1996 plot to assassinate Gaddafi using the LIFG, they do contain damning information about the role played by former members the group (which was formally disbanded in 2010) in the Nato-backed Islamist uprising that overthrew the Libyan Jamahiriya and saw to the subsequent destruction of the country over the following months and years.
The Daily Mail for instance, explained the background to the Manchester bomber’s upbringing thus:
“Mr Abedi Snr was rejoicing in the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi. He had been an active opponent of the Libyan tyrant in the early 1990s, and when he was forced to flee the regime, he was given political refuge in Manchester where his second son Salman was born on New Year’s Eve 1994.
“…Friends said Salman Abedi grew up a typical teenager, supporting Manchester United and enjoying parties, drinking and smoking cannabis. He was teased with the nickname Dumbo at school for his big ears.
“But when the revolution against Gaddafi erupted, his father seized the chance to take him back to his homeland to join the battle against the despot.
“…Mr Abedi (Snr) had long been a prominent member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a militant organisation founded to pursue the violent overthrow of Gaddafi’s dictatorship and establish an Islamist state” (Larissa Brown, ‘Manchester bomber rescued by Royal Navy from Libyan warzone evacuated back to Britain’, 30 July 2018).
Of course, we must remember that the corporate press, both liberal and right wing, were fully on board in cheerleading for the overthrow of Gaddafi and in drumming up public support for the Nato bombardment of the country under the guise of protecting civilian protestors from government forces, and that it is only owing to the collusion between LIFG members and the intelligence services having resulted in such a horrendous catastrophe as the Manchester arena bombing that the subject has needed to be revisited in the media.
While the official sources claim to have established that the young Salman Abedi was not radicalised until after his rescue from Tripoli by the HMS Enterprise in 2014 (presumably in an attempt to absolve the security services of any blame in turning a blind eye to Islamic jihadis flitting back and forth between Britain and Libya during and after the events of 2011), it is hard to see how anyone could fail to consider the blindingly obvious; that a family living in a Manchester community made up of Libyans in exile, with long-held aspirations to overthrow that country’s progressive government by violence in favour of a return to a theocratic monarchy, who had been members of a proscribed terrorist group with links to Al Qaeda and other jihadist organisations, could fail to do anything other than inculcate in their offspring a belief in the righteousness of extreme reactionary views.
Although it is predictable that the right-wing sections of the British press will attempt to use the opportunity to bolster the notion that every Muslim in Britain is a potential terrorist, it is important to note the significance of such a revelation as this, coming as it does through the organs of the bourgeois media.
The case of Salman Abedi, a British-born man of Libyan parents, cannot be conflated with the notion of Islamic extremists being shepherded into the country as refugees, a trope so beloved of the right wing tabloids and bourgeois nationalists. Rather, it is a stark indicator of how the interests of the ruling class – of British imperialism – are at odds with the interests of workers both here in Britain and abroad, specifically in this case countries where western support for hardline political Islam has been used as a bulwark against the popular installation of socialist- oriented or progressive governments.
The violent and bloody destruction of the Libyan state, as with that of the Iraqi state before it, created the fertile breeding ground for jihadist groups to develop and grow into the monstrous forms which we are now used to hearing about on a daily basis. This proliferation of extremist ideology throughout countries of the Muslim world is not a natural development stemming from an inhumane religion, as the reactionary right wing would have us believe, but an artificially engineered situation resulting from imperialism’s own feverish attempts to keep various countries within its own sphere of influence, preferring to subsidise those representing the most regressive strains of ideology and culture on the basis of their anti-Soviet outlook. All this started in Afghanistan during imperialism’s fight against the progressive Afghan government. Since then it has proliferated, under imperialism’s tender care, to the whole of the Middle East and some other parts of the world.
There is simply no reason for anyone to believe that the various strains of Islam which are commonly termed as ‘extremist’ would ever have had anything like the cultural reach which they currently enjoy had it not been for the fact of imperialism’s efforts to shore up its own interests across the Arab world in response to Soviet influence, to the national liberation movements seeking to end the exploitation of the oppressed countries of the Middle East, and to the Pan-Arab nationalist movement which sought to unite the peoples of this resourceful area of the globe in common purpose.
There is an opportunity here for British workers to appreciate these points, and to understand that we can become the collateral damage of imperialism’s desperate struggle to maintain its power and profits no less than the thousands of innocent Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans or Syrians who have been on the receiving end of violent assaults against their nations by western military forces themselves or of imperialism’s proxy armies of crazed fundamentalists.
It is, therefore, in workers’ own interests to oppose and challenge the imperialist foreign policy of our own ruling class when it comes to subsidising various reactionary currents within the Islamic faith.
The fact that this type of policy has been exposed to a certain degree should be used to illustrate that the needs of the bourgeoisie are in direct conflict with those of workers in Britain as much as they are in conflict with the working classes of the Middle Eastern countries over which our ruling class seeks to maintain its domination.