The relationship between Abdul Hakim Belhaj, (aka Abu Abdallah Assadaq), former emir of the al Qaeda-loyal Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and Saifullah bin Hussein (aka Abu Ayyad), former emir of the Tunisian terrorist organization Ansar al-Sahria, is shrouded in mystery.

The relationship between Abdul Hakim Belhaj, (aka Abu Abdallah Assadaq), former emir of the al Qaeda-loyal Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and Saifullah bin Hussein (aka Abu Ayyad), former emir of the Tunisian terrorist organization Ansar al-Sahria, is shrouded in mystery.

Abu Ayyad, who is being pursued by Tunisian security and who has been missing since September 14, 2010, the date of the attack on the US embassy, has most probably left Tunisia and illegally entered Libya, which has become a safe haven for terrorists in the absence of state security and with the help of former mujahideen who had fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Until now, Abu Ayyad has not made any statements denying or confirming his relationship to Abdul Hakim Belhaj, who was quick to stress to the Tunisian media that he has no contacts whatsoever to Ansar al-Sharia—classified as a terrorist organization by the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior— since a document was leaked from the Tunisian Interior Ministry describing Abu Ayyad as a terrorist and stating that he is intending to carry out terrorist acts in Tunisia.

In his statement, Belhaj stressed that he is against the ideas of Ansar al-Sharia and the approaches it is trying to promote directly or indirectly, especially since the group does not even acknowledge him. He also stressed that he had never met the organization’s leader Abu Ayyad.

Abdul Hakim Belhaj is considered one of the most prominent Arab Afghans and he was close to the emir of the mujahideen Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, and later to Osama bin Laden, slain leader of al-Qaeda.   

Belhaj was the head of the Libyan military council in Tripoli and one of the main commanders of the armed Libyan opposition. He also opened the city of Bab al-Aziziya after the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in a bloody operation.

After his repentance, Belhaj instated himself as a ruler replacing the fugitive leader (Saif al-Islam Gaddafi), who had apologized to him on-air, after his release in March 2010 within the framework of the so-called “repentance of the jihadists” or the review made by the Libyan militant group of its jihadist ideas and abandoning them. 

Starting to uncover facts

It seems that the operation launched by a US special force to arrest the terrorist Abu Anas al-Libi (who is accused of bombing the US Embassy in Nairobi) in front of his house in Tripoli, will reveal facts about the strong thread between factions and terrorist organizations that adopt jihadi and takfiri ideas and which owe allegiance to al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Their field leaders are based in the highest peaks of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco as well as in Tunisia and the southern Algerian desert and have a presence in all the countries of the Maghreb.

Among these groups is Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Ansar ad-Din (supporters of religion) in northern Mali and the Islamic Maghreb al-Qaeda in Mauritania and Algeria, as well as the LIFG, which charged the Algerian regime of infidelity when Belhaj was its emir, revealed in one of its statements that shocked the public opinion both domestically and internationally when it said “the Algerian ruling regime is an apostate and disbeliever in the Almighty God and his true religion. Thus, it is neither a legitimate regime nor should it be obeyed. Every Muslim must fight it, confront it and eradicate its roots.”

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, who denied any relationship to Abu Ayyad, despite all facts confirming the existence of a relationship between them, contiually tried to evade talking about his relationship to AQIM and its leaders, Abu Musab Abdul Wadud or Abdelmalek Droukdel. However, there is significant evidence confirming their relationhip.

Abdul Hakim Belhadj directly participated in igniting the fire of strife in Algeria during the ten black years of its history in the 1990’s, confirming that LIFG had participated in field operations on Algerian soil. Thus a strange link was established between these organizations and it is impossible to disconnect them.

Common points

Today, after the so-called Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa, these jihadist organizations are trying to gather and unite in a powerful and influential Islamic emirate in the local, Arab and Islamic region, and to gain power and change the rule from civilian into religious.   

The Tunisian Interior Minister said earlier that Ansar al-Sharia has a secret security and military wing, which is planning to carry out terrorist attacks and seeking to control the government by force.

In a press conference held last September, the interior minister said that the Uqba Ben Nafe battalion, hiding in the al-Shaanbi Mountains has relations with the al-Qaeda in the Arab Maghreb, led by Abu Musab Abdul Wadud.

In April 2013, a media network affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said that this organization and Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia are “brothers; they are part of us and we are part of them.” On Twitter it added: “We appreciate the project of our brothers in Ansar al-Sharia and we bless it.  We call on the Tunisian youth to support and cooperate with it.”

In addition to this, the most important al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb statement on the Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia is one dated March 17, 2013, in which there is a call for the Tunisian Salafists to struggle against local secularism instead of going to Mali or elsewhere else.

Despite all evidence, the relationship between Abdul Hakim Belhadj and Abu Ayyad continues to be a mystery until the final unmasking of all the facts related to this cluster terrorist organization, which is called the Islamic Maghreb al-Qaeda.