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U.S. :: Al Qaeda-linked Group Behind Benghazi Attack Trains Jihadists for Syrian Rebel Groups

Ansar al-Sharia running training camps in Benghazi and Darnah

 
August 28, 2013
BY: Bill Gertz

U.S. intelligence agencies earlier this month uncovered new evidence that al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Benghazi are training foreign jihadists to fight with Syria’s Islamist rebels, according to U.S. officials.

Ansar al-Sharia, the al Qaeda-affiliated militia that U.S. officials say orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound and a CIA facility in Benghazi, is running several training camps for jihadists in Benghazi and nearby Darnah, another port city further east, said officials who discussed some details of the camps on condition of anonymity.

The officials said the terror training camps have been in operation since at least May and are part of a network that funnels foreign fighters to Syrian rebel groups, including the Al-Nusra Front, the most organized of the Islamist rebel groups fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.

The officials said the jihadist training is a clear indication that Ansar al-Sharia continues to conduct terrorist activities and is linked to jihadists in both Syria and North Africa.

Disclosure of the terror training camps also bolsters earlier intelligence assessments that Libya, following the death of Muammar Qaddafi, is now a focal point for al Qaeda terrorist activity in North Africa.

Information about the terrorist training camps in northeastern Libya was uncovered after the arrest of several jihadists near the port city of Darnah in early August.

Other information about the camps appeared online at jihadist social media outlets around the same time.

Two men identified as Tunisians disclosed the existence of the training camps in Benghazi after they were interrogated by a local militia group in northern Libya.

At the time of their arrest, the Tunisians stated that they were trained in small arms use and were on their way to join Syria rebels by traveling first to Benghazi, then Istanbul, and over land across Turkey and into northern Syria.

According to the officials, the Tunisians were arrested Aug. 3. Inside their car, the militia found six passports, an AK-47 assault rifle, and foreign currency. A total of four people traveling in the car, including two Libyans, clashed with guards at a security checkpoint at the time of the arrest.

One of the men said he was an associate of Ansar al-Sharia’s leader Sufian Ben Qumu, an al Qaeda terrorist released from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007.

Details of the number of jihadist training camps and jihadists was not disclosed, but the officials said there are several training camps.

The Ansar al-Sharia Brigade in Benghazi was formed in early 2012 from several Islamist militias that fought during the 2011 revolution that ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. The group was forced to relocate its operating bases based on local opposition to the group’s role in attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound.

Ansar al-Sharia is engaged in overt charitable activities and armed patrols in Benghazi, in addition to the covert terrorist training. The group has sought to play down its role in jihadist activities to avoid both the Libyan government and international scrutiny.

Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah was founded by former members of the terrorist Salim Martyrs Brigade and operates a base west of Darnah.

Libyan officials told Britain’s Arabic language newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat earlier this month that some type of covert U.S. military action was taken against al Qaeda bases in Darnah. However, Pentagon spokesmen said they had no information about such attack that reportedly took place Aug. 11.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Libya has produced more jihadist rebels for the Syrian conflict than any other outside nation. Some 20 percent of foreign jihadists in Syria came from Libya and that several hundred are currently in the country.

Over 100 Libyans were reported killed in Syrian fighting for such rebel groups as Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Umma Brigade, Muhajirin Brigade, and Ahrar al-Sham, an Al-Nusra offshoot.

The jihadist training highlights the danger that Libya is becoming a breeding ground for al Qaeda terrorists. Officials said the weak central government in Tripoli has allowed Islamist militias to flourish, including in Benghazi and Darnah where the two factions Ansar al-Sharia groups operate.

The Ansar al-Sharia Brigade was blamed by U.S. officials for carrying out the deadly Benghazi terrorist attack Sept. 11.

The Obama administration sought to cover up the terrorist attack in the weeks before the presidential election by initially claiming the action was the result of a spontaneous demonstration triggered by an anti-Islamic Internet video.

Four Americans were killed in the attack, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

A Pentagon report from August 2012 published by the Library of Congress stated that al Qaeda senior leaders and the group al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) “have sought to take advantage of the Libyan Revolution to recruit militants and to reinforce their operational capabilities in an attempt to create a safe haven and possibly to extend their area of operations to Libya.”

The report said al Qaeda is developing a “clandestine network” in Libya that could be used in the future to destabilize the government and offer logistical support for al Qaeda activities in the region.

The report said that AQIM has formed sleeper cells that “are probably connected to an al Qaeda underground network in Libya, likely as a way, primarily, to secure the supply of arms for its ongoing jihadist operations in Algeria and the Sahel.”

“The al Qaeda clandestine network is currently in an expansion phase, running training camps and media campaigns on social-media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube,” the report said. “However it will likely continue to mask its presence under the umbrella of the Libyan Salafist movement, with which it shares a radical ideology and a general intent to implement sharia in Libya and elsewhere.”

To avoid attacks, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya “could be the new face of al Qaeda in Libya despite its leader’s denial.”

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ICYMI: Green Islamic fund initiative launched

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The Shams Tower Solar project, developed by Enviromena Power Systems, is an example of a CEDC highlighted project in the Middle East.
Enviromena Power Systems

Shari’ah compliant investment securities, sukuks, are to be made available for renewable energy projects such as photovoltaics. A Green Sukuk Working Group has been established to identify such investment opportunities.

The Climate Bonds Initiative, the Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC) of the Middle East and North Africa, and the Gulf Bond and Sukuk Association have launched a Green Sukuk Working Group. This working group will identify green energy projects that fall under Shari’ah-suitable categories for potential investors. A sukuk is a financial certificate, similar to a bond, that complies with Islamic religious law. The law does not allow interest payments.

The non-govermental organisation, CEBC, represents the private sector involved in the clean energy industry across the MENA region and is actively involved in the promotion of photovoltaic projects in the region. Working with the CEBC, the initiative seeks to develop financial products that comply with Islamic shariah law. “We’re looking closely at a couple of prospective bond issuances,” says initiative chairman and co-founder Sean Kidney.

The initiative aims to channel its market expertise to develop best practices and promote the issuance of sukuk for financing of climate change investments and projects, photovoltaic projects being a component. Aaron Bielenberg of the CEBC states, “There are a significant and growing number of projects, for example in renewable energy in the Middle East, that are ideally suited to sukuk investors. This group will help investors more easily identify Shari’ah compliant, clean energy investment opportunities.”

Nick Silver of the Climate Bonds Initiative says that there is an urgent need to mobilise the finance for renewable energy and climate adaption projects in the region. “Green sukuk is ideally suited for the financing of many of these investments,” Silver adds.

The Climate Bonds Initiative receives its funding on a per-project basis, from foundations and banks, and has yet to obtain financing for the green sukuk plan. “If you look at current projects across the region, and if a fraction of those were to be financed with green sukuks, then you’re talking about $10 to $15 billion,” says Nasser Saidi, CEBC chairman. “The time is right for a green sukuk.”

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Libyan Oil Bristles OPEC Once More

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by  Benoit Faucon & Summer Said

Dow Jones Newswires

Six months after Libya‘s production shutdown sparked a clash within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Tripoli‘s oil status is set to pour oil again at the group’s next meeting on Dec 14. This time it’s not because Libyan barrels are out but because they are back on the market.

Following a swift return of the country’s production, a split has resurfaced within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries between members like Kuwait which believe the market still requires extra oil and those like Iran which want other members to cut their output.

“The market still needs more oil even with the return of the Libyan oil,” Kuwait oil Minister Mohammad Al-Busairi said Sunday, as he announced his country had boosted production above 3 million barrels a day.

The remarks came after Rostam Ghasemi, Iran’s oil minister and OPEC’s current president, on Friday said “we will tell members of the organization that increased their production that given that Libya’s production has returned” they need to reduce their oil flows.

In June, Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia advocated a production boost as global oil demand was increasing amid the loss of Libyan supplies. They clashed with an Iran-led group that opposed the move because of an uncertain outlook for the global economy. After the meeting collapsed without an agreement, the Saudi-led coalition boosted its production in a lock-step move with global oil demand.

Though nobody expects the December meeting to be as acrimonious, the return of Libyan oil is reviving differences regarding demand and supply that had narrowed in recent weeks.

Libya’s oil head Nuri Berruien said Thursday that the country’s production would be back to half of its prewar level of 1.6 million barrels a day by the year’s end, twice as fast as some experts had forecasted.

Such a return has triggered fears in Iran and other countries that markets could be oversupplied and prices may fall if other members don’t cut production.

However, in the short term, OPEC’s most recent statistics don’t suggest any need to rush to the panic button.

Based on its latest monthly report, the group’s production in October was about 750,000 barrels a day short of the average demand it sees for its crude in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, U.S. commercial oil inventories have been wearing thinner –down by 9.8 million barrels in October, suggesting the market is still slightly tightening despite Libya’s return. But at the same time, continuous concerns in the euro zone show OPEC will still face a balancing act in the coming months. The group has downgraded its global oil demand growth forecasts four times in recent months and, although it didn’t cut its prospects this month, has warned it could slash them again.

Furthermore, in the first half of 2012, amid lower seasonal consumption, demand for OPEC crude is expected to fall by over 1.3 million barrels a day compared to the fourth-quarter to an average of 29.29 million barrels a day. That’s higher than OPEC’s current production and will likely come amid higher Libyan production. So the numbers will likely give ammunition to those in the group calling for a reduction of Gulf production.

“The Saudis will cut whether they like it or not,” said an OPEC delegate with a country that opposed an increase in June. “The conditions in the market dictate that.”

Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Source – RIGZONE

IEA Sees $150/Bbl If MENA O&G Spending Delayed

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Delaying expected oil and gas investment in the Middle-East and North Africa by just a third would push prices to $150 a barrel, the International Energy Agency warned Wednesday.

The warning lays bare the world’s heightened vulnerability to any hitch in what is still the world’s largest oil patch. The continued reliance on this region comes despite a push for increased independence from oil imports in North America with the extraction of domestic, more expensive hydrocarbons.

In its annual energy outlook, the IEA warns that “if between 2011 and 2015, investment in the MENA region runs one-third lower than the $100 billion a year required, consumers could face a near-term rise in the oil price to $150″ a barrel.

That’s because increased production in the Middle East and North Africa will cover more than 90% of the extra barrels needed worldwide through 2035.

Back in 2008, a spike to an all-time high of $147 a barrel blamed by some economists for exacerbating the global financial crisis.

Yet “it is far from certain that all of this investment [needed from the MENA region] will be forthcoming” to keep oil below that level, said the agency, which represents the world’s largest consumers. It cited increased political instability, conflicts damaging oil infrastructure, international sanctions and resource nationalism as key risks to spending.

This year, the overthrow of three Arab regimes and turmoil elsewhere in the region showed such risks are far from being academic.

In Libya, a civil war interrupted most production and investments for eight months and damaged key oil terminals. The increased emphasis on risk in the region underscores the lasting impact of the Arab uprisings on the oil-rich area.

Iraq will be the largest source of new production additions. Providing investments aren’t delayed, the IEA expects its output to reach 5.4 million barrels a day in 2020 and 7.7 million barrels a day in 2035, compared with about 2.7 million barrels a day today. The numbers are lower, however, than Iraq’s own plans to reach a capacity of 6 million-8 million barrels a day before 2020.

Production from the second contributor, Saudi Arabia, is expected to grow by almost 40% to nearly 14 million barrels a day by 2035, it said.

By contrast, the agency takes a bearish view on Libya’s output. It says could take two years to recover from war damage and won’t grow at all until 2030–in contrast with the view in Tripoli that no more than 15 months are needed to return to normal.

The IEA also predicts production in Iran will be hindered by sanctions and tough investment terms with the Islamic Republic only adding 600,000 barrels a day in production by 2035.

Western consumers are paying more for oil out of fear for their future supply. But at the same time, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries acknowledged Tuesday that its members–the majority in MENA–needed higher oil prices to cover their social spending.

The agency’s main scenario sees oil-import prices still rising to $118 a barrel in real terms in 2020 and $140 a barrel in 2035.

Overall, the IEA, which represents the view of oil consumers, normally has higher oil-demand expectations than producers group OPEC. But under its main scenario, which takes into account new measures to cut energy consumption, the IEA sees global demand for oil at 92.4 million barrels a day in 2020 and 99.4 million barrels a day in 2035.

That’s less than OPEC’s working assumptions released Tuesday, with respectively 97.8 million barrels a day and 109.7 million barrels a day for these dates.

Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Source – RIGZONE

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