Libyan 'extremist’ allowed to stay in UK was link to al-Qaeda in Iran
Published 05/09/2011 | 09:00
An Alleged Libyan extremist who sought political asylum in Britain regularly travelled to Iran from 2002 to provide forged documents to extremists linked to al-Qaeda, secret files found in a Tripoli intelligence service building have disclosed.
The documents, seen by The Daily Telegraph, unearth British intelligence suspicions about links between Iran and al-Qaeda dating back almost a decade.
Other details to come out of the documents, sent by MI6 and found in the office of the former head of foreign intelligence and later foreign minister Moussa Koussa, who defected in March, include the revelation that Britain had begun co-operating with the Chinese security services on Islamic extremists.
The extent of Iranian co-operation with al-Qaeda has been disputed in intelligence communities, though Iranians are thought to have provided weapons and explosives to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
A number of al-Qaeda operatives, including members of the family of Osama bin Laden, fled to Tehran after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and their precise status in Iran has been unclear.
The papers in Libya do not directly challenge the Iranian government, but suggest that al-Qaeda operatives had more freedom of movement there than previously thought.
The extremist Ismail Kamoka spent several years sending funds to terrorist groups across the Middle East, including some linked to al-Qaeda, the files said.
Mr Kamoka, who had been given indefinite leave to remain in Britain after arriving from Saudi Arabia in 1994 and claiming asylum, “travelled from the UK to Iran via Switzerland” in July 2002, according to one document.
“Once in Iran, Kamoka is reported to have delivered false documentation and correspondence to individuals believed to be associated with al-Qaeda,” it goes on.
“Since his return to the UK, Kamoka is believed to have remained in regular contact with these individuals.”
Mr Kamoka was also in touch with a suspected Dutch-based terrorist, according to the papers.
The man was thought to have travelled from Saudi Arabia to Iran for terror training.
Mr Kamoka was eventually jailed in 2007 for providing funds and false passports. Information released about the charges against him by Scotland Yard referred only to his funding for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and nothing about Iran. His current whereabouts is unclear.
This group, despite many of its members having fought with the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, was mainly focused internally and in 2008 renounced violence, leading to the release of many of its members.
Its leader, Abdulhakim Belhadj, who the papers show was “rendered” from Malaysia back to Libya by the United States after a tip-off provided by MI6, is now the leader of the Tripoli Military Council in the new post-revolutionary government in Libya.
News of British co-operation with the shadowy Chinese State Security Bureau will also come as a shock to human rights groups.
China is regularly accused of using a catch-all charge of being an “Islamic terrorist” against activists from Xinjiang province, home to a restive population of the minority and mainly Muslim Uighur ethnic group.
Many so-called “separatists” have been jailed for long terms or even executed.
Nevertheless, MI6 informed the Libyans in November 2003 that it was now co-operating with China.
“We agreed that we would look at how we might engage the Chinese Services on the Islamic extremist target in China,” one letter says.
“We have already embarked on this project and we hope to be able to share with your Service what we know about the presence of North African extremists in this part of the world.”
A third Libyan extremist mentioned in the files, Yusuf Fathi, also known as Ali Muhammad, is described as “Iran-based”, having moved to the city of Shiraz in May 2002.
The documents show the close personal relationships that developed between MI6 officers and the Libyans, with Mark Allen, head of counter-terrorism, regularly beginning his letters to Mr Koussa “Dear Moussa” and ending one letter on Christmas Day 2003 “Your Friend, Mark”.
Now Sir Mark Allen, he went on to become an adviser to BP.